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Ndé (Mescalero Apache) Escape Long Walk Home & Sheep Reintroduction

Navajo Treaty


By 1868, deteriorating conditions at Bosque Redondo hastened debate over the plight of the Navajos. Indian Peace Commissioners General William Tecumseh Sherman and Samuel F. Tappan considered removing the Navajos to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Diné leaders made clear their opposition to removal to any place other than their own country. Though U.S. officials negotiated only with men, including Barboncito and Manuelito, Navajo oral tradition credits Diné women, as well as men, with the success of the negotiations. On June 1, 1868, the parties reached an agreement that established the Navajo Reservation and allowed the Navajos to return to their sacred homeland.

One night we left; we slipped away, very quietly, and started back to our mountains where there was pure, cold water and plenty of wood and no worms, no bad smells, no Navajos, and no soldiers. It took us several days to reach our old camp in a hidden valley in the Guadalupes. Death meant nothing to us if it could be in that good place which Ussen [Creator] had given us.

Big Mouth Ndé

Treaty Signing

The treaty, known as Naaltsoos Sání or "Old Paper" in Navajo, recognized the sovereign-nation status of the Diné and stipulated the boundaries of a reservation. One provision required that Navajo children had to be educated in government schools, meaning that they would be taken from their homes and communities. Additionally, the Diné could not resist the building of a transcontinental railroad through their land. In return, the government would give the Navajo people seeds, farm tools, and livestock to begin new herds.

There are ten Navajo chiefs and leaders. They all agree and sign the treaty. They just make an x, and the bluecoat captains witness the signing, and each just writes the Navajo leader’s name beside their x. And the chiefs give messages to runners to be taken to all parts of the Indian country to notify them of the treaty.

Gus Bighorse Diné