Navajo Timeline

Year Navajo History World History
  • Mexico and the United States of America signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848 ending the Mexican War. Mexico, having lost the war, was forced to give up half of its homeland that included Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. The Navajo homeland was part of this vast trade of land. Navajos now come under the hands of the U.S. government instead of a distance Mexican authority.
  • First Women's Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY. The convention demanded that women be given the right to vote and women's equality.
  • California Gold Rush. Tens of thousands of people world wide pour into California seeking gold after John Marshall found a gold nugget at Sutter's Creek.
  • Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels wrote "The Communist Manifesto" for the Communist League in Germany.
  • In England, John Stuart Mill published the "Principles of Political Economy", the single most influential work on classical free-market economics.
  • Two U.S. representatives and some soldiers travel to Navajo country on August 31, 1849 to hold a conference with a group of Navajos to explain the U.S. government's plan. Soon, the U.S. government would build forts and open land to Anglo-American settlers from its newly acquired territory from Mexico. At the conference, a Mexican guide claimed that the Navajos had a horse that had been stolen from him. An argument broke out, and U.S. soldiers then shot and killed seven Navajos including an influential Navajo leader named Narbona. The news spread quickly to other Navajos beginning one of many skirmishes between the Navajos and the U.S. government.
  • Navajo Treaty of 1849. Lieutenant Colonel John M. Washington, together with Indian Agent James S. Calhoun, coerced one group of Navajos under Navajo Chief Mariano Martinez into a treaty on September 9, 1849. The U.S. government take his "X" mark as a sign that all bands of Navajos will follow and obey the treaty. This group of Navajos recognized United States jurisdiction over them and to submit to the trade and intercourse laws, to return captives and stolen property and remain at peace, and to allow the federal government to determine their boundaries. Lieutenant Colonel Washington followed the conventional Indian policy of the day. He wrote to the War Department in February of 1849, that "The period has arrived, when they (the Indians) must restrain themselves within prescribed limits and cultivate the earth for an honest livelyhood, or, be destroyed."
  • The Department of the Interior was created to administer the vast new public domain lands in the interior western U.S.A. This western land was approximately the size of western Europe. The "Indian Service" is then transferred to the Interior Department from the War Department. Appointments to the post of Indian trader or Indian agent in the Interior Department were made almost entirely as a result of congressional patronage.
  • Fort Defiance built in Navajo country. It was the first U.S. fort built in Arizona. Its purpose was to control the Navajo Indians, considered one of the "wild tribes", and open land to Anglo-American settlers. The Diné people, had previously been under a distant Mexican authority. Now they were forced to negotiate with the American authorities for their own land and water, as the U.S. Army's horses and mules were using the Navajos' best water sources and grazing lands. Like the Apaches, the Navajos were Athapaskans from the north who had migrated into the lands of the Pueblos during the 1300 to 1400s. A resourceful and adaptive people, they had taken up sheepherding and learned silversmithing from the Spanish, learned weaving from the Hopi, and tended gardens and orchards. Some of their headmen, known as "ricos" (wealthy men), were very prosperous. The intrusion of the army at Fort Defiance, led to increasing skirmishes with Navajo Chiefs and Headmen, particularly one named Manuelito, who had large livestock herds. In 1860, 1,000 Navajos attacked the fort and although they were driven off, Fort Defiance was abandon the following year.
  • Foucault's Pendulum experiment. French scientist Jean Bernard Foucault used a pendulum to illustrate that the earth rotated on an axis even as it rotated around the sun.
  • Isaac Singer invented the first domestic sewing machine.
  • Navajo Treaty of 1855. David Meriwether, Governor of New Mexico Territory, negotiated a Treaty with the Navajos in the summer of 1855 at Laguna Negra, Territory of New Mexico. The treaty is very similiar to the other five Indian Tribes in the Territory of New Mexico that Govenor Meriwether negotiated a treaty with. These tribes being: the Mimbres Band of Gila Apaches, Mescalero Apaches, Jicarilla Apaches, Capote Band of Utes, and Muache Band of Utes. In return for cession of all Navajo claims to land, the Navajo Tribe will be given a defined reservation, and the Navajos agreed to settle on the land and to "cultivate the soil and raise flocks and herds for a subsistence". In turn, the United States promised gradually reduced annuities for a set period of years, but the payments were to be made at the direction of the U.S. President, who could determine what proportion, if any, would be paid in money and what proportion might be expended for moral improvement and civilization. Furthermore, the U.S. President, at his discretion, could survey the reservation and allot parcels of land to individual Navajo families. Additional articles prohibited the making, selling, or using of spirituous liquors on the Navajo Reservation and provided that the trade and intercourse laws would remain in force over the reservation. Here was a clear indication of the theoretical policy of the U.S. government, to turn the Navajos (and other Indians) of the newly acquired Mexican territories into settled agriculturalist, no matter what the Navajos' traditions and inclinations might be or what the capabilities of the land for farming. Meriwether's chief goal in this treaty can be seen in his report to Indian Commission Manypenny, "Each treaty contains a stipulation requiring the Indians to cultivate the land assigned to them.". Although Governor Meriwether urged speedy approval of the Navajo Treaty and the five other Indian treaties, the Senate unanimously rejected all of them on March 13, 1857. Yet Governor Meriwether's negotiations with the different Indian Tribes in his territory appeared to have had some effect, for he reported at the end of 1856 that depredations in New Mexico had been less serious than in any of the previous years.
  • July 20 - Returning from the treaty negotiations, the Meriwether party near "Bluewater" … "saw a number of Indians about the valley whose conduct created the suspicion that they were returning from a marauding expedition, and had stolen property in their possession." A detachment of dragoons sent in pursuit found, when overtaken, that the Navajos were of Sandoval's band and had only brought their stock in to water.
  • July 27 - In transmitting the July 18th treaty to the Commissioner, Meriwether commented: "There was a very full attendance of the warriors of the tribe; the number could not have been less than 1500, and several officers of the army, who were present, estimated them at 2000; but few of their women and children were present and every man was mounted on his horse and well armed … Every band except that of Sandoval was fully represented, and every chief, captain and headman except Sandoval signed the treaty willingly after understanding its purport fully, and after a long conference with their followers. Sandoval's band numbers about 100 souls, who separated from the remainder of the tribe some years since, and the two parties are decidely hostile to each other; ... The Navajo tribe is generally estimated to number from 1500 to 2000 warriors, and from eight to 10,000 souls, and from the number assembled at Laguna Negra I am of the opinion that this is not too large an estimate, and the country assigned to them, by the treaty, is estimated to contain about 7000 square miles."
  • August 2 - Agent Dodge informed the Commission that since the treaty had been signed he had visited all of the principal planting grounds of the Navajos and that he was " ... happy to say their crops look fine and that they have a bountiful harvest this year." He added: "The Nevijos have recently been at war with the Piuches and Apaches" but he was sure Meriwether's policy would secure peace within the Territory. Dodge recommended: "The Nevijos are greatly in want of few or at least two mills built after the Mexican fashion which would not cost including transportation of the stons (sic) from the Reograndyh [Rio Grande] to this point more than $150 each. This would enable them to have flour and meal instead of using the grain in its entire state(.) at present they grind a small quantity by a verry laborious process by hand." Meriwether concurred with Dodge's recommendation that two mills be erected.
  • August 8 - At the treaty negotiations, near Abiquiu, between Governor Meriwether and the Capote Utes, Chiefs Archuleta and Narboncito and two or three other Navajos were present, who claimed to live with the Capotes and considered themselves as part of that tribe. Archuleta and Narboncito also signed the treaty concluded with the Utes on this date along with 15 Capote Ute Chiefs.
  • August 30 - Ethan Pettit was a member of the colonizing Elk Mountain (old name for the La Sal Mountains in southeastern Utah) Mission sent out by the Mormon Church in the summer of 1855. They established a fort near present Moab, but it was abandoned in September 1855, following a Ute attack. Pettit kept a diary in which he recorded on August 8, that a party of Navajos visited the fort and " ... the Utahs and Navajoes made a treaty of Peace. We are to go to the Navajoes Country or any w[h]ere in the Utah Country we please unmolested and the Navajoes and Utahs are to have the same privalage … " On August 30, Pettit, with five other members from the fort, set out for the Navajo country to trade; taking with them such items as needles, thread, fish-hooks and lines, gun tubes, files, awls, powder, lead and caps, knives, buckskins and handerchiefs. At the San Juan River four days later a group of Navajos came into camp and the next day Pettit recorded: "The Navajoes that camp on the other side of the river came acrost this morning, there is about 20 here in all, the Chief and two of his squaws are amongst the number. The Chief invited us to go home with them which we did ... " The next day (September 5) " ... the Chiefs son came into camp and says the Navajoes are mad on account of one of their Cheifs dieing yesterday still we persue our journey ... " After passing Navajo cornfields along Olijeto Creek, " ... arrived at lodges at 12 OC noon another Chief came to see to see (sic) us he feels first rate towards us made him some presents we traded for one horse Staid all night at the Cheifs lodge" The following day (September 6) the party engaged in trading, and " ... made the Chief some presants and made good peace between them and the Utahs there were five Utahs went with us besides our guide they all feel well towards us the Navajoes wish us to come again and see them as soon as we can they want us to bring some goods to trade for horses and blankets, the settlement is in a low creek bottom from a quarter to half a mile wide and on eather side are high rocky bluffs the soil is a fine red sand they raise some corn and mellons there is not any timber in this Country except cottonwood on the creek from St Johns river to the settlements is near 40 miles most of way through heavy sand we bid the Chief farewell and left at 4 OC P M" The party returned to the fort on September 12.
  • September 1 - Regarding relations with the Indians, the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette reported " ... It has been a long time since our Territory enjoyed such a season of peace as we have experienced for the last three months [corrected to three weeks in the September 15th issue.] Indian depredations appear to have ceased entirely, or if any place they never come to the ears of the authorities. At this time there is not a tribe in the territory that has not sued for peace, or entered into treaty stipulations ... In July the Governor made a visit into the Navajo country, and concluded a treaty with this tribe at Laguna Negra, ... The main object of this treaty was to fix the Navajos within certain limits, that may be, hereafter, Indian country, ... , Without doubt this submission of the tribes is owing to the course pursued by our civil and military authorities in relation to the Indians. The course of the Superintendent of Indian affairs and Commanding General, we think are worthy of commendation, ... " The following week, the paper reported: "Capt. Dodge, agent for the Navajo Indians, arrived in town, with a delegation of some 70 of the tribe, last Wednesday afternoon. He reports every thing quite (sic) in the nation, and that their crops generally look well ... "
  • September 30 - In his annual report Agent Dodge noted that the " ... condition of the Navajo tribe of Indians during the year and at present is prosperous in a degree heretofore unknown ... "Regarding their territory, Dodge noted that if the Meriwether treaty were confirmed by the Senate, it " ... will secure to them a home and country free from the inroads of the New Mexicans which has been from time immemorial one of the causes of dificulty between them." Dodge also made a number of recommendations for the improvement of conditions among the tribe: "If the treaty is confirmed I respectfully suggest that in carrying out the provisions that the Navajos may be furnished with four sets of blacksmith tools and 1000 pounds of iron. They have 18 native blacksmiths who work with the hand bellows and the primative tools used by the Mexicans with which they make all of the bridle bits, rings, buckets, etc. I have frequently had the rich and inteligent men of this tribe to aske me to take their boys of five and six of age and learn them to read and write in the English language. A school established amongst them I think would be productive of much good. The government has commenced to give them plows and they should have a farmer to teach them its use and a blacksmith for at least one year. They are extremely anxious to have two mills built after the Mexican fashion which would not cost more than $150 each. They would be of infinate advantage to them in reducing their corn and wheat to flour and meal."
        Meriwether's annual report regarding the Navajos was also on the praiseworthy side. He wrote: "The Navajoes may be said to be in a highly flourishing condition. They have remained at home for several years, committing but few depredations, and such as have been committed by the bad men of the tribe are not justified by any considerable number of their people. As an evidence of this, I would refer to the fact of a Navajo having killed a soldier during the last winter at Fort Defiance, and these Indians having arrested the murderer when Agent Dodge demanded him, and their having hanged him in the presence of their Agent and all the officers stationed at that post. These Indians have been cultivating the soil to a limited extent for several years, and this season have about 5000 acres of corn under cultivation together with a small quantity of wheat, some potatoes and other vegetables; they have a large number of sheep and horses, some mules and cattle, and are manufacturing blankets and other articles of clothing in increased quantities. I feel confident that there has been a decided improvement in the condition of these Indians within the two years, and I feel equally confident that judicious management and the fostering care of the government will soon make them a prosperous, happy, and contented people."
  • November 26 - In his annual report to the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner wrote regarding New Mexico and Indian policy: " ... On consideration of the response received from the governor of New Mexico, authority was delegated to him early last spring to treat with the tribes of his superintendency. ... The reports of his progress and prospects, in the execution of this trust, which have reached this office, are flattering, and give rise to the hope that the time is near at hand when difficulties with the tribes in New Mexico, and the outrages and depredations committed by them, will cease ... I believe that the Indian may be domesticated, improved, and elevated; that he may be completely and thoroughly civilized, and made a useful element of our population. But he must have a home; a fixed, settle, and permanent home. And I regard it as fortunate for him that circumstances intimately connected with out present plane of emigration to and settlement within the territories of the United States, although marked by great irregularities and cruelty and death to both races, are rapidly hastening a condition of things which will accord with the policy of permanent homes and fixed habitations for the Indians. This wonderful emigration and the expansion of our population into every portion of our territories, where land is found suitable for cultivation, carries the white settlers on either side of and far beyond the homes of the Indians; and as the settlements thus made expand and grow, they will so have adjusted themselves as to forbid the removal of the red man. There will therefore soon be no pretext for a change, as there will be no place to remove the Indian population. The policy of fixed habitations I regard as settled by the government, and it will soon be confirmed by an inevitable necessity; and it should be understood at once that those Indians who have had reservations set apart and assigned them, as well as those who may hereafter by treaty have, are not to be interfered with in the peaceable possession and undisturbed enjoyment of their land; that no trespasses will be permitted upon their territory or their rights; that the assurances and guarantees of their treaty grants are as sacred and binding as the covenants in the settler's patent; and that the government will not only discountenance all attempts to trespass on their lands and oust them from their homes, but in all cases where necessary will exert its strong arm to vindicate its faith with, and sustain them in their rights. Let combinations, whether formed to obtain the Indian's land or to make profit by jobs and contracts in his removal, or other causes, be resisted; and let it be understood that the Indian's home is settled, fixed, and permanent, and the settler ad the Indian will, it is believed, soon experience the good effects that will result to both. The former will then regard the latter as his neighbor and friend, and will treat him with the consideration due to this relation. And the Indian will look upon his habitation as permanent and his reservation as his home, and will cease to regard the white man with that restless doubt and distrust which has been so disastrous to his comfort and peace and so fatal to this civilization and improvement. All persons who emigrate to the territories of the United States, to occupy under the liberal land policy of the government the public domain, should understand distinctly that they are to occupy and cultivate the land to which the Indian title is extinguished, and that alone; that the tribes are to be protected and remain undisturbed within the limits of their reservations, and that this policy will be inflexibly adhered to by the government. The condition and interests of the white border population would thus be improved and promoted, and the main cause for strife, disorder, outbreak, and murder, so common between the frontier settler and the Indian, being thus removed, these atrocities would occur but seldom ... . "
  • December 18 - A Navajo killed an Indian " ... said to belong to the Pueblo of Isleta who was acting as head shepherd for Juan Chervis of Sabinal." The facts surrounding the incident as related to Dodge by the Mexicans and Navajos were: " ... the Navajo was hunting in the mountain near the blue waters [Bluewater] on horseback with a boy when they encountered two herders. The Navajo asked the India of Isleta for powder which he refused him. The Navajo said I am hunting and have but one charge of powder and that is in my gun give me two charges more for Amigos. The other replied I will not give you a grain. The Navajo grabed the hat of the Isleta but did not attempt to run thinking that he would get the powder by returning [the] hat. In this he was sadley disappointed for the powder he received, was from the gun of the Isleta accompanied with a ball which wounded him in the hand and lodged in his thy. At the same time the other shepherd knocked the boy from the horse with a stick. When the Navajo recovered he discharged his fun at the Pueblo wounding him mortally." Dodge called the headmen together to discuss the incident, and they wished him to refer the matter to the Acting Governor and agreed to act in accordance with his decision. On January 5, 1856, the Sate Fe Weekly Gazette also reported the incident.
  • Manuelito, a "rico" Navajo Chieftan, found 60 head of his livestock shot by U.S. soldiers. Furious, he confronted the Major at Fort Defiance and told him the water and the grass belonged to him and his people, not to the U.S. Army. Soldiers from Fort Defiance, supported by 160 Zuni mercenaries, burned Manuelito's village and fields. Manuelito resolved to drive the white soldiers off their lands and began organizing other Navajo Chieftans and Headmen for war.
  • Government of India Act reformed rule of India. The British Parliament revoked the charter of the East India Company and transferred rule of India to the British Crown. The governor general of India was given the title of "Viceroy" and made responsible for India within the British cabinet.
  • Navajos attack Fort Defiance. Over 1,000 Navajos led by Manuelito, a wealthy headman, and Barboncito, a medicine man and war leader, attacked Fort Defiance. They almost completely overran it, until superior gunfire drove them off. This marked the beginning of the U.S. Army's policy of "total war" against the Navajos. Although the outbreak of the Civil War the following year caused the withdrawal of the soldiers and the abandonment of Fort Defiance, the Navajo war was taken up by the new commander in Santa Fe, James Carleton. The Navajos, like the Apaches, were considered a grave threat to the Army of the West.
  • Anglo-French forces in China burned the Imperial Summer Palace. Peking was occupied, and new treaties forced the Chinese emperor to open all of China to westerners.
  • The Second Maori War in New Zealand begins and goes on for 10 years. In 1870, the Maori lost most of their lands.
  • Invention of the Winchester repeating rifle, the 1st firearm capable of repeated firings without reloading.
  • New Mexico was cut in half, to create the Territory of Arizona.
  • The U.S. war against the Navajo Tribe. The Navajo Long Walk, and imprisonment at Bosque Redondo. Kit Carson drove the Navajo from their lands by destroying their means of survival using his "Scorch Earth Policy". His U.S. army killed the sheeps, goats, and horses, poisoned wells, burned orchards and crops, destroyed hogans and livestock shelters, and anything else that was of value to the Navajo. Manuelito, Barboncito, Ganado Mucho, and other headmen retreated into the most remote Navajo lands. Thousand of others went into hiding in the deep recesses of Canyon de Chelly, previously unexplored by white men and noted for its quicksand floor. By winter Carson's men set up a blockade at the entrance to the canyon, shot anyone trying to leave, and in March rounded up thousands of starving Navajo and sent them on the "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. More than 8,000 Navajos, as well as some Mescalero Apache who had not fled south, were marched 350 miles through spring blizzards from Fort Defiance to Fort Sumner. Many of the Apaches fled to Mexico rather than be captured. The soldiers shot anyone moving too slowly, raped women, and shot the elderly. (Oral histories of the Navajo recount that when they asked the soldiers to stop so a pregnant woman could give birth, the soldiers refused. "Not long after (we) moved on, we heard a gun-shot ...". Many froze to death. Others starved or became sick. At Fort Sumner they grew ill from brackish water and inadequate food. Comanches came from Texas and raided the camp at will. Many of the women got syphilis from the soldiers at the fort and in turn infected the Navajo men. The story of the Long Walk is passed on by Navajo elders in the same way Jews talk about the Holocaust. (Kit Carson became an American hero. His gravesite in Taos, New Mexico, is marked with a special commendation by the Eagle Scouts of America.)
  • Navajos are introduced to wheat flour during their captivity at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. After returning to their new reservation, the U.S. government provides Navajos with wheat flour as part of their commmodies program. Because of this, lard and wheat flour becomes the main ingredients in the making of Navajo Fry Bread
  • 1863 - Battle of Gettysburg. Confederate General Lee began an invasion of the North by way of the Shenandoah Valley and southern Pennsylvania. The battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was the decisive battle of the war. Although the Arm of the North took tremendous losses, they were able to resupply their troops by railroads. Lee, unable to resupply men or ammnunition, eventually had to fall back to Virginia. After this, the Confederate forces were on the defensive.
  • Navajo Treaty of 1868. Barboncito negotiated with General William Tecumseh Sherman for a return of the Navajo to their old lands. Sherman, hero of the Civil War, was given the position of Commander in Chief of U.S. forces in the West. The costs of Bosque Redondo, both in actual supplies and pilfered goods, had become so astronomical that Secretary of War Stanton had removed Carleton from command and sent Sherman to negotiate a peace treaty with the Navajo and to relocate them to an Indian reservation. Sherman planned to sent them to Oklahoma or Kansas. Barboncito refused to sign the treaty as written and insisted instead on returning to Navajo lands in Arizona and New Mexico. He skillfully and eloquently argued to be returned to their old lands. "When the Navajos were first created, 4 mountains and 4 rivers were pointed out to us, inside of which we should live. That was to be our country and it was given to us by the First Woman of the Dineh. It was told to us by our forefathers that we were never to move east of the Rio Grande or north of the San Juan Rivers and I think that our coming here has been the cause of so much death among us and our animals. First woman when she was created, gave us this piece of land and created it especially for us ... I hope you will not ask me to go to any country except my own ... They told us this was a good place when we came, but it is not!" (This translation was from Navajo to Spanish to English.). The negotiations concluded on June 1, 1968, and the treaty document, prepared by the Department of State, was signed by General Sherman and 29 Navajo Chieftans and Headmen including Barboncito, Armijo, Manuelito, Ganado Mucho, and Delgarito. The new reservation was about one tenth of the country the Navajos had previously claimed and excluded all the good eastern grazing lands and most of their water sources. In the 5 years of the Navajo captivity, white settlers had moved on to their best lands; their fields had been untended and their orchards destroyed. The reservation lands that Sherman finally agreed to were on the New Mexico - Arizona border, with sparse water supplies, and even at the time, were recognized as inadequate for the number of people to be resettled. In exchange for the Navajos' agreement to never make war aginst the U.S. again, the government agreed to give the Navajos 13,000 sheep (2 per family), corn, flour, and food staples to get them through the first winters until they could reestablish a treaty provision on the government side was fully met. Some where between Washington and the Indian agents in the field, most of the supplies and promised livestock disappeared. The Navajo observed the terms of the treaty they signed in 1868, which included agreeing to not possess firearms or conduct raids, and to send their children to white schools. The Navajo Reservation that is created by the Navajo Treaty of 1868, begins small but decades later becomes the largest Indian reservation in the United States.
  • The Meiji restoration in Japan. With the installation of the boy emperor Meiji, the power of the Japanese emperor was restored after centuries of rule by shoguns. A period of modernization and westernization followed. The city of Edo was renamed Tokyo and Japan began to develop industry and trade. The restoration lasted until 1912.
  • General William Tecumseh Sherman called on George Armstrong Custer to join the Army of the West. Custer was on military suspension because of cruelty and negligence to troops under his command. Sherman was about to adopt a policy of total war against the Plains Indians.
  • Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States (1865-1869), was the first U.S. President ever impeached. Johnson was charged with attempting to remove, contrary to statute, the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, with inducing a General of the Army to violate an act of Congress, and with contempt of Congress. President Johnson was acquitted by a margin of a single vote.

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Dated Created: 01/01/2000
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Updated: 05/02/2010
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