During an era when many Native Nations found themselves forcibly removed from their homelands, the () also faced increasing pressure to leave their .
In the mid-1800s, the United States emerged as a nation driven to expand its territory west of the Mississippi. Spain controlled much of the land that today is known as the southwestern United States and Mexico.
Following the and the signing of the , the United States was poised to take more lands and increase settlement in the Southwest. Like many Native Nations, the Navajo (Diné) signed treaties as well as fought against American efforts to create pathways from the East to California.
Despite all their efforts, the Navajo (Diné) people were removed from their homelands by the United States government in the 1860s. However, they maintained an unflinching resolve to return home.
Major General James H. Carleton ordered Christopher (Kit) Carson to defeat the () resistance by conducting a across the Navajo (Diné) homelands. Carson burned villages, slaughtered , and destroyed water sources in order to reduce the Navajo (Diné) to starvation and desperation.
With few choices, thousands of Navajo (Diné) surrendered and were forced to march between 250 and 450 miles to the Reservation. While intended to be a , Bosque Redondo functioned as an . The U.S. stationed soldiers there to make sure that the Navajo (Diné) could not leave.
From the beginning the plan was to force the Navajo (Diné) to adopt white American cultural values; however, many Navajo (Diné) resisted and would continue the fight until they were allowed to return to their homelands.
If the army placed the Navajo on a reservation far “from the haunts and hills and hiding places of their country” they would “acquire new habits, new ideas, new modes of life.” “Civilizing” the Navajo could be best achieved through their children: “The young ones will take their places without these longings: and thus, little by little, they will become a happy contented people.”
“These soldiers do not have any regard for the women folks. They took unto themselves for wives somebody else’s wife, and many times the Navajo man whose wife was being taken tried to ward off the soldiers, but immediately he was shot and killed and they took his wife.”