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Timeline / Defining Rights and Responsibilities / 1864: The Navajos begin ‘Long Walk’ to imprisonment

1864: The Navajos begin ‘Long Walk’ to imprisonment

In a forced removal, the U.S. Army drives the Navajo at gunpoint as they walk from their homeland in Arizona and New Mexico, to Fort Sumner, 300 miles away at Bosque Redondo. Hundreds die during 18 days of marching. About 9,000 Navajos reach the fort, where 400 Mescalero Apaches are already held. The tribes have a history of dispute; many arguments ensue. Food and water run short because there are twice as many people imprisoned as planned.

“As I have said, our ancestors were taken captive and driven to Hwééldi for no reason at all. They were harmless people, and, even to date, we are the same, holding no harm for anybody ... Many Navajos who know our history and the story of Hwééldi say the same.” —Howard Gorman, Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period, 1973

Land and Water, Native Rights

Navajos under guard after forced march to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, ca. 1864

Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration