I went back to Fort Sumner this morning and visited the Bosque Redondo Memorial which was closed yesterday when I tried to visit.
It's a memorial that's dedicated to the Navajo and Mescalero Apache tribes that were moved here in the eighteen sixties to a reservation designed to try and integrate the Indians into the white man's culture by teaching them to stay in one place and farm. And Fort Sumner was built to guard and watch over the 8 or 9000 Indians that were here on the reservation.
Well as usual we found out that it's almost impossible to force a society to change into something you want them to be, when they don't want to change. And amazingly enough were still making the same mistakes today.
Almost everything went wrong that could go wrong starting with the Mescalero Apache and the Navajo hated each other and always had.
The Civil War started so the United States government diverted its money and resources to fighting the South which meant it didn't have enough of either to support Fort Sumner and the Indian reservation.
Both tribes were mountain people and didn't deal well with the flat plains of Eastern New Mexico. The Mescalero Apache were hunter gatherers and had never planted anything in their life and had no desire to learn how. The Navajo were very religious people who literally worshiped the ground they walked on and the mountains all around them, and they found themselves in a place where all that had no meaning.
New diseases ravaged the Indian population, and insects and drought made it hard to grow much of anything on the arid ground.
So after a few years the Mescalero Apache decided that if they were going to die, they might as well do it fighting than slowly starve to death. So one night they packed up all of their stuff and left. They split up into small groups knowing there wasn't enough soldiers at Fort Sumner to track them all down, and figured at least some of them would live to make it home.
The Navajo hung on to the bitter end which was another couple of years and by then it had gotten to the point where the United States couldn't support the Fort and sent some generals to Fort Stockton to figure out what to do with all the Indians.
a peace treaty was worked out between the United States Government and the Navajo people recognizing Navajo land as a sovereign nation and requiring the Navajo to not raid and kill the settlers and to set up gift shops all along interstate 40 through out Eastern Arizona.
The treaty held up and now the Navajo are probably one of the most successful and prosperous tribes in America. They had always been a people who had kind of stayed in one place and farmed which is probably the reason they have done better than a lot of the hunter gatherer tribes who had to move constantly to find better hunting areas.