CHAPTER XVIII. THE NAVAJOS.
Location—Occupation—Possessions—Dress— Arms—Blankets—Superstitions—Equality of Sexes—Divorce—Women Unchaste—Number—Form of Government—War With Mexicans—Not Dangerous as Warriors—Disregard Treaties—Expeditions Against Them—Colonel Doniphan—Major Walker—Colonel J. M. Washington—Colonel Sumner—Building of Fort Defiance—Killing of Negro Boy Jim—Campaign by Agent Yost, Captain McLane and Captain Blas Lucero—Campaign by Colonel Miles—Captain John P. Hatch—Indians Furnished With Firearms, Supposedly by Mormons—Colonel Miles' Second Campaign—Captain Lindsay—Lieutenant Howland—Treaty.
The Navajos, when Arizona was taken over from Mexico, were the most populous tribe of Indians. They occupied what is now the northwestern portion of New Mexico, and the northeastern portion of Arizona. For years they had been in a constant state of warfare with the Mexicans, and, to some extent, with the Zunis and Moquis. They were a virile race, further advanced in civilization, and the arts of civilization, than any of the Apache tribes. They were a pastoral people, and to some extent, an agricultural people. Their dwellings then, as now, consisted of rude conical huts of poles, covered with
They dressed much more comfortably than other Indians. The men wore a double apron coat, like a shortened poncho, opened at the sides and fastened about the waist by a belt. It was of woolen cloth, and frequently much ornamented. The legs were covered with buckskin breeches, close fitting, adorned along the outer seams with brass or silver buttons, which extended to the knee, and were there met by woolen stockings. The feet were covered with moccasins, and often leggings, reaching to the knees, were worn. The attire was finished by a blanket thrown over the shoulders, as a mantle, and a turban or leather cap, surmounted by a
‘‘Their superstitions are peculiar. They never touch a corpse if possible to avoid it. If a person dies in a hogan, they either burn it, or pull out the poles and let it fall on the body; if on the open plain, they pile stones over the corpse and leave it. In consequence they do not scalp or mutilate their victims, and, in fact, have little pleasure in killing, though they have a Spartan admiration for adroit thievery. They have a great aversion to the hog, and neither eat its flesh nor permit it to live in their country. This, with a few other peculiarities, has caused some to insist on their Israelitish origin. They are averse to bear meat also, on account of some religious scruple, and seldom kill the animal except it be in self-defense.’’ (Dunn's Massacre of the Mountains.)
Their treatment of women is entirely different from that of other Indian tribes. The women, in their system of government, are the equal of the men. The equality of sexes is fully respected. The marriage ceremony is very simple, consisting of eating a meal together, and the tie is as lightly severed when either party wearies of it. The women hold their property independently, and in case of divorce there is an equitable division of the community property, and the children go to the mother. Incompatibility of temper is a most excellent ground for separation. A woman is never entirely free until she is married, after which she is well treated and escapes the drudgery which is usually the lot of Indian
The women seem to give especial care to the sheep. The flocks are looked after by young girls, who employ their leisure moments in spinning a yarn that is used for manufacturing the blankets. These are the shepherdesses, and the sheep are never disposed of without their consent. In fact, no bargain is ever made by a Navajo without consulting his wife or wives. The husband never strikes his wife, and if she abandons him, he solaces his grief by killing some member of an adjoining tribe or other outsider, which makes everything pleasant again.
The women, unlike the other Apache tribes, are unchaste, and indulge to a great extent in free love. They are tall, straight and well formed. Being well treated they are in looks and personal appearance far above the average squaw. As a rule, the women are more healthy than the men, probably due to their outdoor exercise as shepherdesses during their youth.
At the time of the American conquest, the Navajos were supposed to number from twelve thousand to eighteen thousand, and from two thousand to four thousand warriors. Their government was without any controlling power. Each individual, to a great extent, was a law to himself. Some of bad disposition, lived a vagabond life, supporting themselves by plunder, stealing from their own nation as well as from others, and there was no power to restrain them,
The patriarchal form of government was established among them. A man had absolute control over his children while they lived with him, but when once a man became a warrior, he was independent and his own master, and when married, the woman became her own mistress. Chiefs were made and unmade without ceremony, and the pledges of a chief had little weight, either while he was in office or afterwards. Every man was his own master, and, by virtue of being a warrior, exercised entire liberty of action. If he made a reputation in war, or acquired great riches, he became known as a chief. The head chief was the war chief; he had no authority in time of peace, and could not compel the surrender or punishment of a man of influence among his followers. This lack of government was the source of much trouble to the Americans, who were obliged to consider them as a tribe and treat with them on that basis. When a treaty was broken, it was necessary for them to treat with the tribe in demanding satisfaction, but they were unable, as a tribe, to make the reparation demanded. Another source of trouble was the bad feeling between them and the Mexicans. For centuries the two races had been at war, and as neither was over scrupulous in their dealings with each other, they were continually in conflict. After the Navajos had passed under American dominion, the blame for this is placed upon one or the other as writers
The Navajos were never dangerous as warriors. Their predatory excursions do not compare in brutality with those of the other Apache tribes. The unfriendly relations between the United States and the Navajos began with the occupation of New Mexico by General Kearny, who, by his annexation, assumed the protection of the New Mexicans from the Indians. His visit was short, but long enough for him to receive a taste of the predatory warfare which had existed between the two races for centuries. While on a visit to the settlements below Santa Fe with a detachment of troops, the Navajos raided the valley, and, in sight of this command, drove off a large number of horses and cattle, a part of which belonged to his command. An expedition under Colonel Doniphan was sent in October against them, but did not return until after Kearny had left for California. The result of this expedition was the bringing together of about three-fourths of the Navajo nation at Ojo del Oso (Bear Spring), and a treaty was made with them without any hostilities, but the treaty amounted to little, for the stealing went on as usual after the soldiers left the country.
Notwithstanding all their past experiences with the Navajos, and the knowledge that no treaty obligation was binding upon them, Colonel Sumner, afterwards a Union General in the Civil War, and Governor Calhoun, in 1851–52, met a large party of warriors and chiefs at Jemez, and proposed another treaty. The Indians, at first, ridiculed the proposition, but finally agreed to ratify the treaty with Colonel Washington, which they said Martinez and Chapitone had no authority to make. This treaty was continually violated during the same winter, and in the spring of 1852, Colonel Sumner marched against them, but being unable to
The fort was located ‘‘in the heart of their country, sixty miles north of Zuni, fifteen miles south of the Canyon de Chelly, fourteen miles from the Laguna Negra (or Negrita), a deep and cool lakelet of dark water, much frequented by the Navajos, and three miles east of the present line of Arizona. It is in the highlands about the sources of the Rio Puerco of the West, at the base of a rocky range, which rises five hundred feet or more above the surrounding table land, known as the Bonito Hills. Through these hills breaks the Cañoncito Bonito (Pretty Little Canyon), an abrupt gorge with perpendicular walls, and at its mouth is the fort. The Canyon is half a mile long, averaging one hundred yards in breadth, with a level grassy floor. Near its head are two springs that feed a little stream which supplies the fort. This place, and several valleys of the vicinity had for a long time been favorite haunts of the Navajos. The fort was simply a group of barracks, stables and offices around a parade ground, 300 by 300 yards in extent. There were no stockades, trenches, block houses, or other fortifications. The buildings were principally of pine logs with dirt roofs, though a few of them were of adobe. There was one stone building for the officers.’’
In 1853 Colonel Sumner was succeeded by General Garland in command of the military, and Governor Lane by Governor Meriwether, shortly before which Romano Martin was robbed and murdered by the Navajos, who refused to surrender the murderers when demanded. The
Governor Meriwether met the Navajos at Laguna Negra in 1855 for a talk. Sarcillo Largo, the head chief, declared that his people would not obey him and resigned his office at the council, whereupon the chiefs elected Manuelita to the position. A treaty was agreed upon, the Indians promising to surrender offenders and keep within certain reservation limits, except that they had the privilege of gathering salt at the saline lake near Zuni. This treaty was not ratified by the Senate of the United States, but that was immaterial because plundering went on just as if the treaty had never been made.
These outrages, for the most part, were made by a small portion of the Navajo tribe, and the real offense of the nation was in sheltering the wrong-doers and exercising no control over them, the truth being that while the great majority of
Early in 1858 a prominent Navajo had difficulty with his wife. She went to a dance instead of accompanying him on a visit as he desired. The husband repaired to the baile and, tearing almost all the clothing from her body, ‘‘reduced her costume,’’ says the writer, ‘‘to an ultra-fashionable style.’’ This was as far as he could pursue in the direct course of coercion under the Navajo customs. The next thing for him to do was to kill some outsider. On July 12th he went to Fort Defiance with the avowed intention of selling two blankets that he carried with him. He was there for three or four hours and sold one of the blankets to a camp woman, when Jim, a negro boy belonging to Major Brooks, the post commander, passed to the rear of the camp woman's quarters. As he came out on one side with his back turned to the Indian, who had jumped on his pony in the meantime, the Indian let fly an arrow which passed under the negro's shoulder blade, and penetrated his lung. The Indian fled at once and from the effects of this wound Jim died in three or four days. The day following the attack on the negro, the head chief was sent for, and the surrender of the assassin demanded. Under various excuses, action was postponed from time to time until July 22nd, when the chief was notified that the murderer must be produced within twenty days. Preparations for a campaign were made and Indian
On the next morning Colonel Miles, with three companies of mounted riflemen, two of infantry and Lucero's scouts, entered the Canyon de Chelly, and, on the 11th, marched through the lower half of the canyon, meeting with no material resistance, but occasionally killing or capturing an Indian. When camped for the night in the canyon, the Indians gathered on the heights above and began firing at them. The attack did no harm, for the walls of the canyon were so high that the arrows lost their force and dropped horizontally to the ground. It was thought better, however, not to take any risks.
Captain John P. Hatch, with 58 men, on the evening of the 25th, started for the ranch of Sarcillo Largo, situated nine miles from the Laguna Negra. Marching all night they approached the Indians early in the morning, through an arroya which crossed their wheat fields, getting within two hundred yards of their hogans before they were discovered. About forty Navajos, all armed with guns and revolvers, hastily assumed the defensive. Captain Hatch, when within fifty yards, dismounted his men and opened fire. The Indians emptied their rifles and revolvers and retreated, leaving
September 20th, 1859, Captain J. G. Walker reported from Fort Defiance that he had met a party of Pah-Utes, eighty miles west of the Canyon de Chelly, while exploring the San Juan River, who said that they had been sent out to invite the Navajos to a great council of Indians, at the Sierra Panoche, for the purpose of a union against the Americans. Sierra Panoche is a mountain southwest of the Calabasa Range, and eighty miles east of the Colorado River. The Mormons had agreed to furnish all needed arms and ammunition for a general war against the United States. Captain Walker says: ‘‘That this report is substantially true I have every reason to believe, as the Pah-Utahs to confirm their story, exhibited several presents from the Mormons, such as new shirts, beads, powder, etc. I was further confirmed in this opinion by meeting, the next day, a deputation of Navajos on their way to Sierra Panoche, to learn the truth of these statements, which had been conveyed to
On the 29th Colonel Miles, with another scouting party of three hundred men, again entered the field. The first day, in the Chusca Valley, about twenty miles northeast of the fort, they captured nine horses and one thousand sheep. On the 30th a detachment of 126 men, under Captain Lindsay, was sent back to the camp of Ka-ya-ta-na's band on a laguna fifteen miles distant. The detachment reached their destination about three o'clock in the morning and found the place deserted. The detachment followed on the trail of the Indians, and, at daybreak, discovered them in a deep canyon, the descent to which was very difficult. As the soldiers were making their way down in single file, the foremost having just gained the bottom, three Indians rode up. With exclamations of astonishment and alarm, they turned and fled to warn their people. However, about a dozen men succeeded in reaching the bottom, and, with this handful, Captain Lindsay charged down the canyon. After a hard ride of five miles, they succeeded
A treaty was made, with satisfactory conditions to all parties on the 25th of December, 1858. Eastern and southern limits of the territory of the Navajo nation were fixed which they were not to pass, except that Sandoval and his band retained their former location. Under this treaty, they were to make restitution and indeminification for depredations on citizens and Pueblo Indians, since August, 1858, by returning the property taken, or its equivalent in domestic animals, and for the future, the entire tribe was to be held responsible for the wrongs committed by any of its members, and reprisals were to be made from any flocks if satisfaction was not promptly given. Mexican, Pueblo and Navajo captives were to be surrendered if they desired to return to their own people. The surrender of the assassin of the negro boy Jim, was waived, it being represented that he had fled the country and was beyond their control. The right of the United States to establish military rule within Navajo territory was recognized, and, finally, the Navajos were urged to establish a form of government, either under a head chief, or some central power, which could act in all matters for the tribe. This treaty lasted nearly five months, but was broken before the Senate of the United States could ratify it.