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The Long Walks started in January 1864. Bands of Navajo led by the Army were relocated from their traditional lands in eastern Arizona Territory and western New Mexico Territory to Fort Sumner (in an area called the Bosque Redondo or Hwééldi by the Navajo) in the Pecos River valley. Bosque Redondo means “round grove of trees” in the Spanish language. At least 200 died along the 300-mile trek that took over 18 days to travel by foot. Between 8,000 and 9,000 people were settled on an area of 40 square miles, with a peak population of 9,022 by the spring of 1865.

There were actually three groups, taking their own path. They each took a different path but were on the same trail and when returning to the Navajo lands they reformed their group to become one, this group was ten miles long.

By slow stages we travelled eastward by present Gallup and Chusbbito, Bear Spring, which is now called Fort Wingate. You ask how they treated us? If there was room the soldiers put the women and children on the wagons. Some even let them ride behind them on their horses.

Like some internment camps involving several tribes, the Bosque Redondo had serious problems. About 400 Mescalero Apaches were placed there before the Navajos. The Mescaleros and the Navajo had a long tradition of raiding each other; the two tribes had many disputes during their encampment. Furthermore, the initial plan was for around 5,000 people, certainly not 10,000 men, women and children. Water and firewood were major issues from the start. Nature and humans both caused crop failures every year. Comanches raided them frequently, and they raided the Comanche, once stealing over 1000 horses. The non-Indian settlers also suffered from the raiding parties who were trying to feed their starving people on the Bosque Redondo. And there was inept management of what supplies were purchased for the reservation. In 1868, the experiment—meant to be the first Indian reservation west of Indian Territory—was declared a failure, for some.