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A lot of Navajo people sitting together

Navajo people on the Long Walk

Spanish colonialism

In 1804, more and more Spanish people lived in New Mexico. So the Spanish government decided to stop the Navajo raiding. The Spanish army attacked the Navajo. The Spanish killed many people with their new powerful rifles (guns).

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Mexico rules the Navajo

But in 1823, Mexico became independent of Spain. The new Mexican government had other things to worry about and left the Navajo alone. So the Navajo went back to their raiding. In 1848, the United States government took Arizona and New Mexico away from the government of Mexico. But they still let the Navajo go on raiding Spanish settlers.

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The United States expands

The United States seizes control

But now English settlers moved into Arizona and New Mexico. When Navajo raiders took their horses and their sheep, these new settlers complained to the United States government. They wanted their government to stop the Navajo raids.

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Horses in the Americas

Kit Carson

Kit Carson, who forced the Navajo off their land

Kit Carson attacks

In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, the United States government decided to stop Navajo men from raiding European settlers in Arizona. They were also worried that the Navajo, who were great fighters, might fight on the Confederate side. The army sent the general Kit Carson to stop Navajo raids.

What’s the Civil War?

Carson brought many Spanish troops with him. They hated the Navajo because of their raids. And he brought many Ute and Pueblo men, who had also suffered from Navajo raids. Carson’s army killed many Navajo men and destroyed their houses, orchards, and crops. Carson and his army killed or stole all the sheep. They often captured women and children to sell into slavery in Mexico.

The Navajo Long Walk

Soon people were starving. They had to surrender to Kit Carson. He forced all the people who surrendered to walk to a camp in the desert at Bosque Redondo in 1864.


Barboncito, a Navajo leader on the Long Walk

People call this the “Long Walk.” Many Navajo people died on the way, and many more died at Bosque Redondo of smallpox and of hunger. Finally in 1868 the Navajo chief Barboncito managed to make a treaty with the United States government. The treaty said that the Navajo could go back to their own land if they promised they would never fight with their neighbors again.

Back on their own land

Finally the Navajo were back on their own land. The Navajo reservation is the biggest one in the United States, with 140,000 people living on 16 million acres of land, mostly in Arizona. Many Navajo still keep sheep and weave cloth from the wool.

Early Navajo history
More about sheep and wool

Bibliography and further reading about Navajo history:


Early Navajo history
Pueblo people
Apache people
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