U.S. TREATY WITH THE NAVAJOS, 1849

September 9, 1849
9 Stat. 974.
Ratified September 9, 1850.
Proclaimed Sept. 24, 1850
The following acknowledgements, declarations, and stipulations have been duly considered, and are now solemnly adopted and proclaimed by the undersigned; that is to say, John M. Washington, governor of New Mexico, and lieutenant-colonel commanding the troops of the United States in New Mexico, and James S. Calhoun, Indian agent, residing at Santa Fe, in New Mexico, representing the United States of America, and Mariano Martinez, head chief, and Chapitone, second chief, on the part of the Navajo tribe of Indians:
   
Navajo under jurisdiction of the United States. I. The said Indians do hereby acknowledge that, by virtue of a treaty entered into by the United States of America and the United Mexican States, signed on the second day of February, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and forty-eight, at the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by N. P. Trist, of the first part, and Luis G. Cuevas, Bernardo Couto, and Mgl Atristain, of the second part, the said tribe was lawfully placed under the exclusive jurisdiction and protection of the Government of the said United States, and that they are now, and will forever remain, under the aforesaid jurisdiction and protection.
   
Perpetual peace to exist. II. That from and after the signing of this treaty, hostilities between the contracting parties shall cease, and perpetual peace and friendship shall exist; the said tribe hereby solemnly covenanting that they will not associate with, or give countenance or aid to, any tribe or band of Indians, or other persons or powers, who may be at any time at enmity with the people of the said United States; that they will remain at peace, and treat honestly and humanely all persons and powers at peace with the said States; and all cases of aggression against said Navajoes by citizens or others of the United States, or by other persons or powers in amity with the said States, shall be referred to the Government of said States for adjustment and settlement.
   

Laws now inforce regulating trade and peace to be binding upon the Navajo.

III. The Government of the said States having the sole and exlusive right of regulating the trade and intercourse with the said Navajoes, it is agreed that the laws now in force regulating the trade and intercourse, and for the preservation of peace with the various tribes of Indians under the protection and guardianship of the aforesaid Government, shall have the same force and efficiency, and shall be as binding and as obligatory upon the said Navajoes, and executed in the same manner, as if said laws had been passed for their sole benefit and protection; and to this end, and for all other useful purposes, the government of New Mexico, as now organized, or as it may be by the Government of the United States, or by the legally constituted authorities of the people of New Mexico, is recognized and acknowledged by the said Navajoes; and for the due enforcement of the aforesaid laws, until the Government of the United States shall otherwise order, the territory of the Navajoes is hereby annexed to New Mexico.
   
The Navajo to deliver to the Uniteds States murderer of murderers of M. Garcia. IV. The Navajo Indians hereby bind themselves to deliver to the military authority of the United States in New Mexico, at Sante Fe, New Mexico, as soon as he or they can be apprehended, the murderer or murderers of Micente Garcia, that said fugitive or fugitives from justice may be dealt with as justice may decree.
   
Captives and stolen property to be delivered to United States, by the 9th Oct., 1850. V. All American and Mexican captives, and all stolen property taken from Americans or Mexicans, or other persons or powers in amity with the United States, shall be delivered by the Navajo Indians to the aforesaid military authority at Jemez, New Mexico, on or before the 9th day of October next ensuing, that justice may be meted out to all whom it may concern; and also all Indian captives and stolen property of such tribe or tribes of Indians as shall enter into a similar reciprocal treaty, shall, in like manner, and for the same purposes, be turned over to an authorized officer or agent of the said States by the aforesaid Navajoes.
   
Citizens of the United States committing outrages upon Navajo to be subjected to the penalties of law. VI. Should any citizen of the United States, or other person or persons subject to the laws of the United States, murder, rob, or otherwise maltreat any Navajo Indian or Indians, he or they shall be arrested and tried, and, upon conviction, shall be subjected to all the penalties provided by law for the protection of the persons and property of the people of the said States.
   

Free passage through their territory.

VII. The people of the United States of America shall have free and safe passage through the territory of the aforesaid Indians, under such rules and regulations as may be adopted by authority of the said States.
   
Military posts and agencies to be established. VIII. In order to preserve tranquility, and to afford protection to all the people and interests of the contracting parties, the Government of the United States of America will establish such military posts and agencies, and authorize such trading-houses, at such time and in such places as the said Government may designate.
   
The United States to adjust territorial boundaries. IX. Relying confidently upon the justice and the liberality of the aforesaid Government, and anxious to remove every possible cause that might disturb their peace and quiet, it is agreed by the aforesaid Navajoes that the Government of the United States shall, at its earliest convenience, designate, settle, and adjust their territorial boundaries,and pass and execute in their territory such laws as may be deemed conducive to the prosperity and happiness of said Indians.
   
Donations, presents, and implements to be given. X. For and in consideration of the faithful performance of all the stipulations herein contained by the said Navajo Indians, the Government of the United States will grant to said Indians such donations, presents, and implements, and adopt such other liberal and humane measures, as said Government may deem meet and proper.
   
To be binding after signed, and to receive a liberal construction. XI. This treaty shall be binding upon the contracting parties from and after the signing of the same, subject only to such modifications and amendments as may be adopted by the Government of the United States; and, finally, this treaty is to receive a liberal construction, at all times and in all places, to the end that the said Navajo Indians shall not be held responsible for the conduct of others, and that the Government of the United States shall so legislate and act as to secure the permanent prosperity and happiness of said Indians.
   

In faith whereof, we, the undersigned, have signed this treaty, and affixed thereunto our seals, in the valley of Cheille, this the ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine.
   
J. M. Washington,
Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding.
   
  James S. Calhoun,
Indian Agent, residing at Santa Fe.
   
  Mariano Martinez,
Head Chief, his x mark,
   
  Chapitone,
Second Chief, his x mark,
   
  J. L. Collins.
   
  James Conklin.
   
  Lorenzo Force.
   
  Antonio Sandoval, his x mark,
   
  Francisco Josto,
Governor of Jemez, his x mark.

 

Witnesses--

H. L. Kendrick, Brevet Major U. S. Army.

J. N. Ward, Brevet First Lieutenant Third Infantry.

John Peck, Brevet Major U. S. Army.

J. F. Hammond, Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army.

H. L. Dodge, Captain commanding Eut. Regulars.

Richard H. Kern.

J. H. Nones, Second Lieutenant Second Artillery.

Cyrus Choice.

John H. Dickerson, Second Lieutenant First Artillery.

W. E. Love.

John G. Jones.

J. H. Simpson, First Lieutenant Corps Topographic Engineers.

 

 

Story behind the Treaty of 1849

Of the many civil authorities who passed in and out of New Mexico during the first decade of the American occupation, one man tried desperately to find a solution to the mounting Navajo problem. This man, a long time resident of Georgia and a veteran of the Mexican War, was James S. Calhoun.1 He arrived in Santa Fe on July 22, 1849 to assume the duties of Indian agent for New Mexico. He was directed by Commissioner of Indian Affairs, William Medill, to gather satistical data and other information that would lead to an intelligent understanding of the Navajo problems of the region.

Calhoun had been in the territory but a short time before he clearly saw one of the numerous causes of turmoil. The Navajos, he discovered, had not a just conception of Anglo-American strength, and because protection had been extended to the Mexicans, for whom the Navajos harbored only enmity, the "New Men" were regarded as weaklings.2 Faced with the task of halting hostilities, the new Indian agent attempted first to alter the opinions of the Navajos respecting the power of the United States.v

Working in close accord with one another, Calhoun and the Military Governor, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John M. Washington, planned an expedition which was hoped would awe the Navajos into submission. By Order No. 32 (dated August 14, 1849), the column was organized under the command of Washington. It consisted of two companies of the Second Artillery, four companies of the Third Infantry, a company of the Second Dragoons, and one of mounted New Mexican volunteers, in all an effective force of 175 men.3 On the morning of August 16 the infantry and artillery left Santa Fe, followed by the cavalry, all bound for a rendezvous three days later at the pueblo of Jemez. There the command would be joined by the volunteer company which had been stationed at the pueblo under the leadership of Captain Henry Linn Dodge.

On August 22nd the elaborate expedition, guided by a pueblo chief and the now traditional go-between, Antonio Sandoval, took up the line of march for Cañon de Chelly.4 After a rather difficult, but interesting trip through Chaco Cañon, during which the chronicler of the foray, Lieutenant James H. Simpson, meticulously recorded archaeological and geological features, the command reached the valley of Tunicha on the afternoon of August 30th, and encamped. Forage for the animals had been scant along the way, and Navajo cornfields in the vicinity afforded quick relief for the exhausted animals. While recuperating form the rigors of the march, several hundred Navajos appeared, and their chiefs sought a talk with Calhoun and Washington. During the ensuing council, the governor advised the Navajos that he intended to chastise them for the utter contempt they had shown for the treaties of Doniphan and Newby.

In defense, the headmen replied, that among their people were a great many "ladrones" (Spanish word for "thieves"), who were impossible to control. But for the most part the Navajos desired peace, and a restitution of stolen property would be made. Washington, believing the Navajos sincere, laid before them for inspection a skeleton treaty which he hoped to enact at Cañon de Chelly with representatives of the whole tribe. After discussing the merits of the documents, the chiefs agreed to summon more headmen for another council at noon the following day.

On August 31st at the designated time, three chiefs appeared, José Largo, Archuleta, and the aged Narbona who had been present at the signing of Doniphan's treaty. Through an interpreter, Washington and Calhoun proposed another treaty, to be enacted at Cañon de Chelly, and requested the Navajos assemble at the point for official acceptance of the document. Despite the chiefs' promises to comply with the white men's wishes, initial success of the first two meetings was to be marred by an unforseen incident.5

Following the council, Sandoval addressed a large assemblage of Navajos, to acquaint them with the terms of the forthcoming treaty. As he paraded before his brethren, a New Mexican in the command of Captain Dodge spotted a horse he thought belonged to him. Washington, being informed of the fact, immediately demanded the animal's return, and threatened to fire upon the Navajos unless they at once complied. The Navajos, sensing hostile intent, reeled their horses about, and fled. In so doing, they received a volley of musket fire from the guards, not to mention a couple of round shots fired "very handsomely" by the artillery into the fleeing horde. Result of this fracas was six Navajos mortally wounded, and the ancient chief Narbona left dead upon the field.6

Washington, blind to this incident's far-reaching effects, ordered resumption of the march to Cañon de Chelly. Six days later the troops were before the western mouth of that breath-taking cañon, chiseled by wind and water from the red sandstone of Navajoland. All was not serene however, for wisps of smoke curled skywards as the Navajos, fearing further violence, set torch to their hogans and retreated to the safety of the gorge.

Again Sandoval was used as a go-between, in hopes of enticing a few headmen into Washington's camp. The chief was successful, and the following morning was back with Mariano Martinez. This headmen, dressed in buckskin-leggings, a sky-blue great-coat of American manufacture, and a narrow brimmed Mexican hat, informed Washington and Calhoun that his people desired peace. He promised to pass along the word for other chiefs to assemble at the cañon on September 9th. Since a day would elapse before the next council, an opportunity was afforded for a limited reconnaissance of the great and mysterious chasm.

At 7:30 the next morning, Lieutenant James Simpson, with an escort of sixty men, set out with Mariano Martinez to survey the renowed cañon. Entering the mouth of the abyss, the party took the left-hand branch, today known as Cañon de Muerto. For nine and a half miles they rode, looking for a mythical "famous fort" of the Navajos.7 During the trip the commander of the party made some tactical observations which in years to come would be used to great advantage by the military:

Should it ever be necessary to send troops into this cañon ... a force should skirt the heights above to drive off assailants from that quarter, the south bank should be preferred, because [it is] less interrupted by lateral branch cañons.

Simpson further reported that "the mystery of the Cañon de Chelly is now, in all probability solved. This cañon is, indeed, a wonderful exhibition of nature, and will always command the admiration of its votaries, as it will the attention of geologists".8

On September 9th, Mariano Martinez and Chapitan, the latter a chief of the Navajos residing along the San Juan, met with Washington and Calhoun. In compliance with the stipulations of Newby's treaty, and as a demonstration of their good will, their followers drove in a small amount of stolen sheep, and delivered four Mexican captives. The more comprehensive peace treaty proposed by Washington and the Indian agent was then consummated. Following the signing, the chiefs stated that they had additional stock to return, but as it was scattered over a wide area, they requested still more time to assemble the animals. Washington consented to the Navajos' request, allowing a period of thirty days to bring the flocks into Jemez.9

The afternoon following conclusion of the treaty a hundred Navajo warriors descended on Washington's camp to fraternize with the troopers. Trade was brisk; blankets, dressed skins, and peaches from orchards in Cañon de Chelly, were exchanged for trinkets and accouterments from soldiers' uniforms. Thus, a seemingly happy and peaceful termination was given to the "campaign", and the following morning, the command took up its line of march for the Rio Grande Valley, by way of Cañon Bonito (present-day site of Fort Defiance) and the pueblo of Zuñi.

Despite the outward show of Navajo friendship and goodwill, Indian Agent Calhoun was pessimistic about the faithfulness of the Diné (Navajo word meaning "the people"). Although the Navajos had attempted to indemnify New Mexican losses, the agent knew enough of Navajo ways not to place reliance on their promises. He was not at all confident the Navajos would appear at Jemez.10 There was, however, some optimism on the part of Lieutenant Simpson. He felt satisfied with the outcome of the expedition. A full and complete treaty, covering the whole range of Navajo fealty had been enacted. A portion of the stolen property and captives had been delivered to United States authorities, and restoration of the remainder had been promised within a predetermined time. Added to this, Simpson felt that the geographical knowledge which the penetration of Navajoland had given the troops would be of the highest value in any future military demonstration against the tribe.11

The Navajos, however, may have felt somewhat different. They had witnessed the penetration of their homeland by an alien people, who offered up an olive branch, and then picketed their horses in the Diné's fields. The Navajos had attended a council of peace, during which one of the their most respected headmen had promised to comply with all the terms offered by the "New Men". Then, at the conclusion of the council was shot down, over a complaint lodged against the integrity of the Navajos by one of their sworn enemies, who was just as apt to rob the Diné's herds. No wonder Indian Agent James S. Calhoun felt pessimistic regarding the outcome of the newly signed treaty, for the expedition had been one replete with mismanagement and lack of foresight.

 

Footnotes

  1. James S. Calhoun, the first Territorial Governor of New Mexico, was a staunch Whig, and professed a great admiration of General Zachary Taylor, which gained for him the captaincy of a regiment of Georgia volunteers during the Mexican War. He served in this capacity from June 1846 to May 1847, at which time he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion of Georgia mounted volunteers. With the opening of President Taylor's administration, Calhoun received the appointment of Indian Agent at Santa Fe; and on March 3, 1851, was inaugurated as Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Territory of New Mexico. See Annie H. Abel (comp. & ed.), Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun while Indian Agent at Santa Fe and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New Mexico (Washington: G.P.O., 1915).
  2. Calhoun to Medill, October 4, 1849; Calhoun Correspondence, p. 40.
  3. The infantry was commanded by Brevet Colonel Alexander. The artillery, consisting of one six-pounder and three mountain howitzers, was placed under Brevet Major Henry L. Kendrick. The detachment of volunteers and Dragoons was led by captains Chapman and Kerr. See Simpson, Journal, p. 9.
  4. Ibid., p. 24.
  5. Before the council ended, the venerable Narbona and José Largo, also very aged, requested that they be represented by two lesser and younger chiefs, Armijo and Pedro José; who would act on their behalf at the forthcoming council at Cañon de Chelly. Both Calhoun and Washington agreed to this.
  6. Simpson, Journal, pp. 53-56.
  7. The existence of this so-called "Navajo fort" stems from a belief on the part of Spanish soldiers, a hundred years before, that these Navajos possessed a presidio deep in the cañon system of Chelly.
  8. Simpson, Journal, pp. 73-77.
  9. Ibid., p. 80.
  10. Calhoun to Medill, October 1, 1849; Calhoun Correspondence, p. 36.
  11. Simpson, Journal, pp. 80-81.

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