The Long Walk
The Bosque Redondo "reservation" and forced relocation is one of the darkest parts of New Mexico history. From 1863 to 1868, Fort Sumner was the center of the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation. In these times, the U.S. Army used scorched earth policies to forcibly remove Navajo and Mescalero Apache people from their traditional homelands to this inhospitable outpost along the Pecos River. The Navajo call this "The Long Walk", when thousands of Diné made the 300 mile journey. Several hundred Navajo captives either died during the walk or were abducted by slave traders. The journey was marked with suffering and brutality.
For the Mescalero, a historically migratory people who hunted freely in the mountains, being rounded up and forced to farm was a form of cultural genocide.
During their internment, the Navajo and Mescalero were prevented from practicing ceremonies, singing songs, or praying in their own language. Food allotments were meager and the lack of wood for heating during the winter led to illness. When a smallpox-like disease was contracted from the military, it ravaged the native peoples. The suffering from exposure, starvation, and sickness took an estimated 1500 lives. In 1865 close to 350 Mescalero made their escape and returned to the Sacramento Mountains. Nearly 1,000 Navajos also fled but more than 7,000 remained.
This dark chapter in US history came to an end in 1868 with the signing of a treaty and the return of Navajo and Mescalero to their traditional homelands.