It's joint blog time! Last week, I asked my friend Kiersti Plog when she realized the story owned her? So here is my part on our blog duet...
People often ask this very white girl from Canada WHY I write about Navajo history, specifically The Long Walk.
(That's Ted Charles and I, at Canyon de Chelly)
I can't NOT tell this story.
Imagine that people who never set foot in your province or state showed up, day after day, and built homes where people already had homes. Or they stole your daughters or wives and you never saw them again. They shot your husbands and sons for simply being male.
Your leadership sent envoys to make peace and for a few years it worked, but only if you did what they said. But then you got sick and tired of their bullying.
Then one day, a whole bunch of them arrived, we'll call that an army, and said "This is ours."
That's called an invasion.
That scenario has happened all through time, to almost every people group on this planet.
But one story in particular hit me like a tonne of bricks.
In late 1863, the US Army began rounding up Navajo Indians, as well as 500 Mescalero Apaches, and marched them all across the Southwest, to a hell hole in New Mexico called Bosque Redondo. A total of 52 different marches brought 9500 Navajo Indians to this place the people named "Hweeldi", pronounced "wheel-tih".
And by "rounding up" I mean inviting them to surrender after all their crops were destroyed, their livestock were shot, their homes burned, you get the picture.
Many say 'Hweeldi' is a variation of the Spanish word "fuerte" (fware-tay).
For the Navajo, it basically means Hell on Earth. It is their Holocaust.
Hundreds died on the way there, and thousands more died once they got there.
In doing some internet research on New Mexico, I came upon an article and started reading it. I read the following phrase and that was it, I was done.
"...women in labor were shot because they slowed down the march."
I've been in labor 4 times. I know what agony is. I do not know what I would do if I was walking across a barren desert, in winter, while trying to hide the fact that I was about to give birth.
Navajo women were either pulled from their spot in the line and shot on the spot, or taken behind a rock or tree and shot.
Now, look at that photo of the landscape.
See any rocks big enough to hide an execution?
Now, imagine you're the husband of that woman, or one of her children.
Where was God in all this? Many, many, MANY Native Americans have zero, or less, respect for people who call themselves Christians.
And if you dare say something about how they were "savages" before white people found them and saved them I will personally discuss it with you. In person.
Go ahead and ask me why they loathe Christians, and I will flat out tell you that our history of violence and hatred toward people of colour is astonishing and utterly shameful.
There was a mindset among 19th Century believers that we must "kill the Indian to save the man".
Ummm, where, exactly, is that in the Bible?
So, we come back to a line of people, walking away from losing everything, and toward the complete unknown.
They were not greeted by the Salvation Army with hot food and blankets.
Or by Samaritan's Purse with a shelter and fresh water.
The Pecos River water was undrinkable, they had to dig holes in the ground for shelter and there was little to no food. The men who ran the camp tried to secure supplies, but when they did, it was never enough.
From 1864 to 1868, people died of starvation, disease, and most likely despair. The prison camp was closed in 1868, and the survivors were escorted home.
My first book is the story one a man who escapes the carnage and given sanctuary by an Anglo family. The second is about his brother, who ends up in Hweeldi. The third will be about how they reconcile what happened to them both, about the unfairness of it all.
Maybe, just maybe, if I tell the story well enough, I can go back change things. I know I can't, but I have to try.
And now? Go read Kiersti's story...