Crops, Cattle, and Capital: Agrarian Political Ecology in Canyons de Chelly and del Muerto

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Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

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In 1863, on the heels of quieting the turmoil of this country's civil war, the U.S. government turned attention to finding a final solution for ongoing conflicts with the Navajo. To this end, plans were initiated to destroy Navajo livestock and horticultural resources in several critical production areas. By the winter of 1864, crops and herds had been severely reduced; on January 6th, a military expedition set out to deliver the final blow "at that traditional target of Navajoland" and the focus of this study—Canyon de Chelly and its major tributary, Canyon del Muerto. The Navajo were coerced through direct military domination or the threat of starvation into relocating to what was planned as a small agricultural reserve along the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico, near Fort Sumner—a place the Navajo call Hwéeldi. This plan followed decades of federal-Indian policy characterized by Jacksonian-era removals of Native Americans out of the path of the progressive westward expansion of Euro-American colonial settlement.


This article was originally published in American Indian Culture and Research Journal. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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American Indian Culture and Research Journal