Long Walk Home
The eastward expulsion of the Navajos in 1864 from their traditional lands in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado to a 40 square mile internment center at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, took place within the context of westward expansion and wartime troop concentrations in the southwest. How the Long Walk was initiated, who carried it out, what the Indians were subjected to during it, and its aftermath was the subjects of a research paper from Paper Masters.
A convergence of three events set the conditions for the Long Walk: the Santa Fe Trail trade route needed protection from raiders, the Civil War broke out and both distracted the military from challenging the Indian raids and brought large numbers of soldiers into the territory, and the adoption of forced removals had been tried and accepted for nearly three decades by the time the U.S. military determined to move the Navajos from their traditional land, Dinetah.
Before 1864, the Navajo were sheepherders, farmers, hunters, plant gatherers, skilled raiders and casual traders. They had engaged the Spanish, Mexicans and other Indian groups in mutual raids for slaves and livestock since the 1680 Pueblo Revolt had driven the Spanish from Indian lands. Intermarriages and cultural sharing resulted in a lull in Navajo and Spanish and Mexican raids from the end of the 1700s until 1818, but the Navajos continued to raid other Indians for the slaves that they traded or sold to the Spanish, and after 1818, mutual raids with the Mexicans resumed. Over the years, thousands of Navajos, and fewer numbers of Spanish were taken as slaves, and raiding had become integral to the Navajo economy as a source of income, status, wealth and property, just as it was to their enemies . Raids also had the effect of lightening the demand on wild food sources, such as pinon nuts and game that were harvested during times of crop failure. American attempts to interfere with the traditional, interwoven cultural and survival practices were superficial deterrents and ultimately made the Americans new targets for raids. It was not until 1863 that the practice of raiding was halted by a drastic intervention.
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