Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473
Manuelito: Navaho chief, led attacks against the Army and resisted being sent to Bosque Redondo reservation before finally surrendering.
Colonel Edward Richard Sprigg Canby: Army colonel at Fort Fauntleroy who is later killed by Captain Jack.
General James Carleton: Ruthless Army general, commanded New Mexico Army in campaigns against Navahos.
Kit Carson: Former trader, negotiated with Navahos before successfully campaigning against them.
In 1860, Manuelito and his fellow Navahos are in conflict with both the American soldiers, who stole his livestock and burned his hogans, the log structures in which the Navahos lived, and the Mexicans, who stole Navaho children to be used as slaves. When the Americans build Fort Defiance and take possession of the pasture land around the fort, the Navahos, who are upset by this seizure and the slaughter of their animals by a company of mounted soldiers, raid the fort on April 30, 1860. After a time of minor scuffling between the Navahos and the Army, a horse race between Manuelito and an Army lieutenant is held at the new Fort Fauntleroy in September, 1861. The lieutenant wins the race by using trickery, and when a dispute over the race arises, the Army massacres the Navahos who had gathered to watch. General Carleton then pushes the Mescalero Apaches into the Bosque Redondo reservation and orders the Navahos to go to the reservation as well. When they refuse, the Army’s scorched-earth campaign forces many Navahos to surrender and go to the reservation. Navaho resistance continues to weaken as more and more Apache surrender, but Manuelito and his band of warriors remain defiant. Manuelito finally surrenders in 1866, and the Navahos sign a treaty on June 1, 1868, proclaiming that war between them and the U.S. would cease.
Brown's history is clearly designed to evoke sympathy for the Indians with readers. The violence the U.S. Army inflicts upon Manuelito's warriors is extensive. Similarly, the fraudulent horse race and the soldiers’ subsequent massacre of the Navahos make it difficult for any reader to take the side of the Army. This suspicion deepens when Kit Carson, former friend of many Indians, turns to leading his troops against the Navahos and conducts a scorched-earth campaign throughout the summer and fall of 1863.
Readers learn, too, of General Carleton’s ferocity against the Indians and his great hunger for tribal land and the minerals found on it. This, together with the settling of the Navahos on the wretched Bosque Reservation before they returned home to their new reservation and saw much of their best lands taken by the white settlers, makes the readers wonder if things will be any better for other tribes encountered later in the book. Brown strongly indicates that things will not improve by writing that the Navahos “would come to know that they were the least unfortunate of all the western Indians.”