As the settlers, miners and frontiers men migrated west, the conflicts between them and the Indians intensified. Between the years of 1805 and 1861 there had been at least thirty treaties signed by the Navajo and Mexico, and the United States. Since the Navajo was controlled by more than one leader, a treaty with one headman did not mean that all agreed. Therefore the conflicts continued.
Kit Carson, in 1863 was ordered to round up all the Navajo and relocate them to Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. The Navajo scattered about on their home ground and hid.
The history of the activities of both Navajo and the Army are in many written records, as are the deceit
and the many unkind orders issued by General James Carlson, commander of the Army’s Department of New
Mexico, to track down, round up and march the Navajos to their “new home”, more like a concentration camp.
The stronghold of the Navajo was Canyon de Chelly. Kit Carson was ordered to invade Canyon de Chelly
and destroy food, livestock and kill or capture the Navajo in their last stronghold.
Captain Albert Pfeiffer led a small force into the canyon from the east, while Kit Carson with the larger force entered from the west. From the canyon rims and ledges, half starved Navajos hurled rocks and pieces of
wood down upon the soldiers. They couldn’t stop the Army. In a week after entering the canyon the two troops met. They had not had a major fight. The dead count for the Navajo was fourteen by some accounts. A force of sixty ragged and emaciated Navajos surrendered. Before returning to Fort Canby (Defiance), Carson had his scorched earth policy put into action in the canyon. The troops de-stroyed everything they could, including
more than 5,000 peach trees which the Indians had grown and nurtured for over 250 years.
The destruction in Canyon de Chelly, the surrender, the killing of the animal herds and burning cultivated fields, left the Navajo with little but eminent starvation and death. As word spread throughout the land of the destruction the Navajo lost heart.
Faced with starvation many Navajo surrendered during the winter of 1863-64. They were marched on the
Navajo “trail of tears” 300 miles south- east to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Eventually, 8,000 Navajos made the
At the fort they lived in huts put together with the meager materials at hand. They were taught the White
Man’s way of farming. The elements were not with the tribe as each year insects, rains or draught ruined the
crops. The soil was alkali and the water was bad. Diseases overrode the tribe. 2,000 Navajos are said to
have perished. There was always a plea to return to their homeland and final1y in 1868, a federal peace commission headed by General William Sherman, arrived at Fort Sumner to hear the Navajo claims. The speaker for the Tribe was Barboncito. After three days another treaty was signed and the Navajo could at· last return to their sacred home