Jonah Yellowman, like most Navajos, grew up listening to tales concerning the Lengthy Stroll.
“A few of my ancestors on my father’s facet, the Pink Home clan, they made the stroll. They stated the Military was making an attempt to do away with all of the tribes with out having to make use of weapons.”
The Navajo, who name themselves the Diné, had lived for 1000’s of years within the 4 Corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.
The arrival of white settlers within the 1840s set off a collection of conflicts which by 1863 had reached a boiling level. The U.S. Military determined that the one answer was to forcibly relocate the Navajo to the Bosque Redondo, an internment heart alongside the Pecos River in japanese New Mexico. There, distant from settlers, the Navajo may be taught to farm and change into self-sufficient.
The journey to H’weeldi
In early September 1863, troops started capturing and forcing teams of Navajo males, girls and youngsters alongside the “Lengthy Stroll,” 300-400 miles away to the internment camp the Navajo nonetheless name H’weeldi, “the place of struggling.” Many didn’t make the journey, falling sufferer to hunger, chilly or harsh Military techniques.
“Alongside the way in which, if among the women that have been going to have infants and have been falling behind, both any person helped them or they only received shot proper there by troopers,” stated Yellowman, a Navajo non secular chief from Oljato–Monument Valley in Utah.
Situations have been no higher at Bosque Redondo. The panorama was dry, the water alkaline, and the rations meager and unfamiliar. Survivors recalled consuming flour paste and boiled espresso beans. To keep off hunger, some even ate rats and skunk.
“The troopers used to take the infants from their moms at night time time in order that the moms wouldn’t attempt to escape in a single day,” stated Yellowman. “They herded the little ones right into a spherical corral out in the course of nowhere, like sheep.”
One night time, he stated, one of many infants broke out of the corral and crawled again to the Navajo campsite. His mom, seeing her likelihood, took him in her arms and fled into the night time, making the lengthy journey dwelling completely on her personal.
That girl was Yellowman’s great-great grandmother.
The return to Dinétah
The Military’s social experiment at Bosque Redondo lasted 5 years earlier than it was deemed a failure. Corn crops had failed repeatedly. The Navajo had grown more and more sad, and the federal government realized it was spending $1.5 million a 12 months to feed its prisoners.
On June 1, 1868, the Navajo signed a treaty that allowed them to return to Dinétah, their homeland.
“You possibly can simply think about the tales that I heard from our elders again after I was a younger boy,” stated Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation. “When the announcement was made that the Navajos might go dwelling, a number of the elders couldn’t wait. They began strolling the night earlier than and walked all night time towards our sacred mountain [Mt. Taylor, in northwest N.M.]. They instructed me that there was a number of celebration, a number of tears.”
State of the nation
In the present day, 150 years later, the Navajo Nation has expanded to cowl greater than 27,000 sq. miles of land throughout the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and has a inhabitants of 180,000.
It has constructed a contemporary financial system primarily based on conventional farming, ranching and the humanities and is actively working to advertise funding and financial growth via all kinds of economic and industrial enterprises, together with gaming.
However the Nation nonetheless lags behind the remainder of the U.S. The median family revenue stands at $27,400. Almost half the inhabitants is unemployed. A 3rd of Navajo properties lack electrical energy; 40 % lack working water.
“We’ve at all times been behind in growth, however now we wish to change that,” stated Begaye. “We’ve plans to get into high-tech business, all the way in which from robotics to plane to additive manufacturing.”
And even cryptocurrency, he added, “as a result of we wish to be on the chopping fringe of every little thing that’s taking place in the present day.”
However there are challenges forward. The Navajo Nation is sovereign, that means it has the proper to control itself, however it’s nonetheless topic to federal legal guidelines, which Begaye stated impede its capability to develop.
“Over the past dialogue on the tax invoice, we requested members of Congress to have the ability to problem non-public exercise bonds,” stated Begaye. “We fought for it, we didn’t get it, and we’ll preserve combating till we now have the identical entry to funding as each metropolis and city in the USA.”
Even so, Begaye stated the Navajo Nation has a lot to have fun this week because it marks the anniversary of the 1868 treaty.
“We are actually the biggest tribe within the nation, and we now have the biggest land base of all of the tribes,” he stated.
To mark the event, the tribe organized a 400-mile run, retracing their ancestors’ steps from Bosque Redondo to Window Rock, Arizona. And for the primary time ever, an authentic copy of the treaty will go on show at Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, the place will probably be translated into Navajo so that each one Diné can learn it.