The Long Walk to Bosque Redondo

Officials called it a reservation, but to the conquered and exiled Navajos it was a wretched prison camp

As white settlers and prospectors pushed westward in the latter half of the 19th century, displacement of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands became commonplace. One of the most tragic episodes of exile was the Long Walk in 1864, when Kit Carson rounded up 8,000 Navajos and forced them to walk more than 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico.

Intended to be a reservation "to tame the savages," the ill-planned site, named for a grove of cottonwoods by the river, turned into a virtual prison camp for the Navajos. The brackish Pecos water caused severe intestinal problems, and diseases were rampant. Armyworm destroyed the corn crop, and the wood supply at the Bosque was soon depleted. The Navajos endured the wretched camp for four years, when the government relented and returned them to their homeland.

Now, plans are under way to build a memorial at Bosque Redondo. Writer David Roberts visited the site, as well as the Navajo homeland, and vividly recounts Navajo oral histories of the capture and the Long Walk and accounts of how some Indians cleverly escaped Carson's infamous roundup

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