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Assimilation: Boarding Schools Timeline, 1930-

The Fort Becomes a Village


In 1869, a year after the release of the Navajos from Bosque Redondo, the U.S. Army abandoned Fort Sumner. The Army placed the fort buildings for sale, as well as thousands of acres of former concentration camp land. Lucien B. Maxwell, a rancher and landowner, purchased the buildings and subsequently encouraged settlement of the land. A town developed as more people arrived in the area, and in 1916 it was incorporated as the village of Fort Sumner. The settlement of an area that once interned thousands of Native peoples signified a shift in the meaning of the landscape. Such reclaiming of the land by Maxwell and later owners removed it from the atrocities that had been committed there.

The transformation of the former military fort and Indian reservation into a profitable ranch represents a "rectification" in land use... Rectification involves "returning a site to use, implying no lasting positive or negative meaning" of the calamity that had transpired there.

Margaret A. Lindauer