The Mexicans and the Navajo

Mexicans and  Navajo History 1821 – 1848

Mexico declared independence from Spain.
Treaty of Cordova between Spain and Mexico dated August 24, 1821, and in the Mexican Declaration of Independence, proclaimed September 28, 1821. The capital was kept in of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 Santa Fe New Mexico 1848

Painting of the Mexican capital in  Santa Fe New Mexico 1846


The Mexicans became the bitterest enemies of the Navajo. The former were the mixed-blood descendants of the Spanish and the Indians. Spanish and American accounts report with horror the slaughter by Mexicans of Navajo who came peacefully to trade, or the slaughter of innocent Mexican traders by the Navajo. No matter what the case, a war of reprisal was necessary–either to steal what had been left behind, or to avenge murder.

The Mexicans were forced to abandon several cities because of the Navajo attacks; and generally it was conceded that the Navajo were better warriors than the Mexicans. Eaton (1854), an American officer, sorely maintained that the Navajo were not good warriors, but that they seemed so because the Mexicans were cowards. The Mexicans called the Navajo their slaves, and scornfully declared that they furnished them (the Mexicans) with good weavers, whom they could sell to the Spanish at a high price. The Navajo stole the Mexicans’ sheep, but refrained from completely annihilating the enemy because, so they said, they wished to leave a few as shepherds to raise more flocks for the Dene.

The Navajo stole hundreds of slaves from the Mexicans and the native tribes. In turn they also lost some of their tribesmen to Mexican raiders. Intelligent and industrious Navajo women who knew how to weave were highly prized. A beautiful and healthy girl of eight was sold for as high as $400 worth of horses and goods. Poor people frequently sold orphans or their own children for a horse or an ox. It was once estimated that there were from 2000 to 3000 Navajo working as slaves in Spanish or American families (Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Report of 1867:325 ff.). Children born to the Navajo women who were Spanish slaves had the rights of citizens and free men.

The Navajo treated their slaves well, although there was no hesitation in killing them when ritual duties required the sacrifice. Two slaves were given the duty of preparing and burying a corpse, after which they were killed on the grave. Slaves were sometimes adopted into a family; they married Navajo, and their descendants might form a new clan. That “slave” clans existed, the Navajo admit, but no one will acknowledge that his clan was founded by captives. (Reichard, 1928:15; Ethnologic Dictionary, 1910:424).

1846 June 21 – The “Army of the West” consisting of 1648 men and commanded by Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny, was mobilized of regulars and volunteers at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and departed that place on this date for Santa Fe where, in a bloodless coup, New Mexico, then in possession of Mexico, came under the dominion of the United States. Included in the army were Colonel Alexander William Doniphan and Major Edward Vose Sumner, figures later prominent in the destiny of the Navajos.
Aug 15 – At Las Vegas, Kearny addressed the populace from one of the housetops, saying, in part: “ … I have come amongst you by orders of my government, to take possession of your country, … Henceforth I absolve you from all allegiance to the Mexican government, and from all obedience to General Armijo. He is no longer your Governor; … I am your Governor …

Aug 18 – Kearny and his Army of the West entered Santa Fe at 6 p.m., occupying the capital of New Mexico without “ … firing a gun or shedding a drop of blood”

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
The peace treaty signed in 1848 in Guadalupe Hidalgo between the U.S. and Mexico that ended the Mexican–American War .
It gave the United States the Rio Grande boundary for Texas, and gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area comprising New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.