In the last part of this (perhaps too long) series of posts, I had to end it by asking a potentially offensive question, which you can read in ALL CAPS AND UNDERLINED BELOW.
The killing started in the early 1600’s when Spain began to colonize what was to become New Mexico. The Spanish first mercilessly subdued the more peaceful Pueblo Indians. They turned Pueblos into slaves. They went after the more nomadic Navajos too, and turned some into slaves.
But Navajos would not be slaves. They resisted the Spanish with far more ferocity than the Pueblos. They also went after Spanish herds of horses, cattle and sheep – new animals from the Old World they’d not seen before. These new riches undoubtedly made some Navojos covetous. IIn the process Navajos undoubtedly killed many New Mexican colonists who weren’t violent. Thus, a blood feud developed. Blood hatred provokes both sides into committing unspeakable acts.
This went on for centuries. As Raymond Friday Locke said in The Book of the Navajos:
Navajo history of the period between the defeat of the Pueblos and the conquest of New Mexico by the United States in 1846 consists of little more than a long list of raids and counter-raids, of expeditions and punitive expeditions. With the exception of one notable period of uneasy peace between 1720 and the last quarter of the eighteenth century, The People (the Navajos) were virtually constantly at war with the Spaniards of the Rio Grande and occassionaly joined their Apache allies to raid Spanish ranches deep in Mexico… (1)
Things changed in 1846 with the arrival of the Americans. Whereas New Mexico was at the furthest outer rim of the Spanish Empire, and thus was most bereft of resources compared to bigger colonial population centers like at Mexico City, the Americans were different. The United States of America was a more powerful civilization. It could produce larger armies and deadlier weapons. A 2,500-man American army occupying Santa Fe to wrest control of New Mexico from Old Mexico attested to this.
The Americans promised protection to the Hispanic population of New Mexico from the Navajos (as well as from Utes, Apache and Comanche). Though many Americans realized New Mexicans were as guilty as the Navajos in perpetuating the centuries-long blood feud, the Americans tended to side with the New Mexicans. Navajos saw this. This didn’t help in ending the feud.
Forts were built in the heart of Navajo lands – their Dinetah. Peace accords were attempted. But, the Navajos had no chief speaking for them all. They were comprised of independent clans, and one clan couldn’t speak for the others. Indeed, one man of a clan couldn’t speak for the rest of the men of his clan. The Navajos were fiercely independent.
This ignorance of Navajo natures led to confusion and bloodshed. The Americans felt themselves constantly betrayed for one Navajo clan continuing raids upon New Mexicans even though they never agreed to peace like a different Navajo clan did. And, in all fairness, New Mexicans continued slave raids into the Navajo Dinetah for feeling emboldened by the American presence.
The violence continued throughout the 1850’s and early 1860’s. However, in 1863, during the Civil War, the military governor of New Mexico, James Carleton, ordered Kit Carson to end the killing once and for all. Carson burned Navajo crops, burned prized peach orchards, shot their livestock, destroyed their dwellings and ordered the killing of many Navajos fleeing from his marauding army. This forced Navajo surrender at American forts. The Navajos were then marched off on their Long Walk to Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River, far away from their beloved Dinetah. Because conditions at the Bosque Redondo Reservation were so appalling, the Navajos were allowed back to their Dinetah in 1868. Thereafter, the centuries of killing ended.
WAS KIT CARSON’S WAR AGAINST THE NAVAJO WRONG?
Of course many hate the name of Kit Carson. Statues of him have come down in Santa Fe and Denver. Other places with his name are being renamed. And the push to cancel remembrance of him continues – like renaming Kit Carson National Forest in New Mexico.
BUT, was Kit Carson’s war against the Navajo wrong?
The vast majority of 21st century Americans have known peace and comfort more than any people of any land throughout the entire history of the world. We don’t know the horrors of war. We don’t know what hatred fomented during war can do to us – and I pray we don’t learn.
The killing in the Southwest was a constant terror. Carson’s campaign ended the killing. In 1868 the Navajos went back to a small portion of their Dinetah. Because they now knew the terrible power of the American Army, they knew they had to change their ways. They all knew the killing must stop. It was a hard lesson learned.
After 1868 the Navajo population grew, and grew. In 1869 it was roughly 7,500. By 1885 it had grown to 21.003. 1905 saw 26,390. 1931 saw 41,281. 1980 saw 160,000. (2) This year, 2021, the Navajo Nation jumped to 399,494, making it the largest Indian tribe in America. (3)
If Carson’s war – or more appropriately Carleton’s war – ended centuries of killing, and created circumstances for the Navajo population to skyrocket, and even prosper (in spite of problems along the way), could it not be argue that the war, as horrific as it was, as merciless as it was, was the only thing that could be done for the sake of peace, and therefore the right thing to do?
I despise those in the 21st century who look back upon the past and declare actions right or wrong without fully understanding them – I doubt those who call for Carson’s cancellation known anything about the circumstances of the Southwest in 1863. I despise even more those same people who clamor for the erasing of history. Their short-sightedness, their ignorance, their stupidity, is the result of brain-washing orchestrated by international malevolents for the sake of tearing America apart at the seams.
But I am not saying Carleton’s war was right. And I would fear offending Navajos with this question because I have warm feelings for them. I’m just saying truth only comes through discussion between those fully informed of historical facts and circumstances. I would be the first to admit ignorance of much knowledge that would empower me to make a more definitive moral declaration of Carleton’s war.
But I’m not ashamed to ask the question. And the more historical revisionists and cancel-culture Marxists use mockery, derision, insult, defamation, vilification and other techniques of intellectual midgets, the more the question should be asked.
(1) The Book of the Navajo by Raymond Friday Locke. P 182. 5th edition, copyright 2001. Kensington Publishing Corp.
(4) Featured image taken from: wnhpctey0015-m.jpg (694×800)