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Talk of designating a historic Long Walk trail creates tension

By Staci Matlock

The New Mexican New Mexico Abbr. NM or N.M. or N.Mex.

A state of the southwest United States on the Mexican border. It was admitted as the 47th state in 1912.

Navajos are still divided over the idea of designating a historic trail commemorating the Long Walk, a series of routes thousands of their ancestors were forced to take from their homeland to Bosque Redondo in 1864, many dying or taken as slaves along the way.

The National Park Service is currently seeking public comment on a draft study evaluating the suitability of such a trail.

When the Park Service invited comment on the trail designation four years ago, many elderly Navajos said they believe the painful past shouldn't be revisited, while younger people said they feel it's important to establish the trail to make sure future generations understand what happened.

Opinions haven't really changed, suggested Judy Martin Judy Martin is the name of:
  • Judy Martin (Jersey politician), Deputy for St Helier District #1, Jersey
  • Judy Martin, Female professional wrestler
  • Judy Martin (journalist)
  • Judy Martin (singer) (1918-1951) Country music singer, and wife of Red Foley
, cultural specialist with the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Historic preservation is the act of maintaining and repairing existing historic materials and the retention of a property's form as it has evolved over time. When considering the United States Department of Interior's interpretation: "Preservation calls for the existing form,  Department and a tribal member.

"There's no way to put closure to this era, the way I look at it," said Martin, who grew up at Wheatfields in the Navajo Nation. "Look at 9/11. These things are instilled in your mind for a very long time. For people to just kind of let things like this go is very painful."

Ed Natay, half Navajo, or Dine, and half Santa Domingo Pueblo, and a National Park Service employee for 52 years, said he thinks the Long Walk story "should be told with the heavy input and perspective of Navajo and Apache people."

The Long Walk is deeply embedded in the cultural memories and stories of Navajo people The Navajo people (or Diné) of the Southwestern United States are currently the largest Native American tribe in North America, with an estimated tribal population of 300,000.  the way the Civil War and Vietnam War Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam.  are for many Americans.

In 1863 and 1864, as the Civil War raged, federal soldiers under the command of Kit Carson captured thousands of Navajo men, women and children and force-marched them from their homes in northern Arizona Northern Arizona is dominated by the Colorado Plateau, the southern border of which in Arizona is called the Mogollon Rim. In the West lies the Grand Canyon, which was cut by the flow of the Colorado River while the land slowly rose around it.  and New Mexico New Mexico, state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S).  hundreds of miles to a reservation at Bosque Redondo in Southern New Mexico. In different groups numbering up to 1,000 people at a time, they walked a corridor from Canyon de Chelly Can·yon de Chel·ly  

A canyon in northeast Arizona containing the ruins of spectacular Anasazi cliff dwellings built between a.d. 350 and 1300.
 in Arizona past Albuquerque, to Santa Fe Santa Fe, city, Argentina
Santa Fe, city (1991 pop. 341,000), capital of Santa Fe prov., NE Argentina, a river port near the Paraná, with which it is connected by canal.
 and Galisteo, Anton Chico, Canyon Piedra Pintado and finally to Fort Sumner For the town of the same name and location, see .
Fort Sumner was a military fort in De Baca County in southeastern New Mexico charged with the internment of Navajo and Mescalero Apache populations from 1863-1868 at nearby Bosque Redondo.

The Navajo phrase for the forced march translates to "time of fear, a time when people herded to this confined place," Martin said. "They called it a place of death. Along the way, a lot of elderly and ill people were shot to death. People remember those things. It was a brutal time, a time of inhumane in·hu·mane  
Lacking pity or compassion.

inhu·manely adv.
 treatment of our people."

Martin's great-great-grandmother was among those stolen during the walk and sold as a slave to a Spanish family, she said. Relatives took her back, but by then she had a baby. The aftermath of the incident is still visible in the sometimes reddish, curly hair and lighter skin among some of her family generations later, she said.

Eventually, 8,500 Navajo joined the 500 Mescalero Apache people similarly forced to Bosque Redondo. By 1867, Navajo leaders estimated half their people had died.

Natay remembers his dad, who was Navajo, talking about stories his grandmother told from her memories of Bosque Redondo. "He talked about the people boiling old moccasins for more sustenance, picking corn kernels from horse poop Poop

A slang term often used to describe people with insider information.

Not the most illustrious name.
See also: Insider Information
 and washing them so they could cook them. Coffee and flour (handed out at the fort) were new to them and they didn't know how to cook it," Natay said.

Plains tribes raided Bosque Redondo and stole women, children, cattle and horses, according to historical reports.

"Thousands of Indian people died while being taken to or while living at Bosque Redondo," according to the National Park Service draft study. "Instead of leading to assimilation and conversions to Christianity, the effort led to staggering costs and extreme suffering, disease, depredation DEPREDATION, French law. The pillage which is made of the goods of a decedent. Ferr. Mod. h.t.  and death."

The Apache made a mass escape in 1865 and returned to their homelands.

Many Navajo people stayed until an agreement was signed in 1868 allowing them to return home. The Navajo walked back along many of the same trails they had been forced to take to Bosque Redondo.

In 2002, Congress directed the National Park Service to study possibly designating a Long Walk Historical Trail. The agency was to determine if a trail was "physically possible" and if it would be "financially feasible."

The draft feasibility study proposes four alternatives. One would not designate a trail. Two options would establish the trail in different ways. The fourth alternative would not designate a trail, but Congress would provide grants to help protect the trail and establish education centers on tribal lands.

The public has until June

22 to review and comment on the study.

The National Park Service will provide Congress a copy of the final feasibility study after considering the comments. Congress will decide if the Long Walk trail should be designated.

The Navajo Tribal Council Navajo Tribal Council is the legislative branch of the Navajo Nation government. It is comprised of 88 elected members from the 110 chapters (local communities) that make up the Navajo Nation. It is presided over by a Speaker who is elected by the council.  voted against the trail designation in 2006 out of deference to the elderly people who opposed it. The National Park Service will be presenting the draft study to the Tribal Council again.

The National Park Service is hosting four meetings about the trail study in the Navajo Nation: Monday in Crownpoint, Tuesday in Window Rock, Wednesday in Chinle and Thursday in Tuba City.

To see the Long Walk National Historic Trail draft study online, visit http://park sList.cfm?parkId=456&projectId=12406 and click on document list.

Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or
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Publication:The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM)
Date:Jun 14, 2009

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