3647 Billy the Kid Road, Fort Sumner NM 88119
Wednesday - Sunday | 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Monday - Tuesday | CLOSED
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Another fascinating trip through time is Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial, southeast of Santa Rosa.
Fort Sumner was the center of a million-acre reservation known as the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation. The story of how the U.S. Army forcibly moved the Navajo and Mescalero Apache people from their traditional homelands to the land surrounding this lonely outpost is pivotal to the history of the American West.
During this tragic period of U.S. history, the Mescalero Apache were rounded up from their homes in the Sacramento Mountains and brought to Bosque Redondo in early 1863. The Navajo were starved into submission and also forced to march hundreds of miles to the Reservation. The Navajo call this journey the Long Walk, over 50 different groups made the trek over a period of nearly three years. Four different routes were used, based on the weather, water and rations available along the way.
Several hundred of the Navajo captives died during the walk and some were abducted by slave traders along the way. No housing was provided for them, the Navajo lived in pits covered by tree branches and hides, the Mescalero had teepees and wickiups. Food was almost always in short supply as the army had no real idea of how many Navajo to expect; only about 3000 had been anticipated.
Over 8,500 Navajo and nearly 500 Mescalero Apache were spread along the banks of the Pecos River within the Bosque Redondo. The Army put them to work, building the fort, planting cottonwood trees, digging ditches, plowing, and building a diversion dam. The intent was to teach the Indians how to farm so that they would be self-sufficient and be able to feed themselves.
This experiment in social engineering was doomed to failure from the beginning. The Mescalero Apaches— nearly 500 strong—left in the middle of the night during February of 1865. They were not farmers and in fact believed that farming damaged mother earth. They also felt betrayed as they had been told that they would only need to be at Bosque Redondo a few months. To show their intent to be peaceful before they would be allowed to return to live in their beautiful mountain homeland.