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  • Jennifer Z. Major

"It wasn't a hike..."

I've spoken of the Long Walk of the Navajo, and while the word walk conjures up a sedate meandering from one place to another, the Long Walk was hellish in nature, and torturous each and every step.

I read an article years ago about a white reporter who decided to walk part of the route. His Navajo friend sort of glared at him and said "It's wasn't a hike, you know."

No, it was no less than 300 miles. For some, it was up to 450 miles.

THREE to FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY miles, on foot, in winter.

Men, women, children, babies, the elderly. All walking toward the unknown.

But, where, exactly?

Here's a map from the Bosque Redondo museum in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

A big question I had was why not go from Los Pinos to Fort Sumner in a straight line? Why add days and days of walking?

Well, there are some fairly impressive mountains in between.

Not only would the losses be extremely high, but there's no way to know what enemies were in those mountains.

Oh, and I'm hoping whoever is reading this realizes that the fear of losses was probably about soldiers and horses.

I mean, one dead prisoner meant one less mouth to feed. Right?

So, back to The Long Walk.

Last Fall, as I drove from Albuquerque to Fort Sumner, I imagined myself walking that route. It was a 3 hour drive in an air conditioned Jeep Patriot.

Yes, this one. That I've shown enough times that we should all know the plate by now.

That is, if we could see it.

(Courtesy of the sweet car rental guy who needed and got a dose of Momming when he wasn't feeling well and upped my small rental car to a really nice 4 wheel drive.)

Ahem, as I drove along, I looked at the terrain, heard and felt the wind, and tried to count all the sources of water. Not many.

Sources of food? None.

Sources of firewood? Hmm, hardly any.

Terrain? Mostly flat, so the wind was strong.

But September in New Mexico is lovely. January and February?


Not exactly survivable.

But when they were escorted home after the Treaty of 1868, it was summer, and the army took actual care of them. Because on paper, they were the enemy, anymore.

It was still a 450 mile walk home, but across that mountain?

Home was waiting.

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