The official policy towards New Mexico’s native inhabitants during the 1800s was based on conquest and control. The commander of the U.S. Army in the territory was a proponent of forced incarceration on reservations. In 1864 troops based at Fort Wingate, led by Kit Carson, destroyed crops, and killed livestock and wildlife to starve the Navajo families that refused to move from their land voluntarily. The Navajo were forced to walk 400-miles from Fort Wingate to a reservation at Bosque Redondo. The traumatizing event is referred to as “The Long Walk.” Hundreds of Navajos died of starvation and exposure to the elements.
After four years of living in horrifying conditions at Bosque Redondo, Navajo leaders, including Chief Manuelito, traveled to D.C. in 1868 to negotiate a treaty with the U.S. government. The treaty allowed them to return to their homeland, establishing a new reservation on a portion of their former land in New Mexico and Arizona.