CHAPTER VIII. THE NAVAJOS
Navajos Attack Fort Defiance—Expedition Against Navajos by General Canby—Navajos Ride Roughshod Over Country—General Carleton's Report on Conditions—Navajos' Country—Colonel "Kit" Carson's Expedition Against Them—Notified to Surrender by General Carleton—Canyon de Chelly—Stronghold of Navajos—Description of — Campaign in — surrender of Navajos and Placing Them on Reservation at Bosque Redondo—Number of Navajos—Clash With Mescalero Apaches at Bosque Redondo—Failure of Crops at Bosque Redondo—Miserable Conditions — General Carleton's Mistaken Policy—General Sherman and Colonel Tappan, Peace Commissioners, Visit Reservation—Establishment of Reservation in Navajo Country and Navajos Removed to It—Prosperity of Navajos in Own Country—Reservation Enlarged—Conditions in 1884 — Navajos Self-supporting and Friendly to Whites.
In the first volume of this work, the expedition against the Navajos down to December 25th, 1858, when the last treaty was made with them, has been recited. There only remains now to give the history of the expeditions under the directions of General Canby and General Carleton by which the tribe was finally subdued.
In 1859, war again broke out, and in 1860, the Navajos attacked Fort Defiance. Finally General Canby made a long campaign against them, leading his troops in person. After General Canby's campaign against the Navajos, when the soldiers were employed to repel the Texas invasion, the Navajos, as well as the Apaches, rode roughshod over the country. This was in the winter of 1861 and the spring and summer of 1862. The Navajos and Apaches in 1862, when General Canby was relieved by General Carleton, were united in war against the Americans.
The Navajos inhabited a wide expanse of country, portions of which, by nature, were almost impregnable to attacking forces. Their complete subjugation, their removal from their native haunts, and the gathering in of the tribe so that they could be placed upon a reservation, became an absolute necessity. With this object in view, General Carleton organized an expedition against them under Colonel "Kit" Carson.
At that time the Navajo reservation was supposed to be very rich in minerals, and General Carleton suggested in one of his communications to the Government, that the opening up of this rich mineral country, would more than reimburse the Government for the expense attending it. In speaking of the Navajos, he says:‘‘They have no government to make treaties; they are a patriarchal people. One set of families may make promises but the other set will not heed them. They understand the direct application of force as a law; if its application be removed, that moment they become lawless. This has been tried over and over again, and at great expense. The purpose now is, never to relax the application of force with a people that can no more be trusted than the wolves that run through the mountains. To collect them together, little by little, on to a reservation, away from the haunts and hills and hiding places of their country; there to be kind to them; there teach their children how to read and write; teach them the arts of peace; teach them the truths of Christianity.’’
The Navajos were given ample warning of General Carleton's intention. He personally notified some of the chiefs, and sent messengers to others informing them that unless before the 20th day of July, 1863, they came in and surrendered, ‘‘after that day every Navajo that is seen will be considered hostile, and treated accordingly.’’
A few Navajos accepted the proffered terms and against the others the troops were kept operating from Forts Stanton, Craig, Canby, Defiance and the post of Los Pinos. Prowling bands of Navajos appeared in all directions. They went everywhere in their expeditions. One band of one hundred and thirty warriors penetrated the Mescalero country, and, passing north, drove off cattle and sheep from the Bosque Redondo. They were pursued by a few troops and some Mescaleros, and the property was retaken, with other stolen goods. Orders were given to the soldiers everywhere to kill every male Navajo capable of bearing arms, wherever he might be found. Women and children were to be captured and held as prisoners. These orders were often repeated in their prosecution. The following, issued to Colonel Rigg, commanding at Fort Craig, on August 4, 1863, is a sample of the general instructions:‘‘I have been informed that there is a spring called Ojo de Cibolo, about fifteen miles west of Limitar, where the Navajos drive their stolen cattle and 'jerk' the flesh at their leisure. Cannot you make arrangements for a party of resolute men from your command to be stationed there for say, thirty days, and kill every Navajo and Apache they can find? A cautious, wary commander, hiding his men and moving about at night, might kill off a good many Indians near that point.’’
Colonel Carson's force was the principal one operating against the Navajos, he having taken the offensive from Fort Canby, but although he was known as the greatest Indian fighter of his time, his energy and activity never for a moment being questioned, yet, during the summer of 1863, the results attained were not important. Carleton consoled the Colonel with the hope that ‘‘As winter approaches you will have better luck.’’ But with the approach of winter the success of the expedition was not in accordance with the expectations, so it was decided to attack the Navajos in the Canyon de Chelly, which was their greatest stronghold. Colonel Carson was ordered to prepare for this movement, which was to be made in January, 1864. The Canyon de Chelly was the home of only a small portion of the tribe. There was not sufficient grass to support the flocks of a larger tribe, but it was a place remarkable from the fact that it was naturally impregnable. A general description of this Canyon at that time is to be found in Dunn's Massacres of the Mountains, and is as follows:‘‘The Canyon de Chelly is one of the most remarkable works of nature in the United States.
Colonel Carson started from Fort Canby on January 6, 1864, with a force of three hundred and ninety officers and men for the mouth of the Canyon. Before starting, he sent Captain Pfeiffer, with one company, to operate from the eastern end. His command was three days
About three thousand peach trees were destroyed in the canyon; and one hundred and ten Navajos came in with Carey's command. On January 23rd, Colonel Carson reported the results of the expedition as follows: ‘‘Killed 23; captured 34; voluntarily surrendered 200; captured 200 head of sheep.’’
In his report of January 23rd, 1864, of this expedition Carson says: ‘‘But it is to the ulterior effects of the expedition that I look for the greatest results. We have shown the Indians that in no place, however formidable or inaccessible in their opinion, are they safe from the pursuit of the troops of this command, and have convinced a large portion of them that the struggle on their part is a hopeless one. We have also demonstrated that the intentions of the government towards them are eminently humane, and dictated by an earnest desire to promote their welfare; that the principle is not to destroy but to save them, if they are disposed to be saved. When all this is understood by the Navajos, generally, as it soon will be, and when they become convinced that destruction will follow on resistance, they will gladly avail themselves of the opportunities afforded them of peace and plenty under the fostering care of the government, as do all those now with whom I have had any means of communicating. They are arriving almost hourly, and will, I believe, continue to arrive until the last Indian in this section of the country is en route to the Bosque Redondo.’’
Carson's prediction was verified by subsequent events. The Navajos surrendered so fast that General Carleton's resources were taxed to the utmost to support them. By February 20th, seven hundred and fifty had surrendered at Los Pinos, and been forwarded to the Bosque. On February 24th, sixteen hundred and fifty surrendered at Fort Canby, and on the same date thirteen hundred more were reported from Los Pinos. By March 11th fifteen hundred more
The number of Navajos had been under-estimated by General Carleton. Carson maintained that there were at least twelve thousand, and, according to subsequent statistics, he was right, but Carleton insisted that there were not more than eight thousand. The greatest number ever at the Bosque Redondo was between nine and ten thousand. The remainder of the nation lurked in their old haunts or fell back to the desert regions of Arizona and Utah to avoid the troops. New Mexico offered to relieve the Government of a portion of the heavy expense of caring for the exiled Navajos by a system of binding out, but the offer was declined and the Navajos were all sent to the Bosque where, at that time, were also gathered a number of Mescalero Apaches. These two tribes had been enemies; their customs differed; the Mescaleros were bolder warriors, but were far inferior in numbers. Tribal jealousies were aggravated by petty aggressions and hectoring. The Apaches accused the Navajos of trampling down their crops, and otherwise annoying them. The reservation authorities made the matter worse by removing the Mescaleros from the land they had been cultivating, and giving it to the Navajos. The Mescaleros then claimed the fulfillment of
Agriculture at the Bosque did not result successfully; the crops usually promised well enough, but something always spoiled them. One time it was drought, another cut worms, another bad irrigation or overflows, or hail storms. The Indians were, of necessity, a great expense to the government. The cost of feeding them for seven months, March to September, inclusive, in 1865, was $452,356.98. The cost for the year previous to this time averaged higher than this, but the exact figures cannot be given, on account of the large amount of stores transferred from other departments and not reported as to value. All this time it was well known that they could support themselves in their own country. The principal cause of their helplessness in their new home was that they were a pastoral, not an agricultural people. In their own country their chief food is goats' milk and the roots of certain herbs of wild growth. Their flocks had been largely destroyed during the war. Tradition puts the number of sheep killed by soldiers at fifty thousand, but the Navajos say that the Utes and Mexicans stole the greater part of them. The Bosque did not afford grazing facilities for the sheep and goats they still had, and these gradually decreased in number. It has been proven since then that they can and will take care of themselves, very easily, if they can get ample pasturage; and unless stock raising is
The head of the opposition to the Bosque was Dr. Matthew Steck, a well known settler in New Mexico, at that time Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He favored giving the Mescaleros a reservation in their own country, as had been promised them, and opposed the removal of the Navajos to the Bosque. He advocated his views in New Mexico, and when he found he could do nothing there, he went to Washington to secure the same ends. Carleton complained bitterly of this attempted interference with his plans, and insisted upon the enforcement of the ultrahuman policy; that is, on compelling the Indians to do what the white man in authority—in this case himself—may think to be best for them. He said: ‘‘Dr. Steck wants to hold councils with the Navajos! It is mockery to hold councils with a people who are in our hands, and have only to await our decision. It will be bad policy to hold any councils. We should give them what they need, what is just, and take care of them as children until they can take care of themselves. The Navajos should never leave the Bosque, and never shall if I can prevent it. I told them that that should be their home. They have gone there with that understanding. There is land enough there for themselves and the Apaches. The Navajos themselves are Apaches, and talk the same language, and in a few years will be homogeneous with them.’’ He was proven to be mistaken as to the two tribes
In the winter of 1864–65, the Navajos at the Bosque were reduced to terrible straits through the destruction of their crops by cut worms. There was want all through that portion of the country from various causes. Neither the War nor the Indian Department was able to relieve them adequately. There was no relief from natural sources, for the acorns, cedar berries, wild potatoes, palmillas and other roots, mescal and mesquite, on which they could rely in their old home in times of famine, were not found in the Bosque. Cattle and sheep were issued to them for food, 'head and pluck' and the blood of the slaughtered animals was ordered to be saved to make 'haggis and blood puddings' for the orphan children. To add to their distress, these people, who make the most serviceable blankets in the world and usually have plenty of them, were destitute, by the ravages of their enemies, of both blankets and clothing. They had no houses, and, as substitutes, holes were ordered to be dug, in which they might be sheltered from the wind. In spite of all his efforts and ingenuity, General Carleton knew that they
With all his good intentions, General Carleton was inexcusable, under analogy of the laws that are daily administered in every state and territory of the Union. There is no excuse known for the failure under such circumstances. When a man is restrained of his liberty, or deprived of any right, for the purpose of benefiting him, there is no extenuation except he be in fact benefited, or, at least, not injured. Good intentions never excuse a wrong; and though, as a war measure, placing the Navajos at the Bosque may be justified, keeping them there against their will, in time of peace, is clearly an infringement of natural right. Our Government must actually benefit the Indians by the reservation system in order to justify itself. Still, General
In 1865 Felipe Delgado succeeded Mr. Steck as Superintendent; he was in harmony with General Carleton, and reported that, ‘‘It is fair to presume that next year their (the Navajos') facilities will be greater,’’ etc. He had the good sense to recommend the purchase of sheep for them. In 1866 the crops failed again—this time, as Superintendent A. B. Norton, and their agent reported, from bad seed, improper management, and overflows of the Pecos. There were reported to be 7000 Indians on the reservation, and the cost of keeping them was estimated at
Fortunately for all concerned, General Sherman and Colonel Tappan, Peace Commissioners, reached New Mexico in May, 1868. They satisfied themselves that the Navajos would never become self-supporting or contented at the Bosque Redondo, and, on June 1, entered into an agreement with the tribe by which they were to be removed to their former country. The reservation then given them was included between parallel 37° of north latitude, and a parallel drawn through Fort Defiance, for north and south line, and parallel of longitude 109° 30', and a parallel drawn through Ojo del Oso, as east and west lines. The Indians were to receive five dollars annually, in clothing, for each member of
Under this liberal treaty the tribe was removed in 1868, and since then there has been a continuous improvement in their condition. They had very bad luck with their crops for several years, but their herds increased steadily. By 1873, they were reported to have 10,000 horses and 200,000 sheep and goats. In 1872 an Indian police force was organized at the agency, on recommendation of Captain Bennett, and placed under control of Manuelito, their war chief, providing, for the first time in their history, for a control of offenders by tribal authority. It was discontinued in 1873 for a short time, but was soon put in force again, with beneficial results. A few years later the Indians abandoned it on account of the small pay given
In fact they were increasing so rapidly that there was an urgent call for more room, and, as there was desert land to spare in all directions, it was given to them. By executive order of October 29, 1878, there was added to their reservation the land between the northern line of Arizona parallel 110° of west longitude, parallel 36° of north latitude, and the western line of the reservation. Still there was a call for more land, and on January 6, 1880, they were given a strip fifteen miles wide along the eastern side of the reservation, and one six miles wide along the southern line. In the latter year, three windmill pumps and fifty-two stock pumps were put in at different points on the reservation, which have stopped much of their wandering in search of water, and added greatly to the value of their grazing lands. Their march of improvement has not stopped, and in 1884 the nation, estimated at 17,000, cultivated 15,000