Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868. To commemorate this pivotal time in history, the Navajo Nation Museum is working toward bringing the original signed Treaty of 1868 to Dinétah.
The museum is gearing up for the sesquicentennial celebration, explained its executive director, and wants to bring the treaty home.
If it happens, “This will be a historic event because it will be the first time the treaty will be on the Navajo Nation,” said Manuelito Wheeler.
The treaty is currently in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian. It is part of a display called “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.”
Because bringing up tragic past events is frowned upon by Navajo traditionalists, “We want to make sure this is done in a respectful and protective way for our Navajo people,” said Wheeler.
The signing of the treaty was the critical event for the captive Navajos who were forcibly marched from Diné Bikéyah to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico 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.
Now, 149 years later, the Navajo people have become the largest land-based federally recognized tribe with the largest reservation that spans 27,425 square miles. Surviving and thriving to become a great nation was inconceivable 150 years ago as straggling bands of Diné returned to their homeland on foot and horseback.
“I say this all the time: The best story I can give to our people is we are overcomers,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez. “When the Long Walk happened, everyone signed a treaty, and they said ‘If you want to go home, you know where your home is.’