SHONTO, Ariz. – Twenty years ago, the original Navajo Treaty of 1868 traveled to Northern Arizona University where it was viewed by thousands of people from the Navajo Nation.
Now, the Treaty is back in Arizona and the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, is providing a showcase in a month-long exhibit that began on June 1, the exact day – 150 years ago – a delegation of Diné leaders, or naat’áanii in the Navajo language, signed with Xs a treaty with the U.S. government that ended the exile of the Diné from their ancestral homeland and their incarceration at Fort Sumner, New Mexico (Hwéeldi).
The federal government in the early 1860s evicted more than 11,000 Diné from their homeland and force-marched them nearly 400 miles to the east in what would become known as the Long Walk, in a campaign to assimilate the Diné and relocate them to a “reservation.”
However, many Diné in the western part of the Navajo Nation did not go to Hwéeldi for they hid in the nearby slot canyons, such as Navajo Canyon, Paiute Canyon near Navajo Mountain-Rainbow City, Utah, and down the Colorado River.
In fact, the Navajo Mountain Chapter hosts a Remembrance Day (Ééhániih) celebration every year the first weekend of August to commemorate the Long Walk.
“It’s really just in the Four Corners region of Shiprock, back toward Canyon de Chelly, up to Fort Defiance,” Navajo President Russell Begaye told the Lake Powell Chronicle on June 2, “that’s the original Treaty area.”
But through the Navajo Treaty of 1868, the Diné became the only tribe to use an agreement to return home to Navajo land (Diné Bikéyah).
“A lot of (Diné) were not really part of the captivity,” Begaye explained. “We’re everywhere. The big canyon (Grand Canyon) over here, up into Utah, Colorado–– A lot of our people used to live in the Colorado mountains and all the way toward Dibé Nitsaa (Hesperus Mountain, Colorado, one of the tribe’s six sacred mountains).”
He added, “The heart of (the Treaty) was of course, Chinle, Fort Defiance. And they were taken.”
Because of the Treaty (Naaltsoos Sání), Begaye says, the Navajo Nation is a nation.
“And that no matter what faces us, we’re overcomers,” he said. “And we have the blood of the warriors in our veins like I always say. We just need to remember that we are a (Navajo) Nation.”
The Treaty will be on display throughout this month. The Treaty exhibition at the Navajo Nation Museum is open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Daylight Time.