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.


  1. Jennifer Nazario says

    The aggressors were on BOTH sides. You said the American’s and Spanish had told them the numbers of slaughtered victims, and you are right. It was the American or rather European decent and Spanish that forced one another on each other. I am Native and Mexican and my husband is full Navajo. We know our history. There are years of this being painted that we hated each other because we were soo different. But the truth is how can a people be different, when we lived together at the same place. The only person who came between this was Spanish settlers an European settlers. They waged war because they wanted the land. If there were no survivors, then it can be there’s for the taken. To this day (2018), Dine lands are rich with uranium in the soil. The land is dead and death itself. You think they gave this to you because they care. Reservation lands were meant for the rest of the people do die. Currently, the Navajo nation is holding and withholding money from its own people and using this for lavish trips and cars, and lifestyles. Think why does the Navajo Nation employees have better things that it’s own people? You are mistaken thinking that Navajo and Mexican didn’t intermingled once before with Mexican people! This is why there is so much hate between the two groups. First off, Mexican people to this day LOVE native people! But I have seen racists amongst Navajo especially against Mexicans. They claim that Dine are the people who existed long before Mexicans, but I think like you they are told and filled with lies. Have you sat down and tried to talk with a Mexican? You will be surprised we are very similar in culture and religion. I am over half Native american over my mexican side. My husbands family is racist towards any and all Mexicans. Except the family that still lives on Navajo reservation. But they are told mexicans are rapists and whites are godly. You are clueless and should listen to your own people through traditional storytelling and history telling instead of what the American as you say stated and documented. It is now being considered that DNA testing is a great way to weed our fake Cherokee members and almost 80 percent of people who were told they descended from Cherokee “princess'” didn’t even have 1 percent of native in them. How shameful they forged documentation for something we already knew what they wanted. Land, and healthcare and free things that natives get. You should rewrite this article with facts instead of lies. Thank you very much!

  2. Dine Woman says

    I could say Chris is just blowing off steam for what he thinks is right, I am a dine woman who can truly say yes we as Dine were distrusted by others because they came into our business and made it their own. if they just left things alone, then none of this history between the Dine and Mexicans/Spanish whoever would never exist. Our ANCESTORS just migrated through Canada and didn’t take land like other people did. Most Natives were already in the Southwest before Columbus stumbled onto the Native lands and claimed he found the new world.

  3. Zuni Great Grand Daughter says

    I was told a couple years ago by my eldest Auntie that I originally came from the Zuni Tribe. She said either my Great Great Grandmother or Great Grandmother or Grandmother was stolen by the Navajo’s from a cornfield near Zuni/Navajo reservation area. And the Navajo’s that stole the little Zuni girl were from Toyei, Arizona (tabahaa clans). If anybody knows about this story please share it if you are Zuni, maybe we are related.

  4. First of all, Mexican is a nationality term. It is a term that derived from the Mexicas (Aztecs) and later translated into Spanish as Mexicano and became a overarching nationality. This includes Mestizos (mixed native and Spanish) which are the majority, full indigenous people based on languages and community, Criollo (children European Settlers from Spain with no native blood), and others from all over Latin America. Second, Apaches are related to the Dinè and they lived on both sides of the border, some were even scouts to the Army against Mexican Army and Natives. So it needs to be understood that indigenous blooded mestizos of today can have the chance to build a unity with indigenous people like the Dinè. We are still relatives. Also, there is a lot not taken into account here, like the fact that it was usually Dinè defending their homes from Mexican and U. S. military, and Mexicans defending their families from U. S. Military , Dinè warriors who were angry and radical due to the events, and even their own military at times. Also the fact that political control on both sides were racist and in favor of European supremacy, and one major tactic colonizers had was creating red flags events, and propaganda in order to spark conflict between certain tribes and people’s. I am a Mexican with Apache and Yaqui blood from Chihuahua Mexico and Huastec blood from San Luis Potosi, but I follow Dinè culture teachings and am adopted into a Dinè clan and family. In fact there was a lot of intermarriage between Mexicans and Dinè.

  5. Ramiro Contreras says

    Thanks for the article, Harold.

    Chris, it’s an unfortunate reality, but Mexicans in the borderlands were both victims and victimizers.
    Alex, a snowflake race? To argue that Mexican-Americans or Native-Americans have been entitled is distorting history. And to make the assumption that this isn’t taught in college courses to protect so-called entitled races is false. If that’s the case, then college courses would include romanticized, Mexican-American history which did not occur in my own academic experiences.

  6. The funniest part is that if this article “painted” the white man as the aggressors, people like Chris probably wouldn’t utter a word, but since this was about it was about a special snowflake race, than the PC mentality comes into place. Typical leftist indoctrination, no wonder this history is hardly ever spoken of in college courses, that would totally illegitmize the claim tho the land that many Chicano nationalist are trying to make to California and the Southwest. BTW Chris, how is this article making the Mexicans look like “monsters”? If anything, this article speaks of brutality occurng on both sides. Are you so blinded by the PC culture that you only hear what you want to be offended by?

  7. Well, I’m Navajo. I know that we didn’t want to own land. We were better off just where we were. We didn’t call the land we were on territory, we just said this is how far away we’ll feel comfortable from you. Then we were forced to obey a god that demanded praise. We were fine until everybody else came over and started claiming shit. Would you like it if someone you didn’t know came to your house and claimed your bed and signed a bunch of treaties with you to have the bed? I don’t think so, unless you don’t have a spine to support yourself.

  8. I am dating a Navajo girl and I am hispanic and I was wondering if we would be able to get married this sound like a dumb question but I do not know very much about their culture please tell me if I am able to or not and if I can would it cause any effects?

  9. ndee perez says

    Chris, You don’t speak facts or know history well, study history and you will find out when spain fell and Mexico got its independance due to spain waning of power because of its conflict with England and France the Mexicans tried to reclaim all land they believe was spain’s, they slaughtered and anniliated many tribes and put bountys on scalps of native peoples

  10. Hopis and Zunis are Mexicans? That pure ignorance?

    The Mexican gov’t in Santa Fe carried carried on a systematic policy of rading Navajo villages for slaves. They sent the males to the mines around Durango, Mexico, and kept the females as household slaves. And, yes, of course, the Navajos retaliated, though they did not have comparable armies or weapons.

    Ask the NM state historian.

  11. This is extremely prejudiced! It paints Mexicans as monsters. Ever ask yourself why the Navajos were distrusted by almost all other native people? Navajos invaded those lands from Na Dene lands in what is today Canada. Mexican-related peoples have been in the southwest way before Navajos. Ever heard of Palatkwapi??? The Red Land of the Zunis and Hopis? That’s Mexico…