Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monument Valley, Arizona to Fort Sumner, New Mexico USA

The author at Monument Valley, Arizona USA
I often thought about the distance my Dine' (Navajo) ancestors walked in 1860. The Long Walk which was the U.S. military's campaign to incarcerate the Dine' people was truly a tragic event still felt today. I cannot fathom the hardships of walking that distance with little to no necessities. The Dine' were herded from their homes from all over the southwest, including the far reaches of Grand Canyon National Park and Monument Valley Tribal Park. Grandmothers, grandfathers, toddlers and infants were pushed to their physical limits each day of the long walk and given what the military provided in food which were, to say the very least, new to their lean diets.

I traveled to Fort Sumner, New Mexico on a quest to locate a map c.1860 from the walls of the Bosque Redondo Memorial (the memorial opened June 4, 2005). This map artifact shows military routes and landmark place names represented by the U.S. military. During my first visit in 2006, I did not know I would need it as a major piece of research for my Chaco Project writing. I decided to return to the memorial after remembering the map and the supervising National Park Service Ranger (Grace) welcomed my story with such intrigue she searched deep in the memorial archives to locate this map. To my enthusiasm it was found and showed names of roads and landmarks I needed. I will post a portion of the map soon. In the developing novel, the antagonist - a contracted Ute tracker, will name these routes throughout his pursuit of three Dine' girls. Thanks again to NPS Ranger Grace!

Monument Valley Tribal park on the Utah/Arizona border celebrates massive buttes. Timed with early dawn you will stand amazed at the spectacle of colors displayed right after seeing the silhouettes of the buttes. I stood in awe then offered a flute melody.

Upon leaving the site I wondered which horizon the U.S. military emerged from to locate Dine' homesteads in the area. I imagine the U.S. government provided luxuries of horses, food, water, abundant fire power and mutual aid from local militia volunteers. Captured Dine' were forced to march 500 miles with only the clothes on their backs. I thought maybe some were allowed to take necessities such as blankets and small valuables, which led me to recount oral stories of military personnel and militia volunteers raping women, killing infants, terrorizing elders and torturing the Dine' as they were herded to Fort Sumner. I will post more narratives by individuals and texts soon.

The View Hotel, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona USA
I traveled to these two locations in 2011: Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico and Monument Valley Tribal Park, Arizona. These visits continued my research for developing characters in a novel about three Dine' girls who escaped the initial roundup south of the Four Corners area. I have tentatively titled the novel "The Great Chacoan Escape", but am warming to this blog's title of "Chaco Runner".