Navajo War

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NAVAJO WAR. Following the American conquest of the Southwest after the Mexican War (1846–1848), U.S. military and political leaders attempted to reduce the autonomy and power of the region's largest Indian nation, the Navajos, or Diné as they call themselves. After several failed treaties, the U.S. government, under the military leadership of Brigadier General James Carleton and Colonel Christopher ("Kit") Carson, instituted a scorched earth policy against Navajos in northwestern New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Utah. Destroying Navajo herds, orchards, and resources, the U.S. Army brought nearly eight thousand Navajos into army forts, where beginning in 1863 they were forced to march more than three hundred miles to Fort Sumner on a tiny reservation in eastern New Mexico known as Bosque Redondo. For four years the Navajos lived in extreme poverty and bitterly resisted the army's attempt to destroy their culture. By 1868 new government policies recognized the disastrous effects of Navajo imprisonment, and the Navajos secured their rights to return to their homelands on a newly established reservation. The forced march to Fort Sumner is remembered as the Long Walk among Navajo peoples. An estimated two thousand Navajos lost their lives during the Long Walk and imprisonment at Bosque Redondo due to disease, malnutrition, and murder.


Iverson, Peter. The Navajos: A Critical Bibliography. Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian Bibliographic Series. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976.

McNitt, Frank. Navajo Wars: Military Campaigns, Slave Raids, and Reprisals. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972.


See alsoIndian Reservations ; New Mexico ; Wars with Indian Nations: Later Nineteenth Century (1840–1900) .