American history is rife with varying perspectives, and there is a lot that often gets missed. To make way for certain points-of-view, whether they’re political or not, it’s rare when you get to hear both sides of any story–especially when there are problematic points in our history that have been obscured by time and eclipsed by wars.
The Long Walk is one such event. This 400-mile march, which took place in 1864, forced approximately 10,000 Navajo and Mescalero Apache from their lands to a place called “Bosque Redondo.” Thousands died. The impact of this event, which was led by the U.S. Army, is still being felt today.
U.S. history is not squeaky clean (as no history is) and lesser-known tragedies rarely get a blip until the survivors(1) speak up, like the internment of Japanese-American children during WWII. Indeed, though January marked the 150th anniversary of the Long Walk, it wasn’t talked about very much.(2)
For many personal reasons, reading about this dark event has impacted me greatly, not as a Navajo or Mescalero Apache, but as a writer(3) and student of humanity. This story I’m linking to, this one in particular, is extremely powerful. If you know who the musician Clearance Clearwater is, then you will appreciate this article even more. Legacy of Forced March Still Haunts Navajo Nation.
If you’re not clear on what the Long Walk was, there are several links in the aforementioned article that go into detail, like this one to The Bosque Redondo Memorial. For a more educational take, the Arizona Memory Project–GO LIBRARIES–has a lesson plan about it, too.
(1) When I was visiting Las Vegas a few years back, a moment of serendipity somehow brought this up in casual conversation. To hear a story about this, from someone who had family who was there? It was powerful. Very, very powerful.
(2) I had known it was an anniversary year due to prior research for my work, but wasn’t clear on the month. Quite embarrassed about that, actually.
(3) Out of respect, I’m not linking to any of those posts or that story.