Dr. M. Gomez History 161/Spring 2015
16 May 2015
The Long Walk
As a part of American history Indians were placed in a situation that did not give them an option as to what or where they wanted to go as a community. American exceptionalism has glorified the idea of White American truth. As America has been the poster child for the model country and what it mean to be that country there have many reasons and actions in or history that tell otherwise. When President Andrew Jackson “asked” the Indians to move and uproot their lives the response was not a consideration rather than a threat that was followed with violence and forcing the Indians to move where the American Military was forcing them to go. As a part of the Indian Removal Act there were many events and people who took action in a change towards this act. The Trail of Tears forced Indians on an excruciating walk to the “new” land that the American Military was forcing them to move to. There were many who did not make the long journey and some who stood against all despite the travesty and consequences of speaking up against it.
In 1864 the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo took place. The Long Walk of the Navajo was a 20 day or more foot walk from Fort Defiance in Arizona to a southeastern reservation in New Mexico called Bosque Redondo. Many Native Americans died on this 300 mile walk. The reason this walk was forced upon the Navajos was because the U.S. Military was trying to conquer the southwest, and they felt that the Navajos were enemies for not letting the U.S. Military take their land. So the U.S. Military took their land, relocated them, and made them prisoners. One of the big war chiefs for the Native Americans during the Long Walk period was a man named Manuelito. Manuelito rallied Navajos against the U.S. Military and for several years led a group of warriors in resisting federal efforts to be removed to the Bosque Redondo. He was one of the most resistant Navajos to “American Expansion”. Manuelito had many wives, but it has been told that his favorite wife was a Mexican slave known as Juanita or “Lady Weaver”. In the poem “Juanita, Wife of Manuelito” by Simon Ortiz talks about the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. In the poem Simon Ortiz describes a photograph of Juanita and other Native Americans when they are on the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. He explains that he can see the hurt and sadness in Juanita’s eyes that she is enduring because of the walk. He states that he can only imagine the pain and misery that his ancestors had to endure by walking and climbing those 300 miles to the Bosque Redondo. He also talks about Juanita and how she in the photograph looks like a very tough and mean woman. He also states that it must have been hard for her and all the other Navajos to leave their homelands, for no particularly fair reason. However, what is symbolic about the poem is that he also sees beauty in this photograph even though it was a depressing time. He also describes the girls beautiful hair that is tied back with a piece of yarn. At the end of the poem he explains that he can see the Navajo women during the walk, still being optimistic and telling their children that their dreams can still come true. His final thought on the poem states that he would like to teach his son what the Navajo women taught their children about following their dreams. The message embedded in this poem is that even though people go through very tough times just stay optimistic and follow your dreams to stay positive and on the right path. This poem is referring to the historical Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. The way this poem reflects this moment in history is because Simon Ortiz entitles the poem “Juanita, Wife of Manuelito”. These two figures had a very big part of the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo. Not only does the title reflect this historical event, but he is describing Juanita in a photograph that was taking during