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  • Jennifer Z. Major

Say WHAT??

So, WHAT exactly was Bosque Redondo?

It was a failure of very epic, and very deadly proportions.

You see, my friends, before and after the Civil War, the West was wide open for settlement. Nothing but land, lotsa land, fresh air, and sunshine, plenty of room for a man to build an empire...

But, oops, here's the thing...there were millions of people already there.

The idea that Westward expansion was the divine right of white folks, as laid out in a concept called Manifest Destiny, spread like gossip at a quilting bee.

Here's another thing, the idea that a society that didn't live in what one person considered a "civilized" manner, did not mean that the society was uncivilized.

Au contraire!

The oral histories and lifestyles of indigenous cultures were just as intricate and valuable as those of societies that had written alphabets and such rich cultural traditions as whale bone corsets and cravats. But I digress.

Before you could say "wagons ho!" wagons were hoeing across the continent and straight into trouble. That the millions of square miles west of the Mississippi were already settled and claimed, well, that wasn't exactly a high priority to whatever governing bodies and salesmen were selling wagons, oxen, coffee and wheel grease.

Oh, and you know what else they were selling? Land. But folks had to "settle" it.

Cuz like, hello? The settlers had the papers. "You own this land". Nothing like authority eh?, what they had there was a failure to communicate. Oh, and all out war. But, there were more Anglos hungry for land and victory, and armed with smallpox blankets, and influenza, and all kinds of other diseases, than there were indigenous people who could fight them off.

Did I mention the whole "poison and starve them if they won't leave the land we want" mentality?

So, round up the non-victorious and cart 'em off to a prison camp and see what happens.

And what happens, is a hell on earth in New Mexico called Bosque Redondo.

10,000 Apache and Navajo people confined to land meant to "support" 3000. And by support, I mean the Army and the minds behind the camp were going to teach the prisoners how to be self sufficiant. Grow their food. Learn to farm. Be civilized.

Because, like, they hadn't done that for centuries? Millenia?? Eons???

And my personal (non) favourite ?

Ram, shove, grind and push Christianity down their throats. Because NOTHING says "God loves you" like forced conversion and centuries of guilt.

So, WHAT was Bosque Redondo?

Unchecked human depravity, depredation, starvation, cruelty and sin run so rampant that I'm sure if it happened to Anglos instead of indigenous cultures, there'd be a whole lot more about it in the history books.

And 148 years after the Navajo people were set free, their ancestors still carry the pain. And no, they shouldn't have to "get over it".

What they should have, is an apology.

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