At the , () prisoners were expected to embrace American cultural values—such as farming, Christianity, individualism, and the English language—a practice often referred to as the federal Indian assimilation policy. Yet the land at was not suited for farming, and the prisoners faced , starvation, disease, and death. By November 1864, about 8,570 people were imprisoned at Hweeldi, the Navajo (Diné) word for Bosque Redondo.
As Navajo (Diné) faced deteriorating conditions, news of the internment camp spread. Photographs misery and suffering. U.S. officials visiting the camp could clearly see that there were not resources available to care for people. By 1866, Carson ordered that no more prisoners be sent to Bosque Redondo.
“The Commissioners can see themselves that we have hardly any sheep or horses, nearly all that we brought here have died, and that has left us so poor that we have no means wherewith to buy others.”
Navajo (Diné) community members remained fiercely determined to return home.
Despite their horrific treatment at the hands of the United States, Navajo (Diné) leaders successfully used the treaty-making process to secure a return to their homelands and forge a with the United States government.
On June 1, 1868, Navajo (Diné) leaders signed a final Treaty with the United States at the Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico, where 2,000 Navajo (Diné) internees, one out of four, died and remain buried in unmarked graves.
Harsh living conditions at Bosque Redondo shocked both General William Tecumseh Sherman and Peace Commissioner Samuel Forster Tappan.
Two thousand Navajo (Diné) internees, one out of four, died there, of dysentery, exposure, or starvation, and are buried in unmarked graves.