Treaty signings recall, celebrate people’s victory over ‘sad’ time

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Delores Paul pulls a symbolic travel rack past the Fort Defiance field house during the Treaty Day parade in Fort Defiance June 2.


When Delores Paul was 12 years old in 1968, she travelled with 160 other Navajos to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, to partake in the 100-year reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of 1868.

And on Friday, Paul, who was wearing her biil, was fixing her traveling bag prop that she would drag from the Judd Avery football field to the historic location of Ft. Defiance, where the old Indian hospital used to be, for the 6th Annual Tséhoótsooi Treaty Day parade. Following the parade, Paul would be one of a dozen or so participants to reenact the signing of the treaty.

Navajo Times | Adron Gardner
Official guests take their seats before a re-enactment of the U.S.-Navajo Treaty of 1868 signing after the Treaty Day parade in Fort Defiance June 2.

“Treaty Day is how the Navajos survived,” said Paul. “They wanted to get back no matter how far it was.”

During the parade, her travelling bag contained a bow and arrow, sheepskin, corn and a traditional hairbrush, among other items.

For the past six years, the community of Fort Defiance has produced the reenactment with volunteers playing the various roles.

The signing of the treaty was the critical event for the captive Navajos who were forcibly marched from Diné Bikéyah to Bosque Redondo in the horrific event known today as the Long Walk. The Treaty of 1868 gave Navajos the freedom to return home after four years of internment.

This time in history has been a taboo subject, which many elders would refuse to discuss. The projects manager of Fort Defiance Chapter, and the person who was in charge of the reenactment, Timothy Begay said the event should not be ignored but rather should be remembered.

“I know a lot of people say we shouldn’t celebrate this, but we want to show that we are in remembrance,” said Begay.

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Categories: Culture

About Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at