The Fort Sumner Historic Site and Bosque Redondo Memorial give light and remembrance to a very dark and disturbing period in the history of New Mexico and the United States. Between the years of 1863 and 1868 the U.S. Military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Diné/Navajo and 500 N’de/Mescalero Apache on the US Government-created, 1,600 square mile Bosque Redondo Reservation at Fort Sumner. The N’de were rounded up and brought to the reservation in 1863, leaving behind their homelands in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains. The Diné people were starved out of their homeland in the Four Corners Region, and forced to walk to their new home on the Bosque Redondo reservation, hundreds of miles away. Many Diné suffered and died during the journey. Once they arrived at Bosque Redondo, the indigenous people were put to work building Fort Sumner and preparing the land for agriculture with the idea that the reservation would become self sufficient, and the Diné and N’de would grow their own food and sustain themselves with it. The conditions were deplorable, and most of the N’de people fled in the middle of the night in February of 1865. The Diné were kept captive as the crops failed and the conditions continued to decline. Finally in 1868 the US government allowed the Diné to return to the Four Corners area.
What stands at the Fort Sumner site now is a beautiful and fitting tribute to the fortitude and tenacity of the Diné and N’de peoples who were forcibly imprisoned on the Bosque Redondo Reservation. Designed by the Diné architect, David Sloan, the Bosque Redondo Memorial and Museum is built to resemble a hogan and a teepee and houses a permanent exhibition about this ugly chapter in US and New Mexico history.
New Mexico is a state rich with history and the Fort Sumner State Historic Site and Bosque Redondo Memorial are no exception. Visit this powerful site and take time to reflect on this tragic history—it is pivotal in the complex cultural history and development of the American Southwest.