Defiance, Fort

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DEFIANCE, FORT. Several different forts in American Indian Country were named "Defiance." The name itself clearly symbolized federal determination to quell Native resistance to westward expansion. The two most significant forts were constructed in Ohio and Arizona. Although the forts themselves did not survive, the communities Defiance, Ohio, and Fort Defiance, Arizona, did.

Fort Defiance, Ohio, is associated with General Anthony Wayne, who in 1794 ordered the structure constructed where the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers meet. Wayne is said to have chosen the name to defy not only the Indians but also the British and "all the devils of hell." His victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 constituted a significant defeat for the Shawnees and their allies, yet Tecumseh mobilized Native resistance again in the early 1800s.

Fort Defiance, Arizona, was built in the heart of Navajo country in 1851, a scant three years after the United States claimed the region under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Navajos hoped to eliminate the fort's unwelcome presence but failed in several attempts to wrest it from the Americans. Christopher ("Kit") Carson and others used Fort Defiance as a base for their campaigns against the Navajos, which ultimately resulted in the Long Walk, a forced march of the Indians to exile at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The treaty of 1868 signed at Fort Sumner allowed the Navajos, who call themselves Diné, to return home. In time, Fort Defiance became a Navajo settlement called Tsehootsooi in the Diné language, meaning "green place among the rocks." After World War II, given its proximity to the Navajo capital of Window Rock, it emerged as a vital commercial and residential center.


Frink, Maurice. Fort Defiance and the Navajos. Boulder, Colo.: Pruett, 1968.


See alsoIndian Country ; Indian Treaties .