What hardships did the Navajo endure on the trail to Fort Sumner?

The hardships that the Navajo endured on the trail to Fort Sumner included inhumane treatment from US soldiers, long distances to traverse that they had not had time to prepare for, thirst and hunger, and raids by slave traders. Once they reached their destination, their troubles continued as they were forced into overcrowded conditions, endured famine, and had conflicts with other tribes.

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Beginning in the spring of 1864, the US army forcibly relocated the Navajo from their lands in Arizona to eastern New Mexico. This forced walk of several hundred miles was exceedingly traumatic. The Navajo were not told where they were going or how far they would be walking. They were not given time to properly prepare or gather supplies for the journey. Many Navajo were already malnourished from years of conflict and consequently were in poor health before the relocation even began. They did not receive any aid from the ramy during this forced march, and many of the elderly and infirm died along the way.

The cruelty and indifference of the US soldiers were particularly terrible. There are accounts of people being refused water as they succumbed to thirst. There is a story of a pregnant woman being left behind by herself to give birth. Soldiers may even have killed some Navajo who they deemed to be slowing down the procession. At least 200 Navajo died along the way.

As they walked to New Mexico, groups of displaced Navajo also had to contend with raiding parties of Ute and New Mexican slave traders. Often, men would be murdered and women and children captured to be sold as slaves.

Even when they did finally arrive at Fort Sumner and Bosque Redondo, the hardships continued. Instead of being a reservation, this new home of the Navajo functioned more like an internment camp. They were overcrowded and food, water, and firewood shortages were the norm. A blight destroyed the first corn crop leading to widespread hunger. Furthermore, the Navajo were housed alongside several hundred Apaches, traditional rivals of theirs. Nearby Comanches also took to raiding the Navajo encampments. Consequently, inter-tribal conflicts within Bosque Redondo were commonplace.

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