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.



Code Talker Chester Nez gets KU degree

91-year-old Navajo Code Talker to get University of Kansas degree.

Chester Nez is the lone living member of those original 29 Code Talkers

Code Talker Chester Nez

Photo by Harold Carey of

He had to leave the university in 1952 after three years because his funds ran out and he was unable to pay to complete his education.

He will receive his University of Kansas degree on Monday at the Lied Center Pavilion.

Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback will also take part in the ceremony Monday, and Nez will receive gifts from the city of Lawrence, the KU Alumni Association, Haskell Indian Nations University and the Native Faculty and Staff Council at KU.

More: Chester Nez, Navajo Code Talker Grand Marshal for Fair Parade


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Navajo Men On the Way to a Sing Ceremony

Navajo Men On the Way to a Sing Ceremony
Description: Navajo men on Horses in Canyon going to a Navajo Sing.Creator DeHuff, Elizabeth Willis, 1886-1983

Publisher Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
Date Original ca. 1899-1945

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Narbona Primero – Navajo Chief

Narbona Primero - Navajo Chief

Narbona Primero - Navajo Chief

Born abound 1766 and was killed in a confrontation with U.S. soldiers on August 31, 1849.

Narbona was one of the wealthiest Navajo of his time due to the amount of sheep and horses his outfit, or extended family group, owned. He was not a “chief” of all of the Navajo, the independent minded Navajo having no central authority, but he was very influential due to his status in the tribe, gained from both his wealth, high personal reputation and age at the time he negotiated with the Americans.

Narbona had become one of the most prominent leaders in the aftermath of the massacre of 24 Navajo leaders in March 1822 at Jemez Pueblo who had been travelling under flag of truce to a peace conference with the New Mexican government. In February 1829 he lead the Navajo in battle against a Mexican expedition into the Chuska Mountains led by Captain Blas de Hinojos and defeated it utterly. The site of the battle, Copper Pass (Beesh Lichii’I Bigiizh), is now known as Narbona Pass.

In 1849, Narbona had ridden with several hundred of his warriors to meet with a delegation of led by Col. John M. Washington to discuss terms for peace between the Navajo and the “New Men”, Americans who had driven the Mexicans from what is now the Southwestern United States. The US party was composed of both U. S. Regulars and local New Mexican auxiliaries.

Mariano -Navajo Chief

Mariano he was a Navajo Leader and was born in San Juan River in New Mexico and was a war leader around Mount Taylor.

Mariano Navajo Chief - New Mexico

Mariano Navajo Chief – New Mexico

Mariano was a member of a delegation of Navajo representatives who traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1874 to discuss the provisions of the 1868 “Treaty Between the United States of America and the Navajo Tribe of Indians”

Navajo Delegation to Washington, D. C.  in 1874

Navajo Delegation to Washington, D. C. in 1874

Standing L-R: Wild Hank Sharp, Ganado Mucho, Barbas Hueros, Agent Arny, Kentucky Mountain Bill, Cabra Negra, Cayatanita, Narbona Primero, Jesus Arviso (Interpreter)
Sitting L-R: Carnero Mucho, Mariano, Juanita Pal ti-to (Manuelito’s wife), Manuelito, Manuelito Segundo, Tiene-su-se – 1874
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Tom Ganado or, “Mail Carrier” – Navajo Man

Tom Ganado  apparently interacted with tourists. Tom Ganado was fluent in Navajo, Hopi, Spanish, and English, which greatly enhanced his value as a freighter for Hubbell (who spoke the same four languages) and the Harvey Company.

Tom Ganado - Navajo Man

Tom Ganado – Navajo Man

Tom Ganado home is in the southern part of the reservation and he can generally be found near the settlement known as Ganado, Arizona. During the past two years Tom and his family have spent the greater part of the time in Albuquerque, where they have been engaged in one of the large stores. These and other Indians who work at this place are well cared for; they live in hogans built by themselves and have frame buildings with stoves that can be used when desired.
Extreme cold has no terrors for the Navaho Indian, as it is an old enemy; they are however, unaccustomed to steam heat. The sudden changes from superheated rooms to the outer cold and dampness are the cause of much sickness, and Tom, though strong and wiry, became a victim of new conditions. He caught a heavy cold and, soon after, pneumonia developed. A consultation was held and he was finally removed to the hospital. The doctors soon had the disease under control, but, owing to his weak condition, he was obliged to remain in the hospital several weeks.

In 1904 the Albuquerque Morning Journal describes Tom and his work:
Tom has been with the Harvey system here for nearly two years, and in that time has become one of the most useful men about the big establishment. He is not merely a picturesque ornament. He works, knows the details of the business thoroughly and but for his frankness in dealing with customers, would make an excellent salesman. Tom, however, sticks rigidly to the truth and has no hesitancy in speaking his convictions accordingly when a prospective customer comes to the curio department. Tom’s opinion of the individual is quietly formed and as quickly announced.
Tom’s interactions with tourists, if accurate, did not reflect the Harvey Company’s view of the ideal American Indian demonstrator, though his industriousness and hard work were valued and remembered in his home community of Ganado.
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Navajo leader Ganado Mucho (Many cattle)

Ganado Mucho, which means many cattle, was born into the Tatsohnii (Big Water) Clan of the Navajo, or Diné (Of the people), and was a Navajo leader during the tribe’s difficult transition to reservation life
Ganado Mucho, like Manuelito, had also retreated to the Grand Canyon and lived among the Coyoteros, but he was a different kind of leader.

Of both Hopi and Navajo ancestry, Ganado Mucho was a cautious man who was inclined toward diplomacy. He was, after all, a wealthy man with large herds of cattle and sheep. His tranquility was, nonetheless, severely disturbed by the unwise actions of the American military in the late 1850s.

Ganado Mucho Navajo Leader

Ganado Mucho Navajo Leader

It would have been unremarkable had Ganado Mucho gone to war, but he did not, even when his fellow leaders did. During the 1859-61 war, he remained at home in his territory west of the Defiance Mountains and maintained neutrality. His policy proved to be successful.

When private New Mexican expeditions marched into Navajo territory in 1862, in search of livestock  and slaves, he still managed to avoid conflict. Kit Carson’s invasion the following year was a different matter, however. Carson’s orders called for the capture of all Navajos.

Already filled with distrust of Anglo-Americans, Ganado Mucho rejected the capitulation of his fellow ricos and retreated. But by the spring of 1866, harassed by Pueblo, New Mexican, and Ute raiders, he had had enough. Ganado Mucho surrendered and was escorted to the Bosque Redondo. Although his arrival at the reservation with his large herds had some of the trappings of a majestic spectacle, it was marked with tragedy, for two of his daughters had been taken as slaves en route.
By the time Barboncito, Manuelito, and Ganado Mucho had reached the reservation, the Bosque Redondo had become an administrative nightmare. Because of its expense, Carleton’s experiment had already come under considerable scrutiny. Investigations by various federal officials had become commonplace, especially after the Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyennes in 1864.

One of the most famous of these investigations was a special joint congressional committee headed by Senator James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin. It was not, however, solely concerned with Navajos. was thus that Barboncito, Manuelito, and Ganado Mucho were propelled into leadership. These men found themselves  faced with a difficult situation. The Navajos could not afford to be malleable wards. This fact was dramatically illustrated just weeks after Ganado Mucho’s surrender.
More than one hundred Comanches attacked the Navajo horse herds. They killed the herders, one of whom was Ganado Mucho’s son, and stole two hundred head. Soldiers managed to locate their trail, pursued them, and eventually engaged them in combat on July 14. The battle, however, was indecisive.

The Comanches fled east, and the soldiers could not keep up. The commander of Fort Sumner, Captain William McCleave, placed picket posts to the east to protect Navajo property and lives, but even McCleave doubted the effectiveness of this defense.
A year later, this spectacle would move Ganado Mucho to rare eloquence. Stricken by personal tragedy, he addressed New Mexican Superintendent of Indian Affairs A. Baldwin Norton in bitter irony. He pointed out that the Navajos had come to the Bosque because they had been promised safety. But what had they gained when their enemies were better armed than they and the army could not protect them?

Ganado Mucho’s immediate instincts remained in character despite his caustic remarks, made after twelve months of rumination. He apparently did not organize resistance or plan an escape; instead, he reluctantly cooperated.

Source: Chiefs, Agents & Soldiers: Conflict on the Navajo Frontier

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