Antonio el Pinto Chief of the Navajos

Chief of the Navajos from 1783 – 1793

Antonio el Pinto Hashke’ likízhí (Speckled Warrior)

By  Robert Becenti 1978  Diné (Navajo)

By Robert Becenti 1978 Diné (Navajo) 
Courtesy of National Museum of the American Indian

On August 24, 1777, the Viceroy of New Spain appointed Anza as the Governor of the Province of Nuevo México, the present day U.S. state of New Mexico.

Governor de Anza led a punitive expedition against the groups of Native Americans, who had been repeatedly raiding Taos.

Governor de Anza in a new ploy to help control the Navajos , selected a chief whom the Spanish had named Antonio el Pinto (apparently because of his “speckled complexion), gave him the title of “general,” and paid him to keep other Navajos from raiding the Spanish settlements. The new “general” was given silver medals, several saddles, roles of cloth and sacks of food, which he no doubt enjoyed to the fullest. But he had no influence whatsoever over the other Navajo war chiefs and their bands of professional raiders, so the raids continued.

1785 June 25 – It was reported that after June 25, 1785, the Navajos made two more campaigns (against the Gila Apaches) and sent 14 leaders to Santa Fe, … One, the very famous Antonio (el Pinto), had been the mainspring of the Navajos reluctance to declare war upon the Gilas. But he now sought the Governor’s pardon and promised future devotion, and on the next expedition against the Gilas, to be made in August, to assist with as many Navajos as possible.

To recompense Antonio el Pinto and his volunteers, de Anza agreed to furnish each one of the auxiliaries who presented himself an almud (about 6 bushels) of pinole, mounts to carry them, and two head of cattle for the total of them, because Antonio had indicated to him (de Anza) that without this aid they could not subsist the length of time required on our expeditions.  De Anza requested of the Comandante General Jose Antonio Rengel that four canes with silver points be sent him with an equal number of medals as insignia … ” for Antonio el Pinto and the other three chiefs who had accompanied him to Santa Fe.

July 15 & 17 – Fourteen Navajos, including four captains, came to see Governor de Anza and offered to continue making war on the Gila Apaches. On July 27, a captain and six Navajo warriors from the rancheria of Guadalupe north of Mt. Taylor made the same offer.
It was reported to de Anza that ” … although these Indians (Navajos) know well the advantage of having us (Spaniards) as friends and the ruin which would come to them by obliging us to declare war upon them, this does not yet save from them fear of the Gilas and the repugnance they feel in sacrificing to our friendship the ancient ties of kinship and alliance which they have maintained with them.

In this opinion, Captain Antonio (el Pinto) fortifies and assures them because he is the one who has been most opposed to the Spaniards and has made himself respected among the others because of his great riches, and large number of relatives and partisans.

De Anza was instructed to continue his efforts to dissolve the Navajo-Gila Apache alliance, and to aid him the Comandante General stated that he was sending a number of horses and mules and 200 firearms with corresponding munitions for the equipment of the militia, settlers and Navajos who attend the campaigns. He further advised de Anza to insure the friendship of the Utes ” … so that by no means may they permit the said enemies (Navajos) to approach or take refuge in their territories … ”

June 8 – Navajo “General” Don Carlos and his Lt. Don Jose Antonio, the interpreter, and seven others arrived in Santa Fe. Don Carlos reported that ” … he had visited all the rancherias of his dependency, where he was received and recognized with universal applause; … ”

The interpreter who had been placed among the Navajos by de Anza reported that the tribe consisted of 700 families of four or five persons each and that there were five divisions, San Mateo, Cebolleta, Canon, Chuska, and de Chelly; that there were 1000 warriors possessed of 500 horses, and Navajo possessions also consisted of 600 mares with young, 700 black ewes, and forty cows with bulls and calves.

Don Carlos lamented a recent epidemic which he attributed to lack of trade with New Mexico which the Governor had closed to them. He also reported that Antonio el Pinto had been deposed as Chief of the Navajos ”

The Comandante General authorized a payment of 200 pesos annually to “General” Don Carlos, Navajo Chief ” … elected with the consent of all the nation … ” and approved by Governor de Anza, and of 100 pesos annually to his Navajo Lieutenant, Don Jose Antonio, to secure their fidelity to the Spaniards and their continued break of alliance with the Gila Apaches.

Ugarte also proposed that the Navajos ” … organize themselves into formal settlements or Pueblos and devote themselves to cultivating the soil in order to induce them to abandon their wandering way of life.”

Regarding the Navajo Chief, Antonio el Pinto, Ugarte wrote de Anza: “If previous facts justify this concept, your lordship will search for the most secure and prudent means of destroying this individual or exiling him from his country without which the complete pacification of this (Navajo) nation will never be secured.”

September – A number of Navajos accompanied a Spanish expedition against the Gila Apaches. Other Navajos made a raid on Abiquiu.
October – A small party of Navajos raided the Rio Abajo. Also, Antonio el Pinto and some of his tribesmen went to Isleta to trade. He was seized by the Alcalde and taken to Santa Fe, where he was held pending orders from the Commanding General of the Provincias Internas. The head chief of the Navajo, as well as many others of the tribe, hastened to Santa Fe to plead with the Governor, Fernando de la Concha, for his release

In April of 1788, Antonio was freed, for Governor Concha had become convinced of his innocence and of his value as a friend and ally to the Spanish cause. The old Navajo headman had been imprisoned twice under the same charge.

Jan 14 – Governor Don Fernando de la Concha, who succeeded de Anza,
April 12 – After Antonio el Pinto was released from imprisonment on April 4, 1788, Governor Concha ordered Vizente Troncoso, one of his officers, and an escort of four soldiers, to accompany the well-known Chief to his ranchería and to verify his arrival there. On his return Troncoso made a lengthy report to the Governor on his observations of the customs and behavior of the Navajos. He wrote: “… we soon arrived at the houses which, five in number, are situated on a plain that is formed in the slope of the mountain (the San Mateo Mountains west of the Rio Puerco), so that it is necessary to climb by a very steep hill. As soon as reached the top Antonio’s parents and brothers (and sisters?) came out to receive me … He (Antonio) had them bring in his stock, killed the largest sheep and offered as much as I and the soldiers might want. All the rest of the morning all the headmen and residents of the nearby

Nov 12 – Governor Concha reported to Ugarte, Señor Comandante-General de Provincias Internas, the “… excellent footing wich we find ourselves at present with the Navajos …” which promised permanent peace between the Navajos and the Spaniards. He also reported how, under the Navajo Chief Antonio el Pinto, the tribe had constructed ten rock towers or fortifications within their encampments to safeguard their women and children from the continuous invasions by the Gila Apaches. He also recommended that the Navajos be established in permanent villages. Governor Concha concluded finally that Antonio el Pinto should be given the title of “General”.

Oct 26 – Antonio el Pinto, Head War Chief of the Navajos, died at his hogan near Guadalupe, New Mexico, of wounds received from a Gila Apache raiding party which he and other Navajos had pursued into the San Mateo Mountains. After killing two of the enemy, he had been shot in the right shoulder by an Apache arrow. After his death, a Navajo war party accompanied by Ute and Jemez allies, set out to avenge the old Chief’s death.




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