FORT SUMNER STATE MONUMENT._ The building complex where Navajo and
Apache people were interned 1862--1868 no longer stands, but a marker details
Fort history. Visitor center and Old Fort Sumner Museum display items relating
to military, Native Americans of the Long Walk, incarceration, and archaeology.

In the mid-1800s, as the conflicts between Western settlers and the Navajo and Apache peoples native to the desert southwest grew, the federal government decided to expel tribes from their sacred homelands and place them under guard.

The forced relocation began in 1862, when Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, under orders from Brig. General James H. Carleton, led an army raid on the small Mescalero Apache Tribe in southern New Mexico, forcing about 450 people to march to the Bosque Redondo on the eastern plains of New Mexico, the site of Fort Sumner.

Col. Carson then led the army to the Navajo lands of northwestern New Mexico Territory, pillaging their settlements, attacking people, burning crops, and killing livestock. Despite intense resistance, thousands of Navajo people were starved into submission and forced to march to Bosque Redondo in the winter of 1864, a distance of over 350 miles. Those who survived the "Long Walk" joined the Mescalero Apache in forced confinement at Bosque Redondo. Some Navajo avoided capture and continued to elude the army.

Despite the Indians' labor at planting crops, digging irrigation ditches and building housing, nothing seemed to work. Drought, cutworms, hail, and alkaline Pecos River water created severe living conditions for the nearly 9,000 captives. Wood was scarce; Comanche raided the livestock, and food was in short supply.

After nearly three years, the Mescalero Apache left the Bosque Redondo by evading their military guards and returned to their spiritual home in the White and Sacramento Mountains. In 1868, the army finally admitted the failure of the Bosque Redondo, and the Navajo negotiated a treaty with the government acknowledging their sovereignty over their beloved homelands.

A century later, in 1968, a portion of the Fort Sumner and the Bosque Redondo Reservation was declared a New Mexico State Monument. A small visitor center at the former fort contains exhibits relating to the Bosque Redondo period.

Although the old fort and the Indian encampments have been erased by time, important reminders remain. The Navajo and Mescalero Apache planted thousands of cottonwood tress and today about 35 of the original trees stand as evidence of this episode in American history. Thus, the cottonwood has been selected as a symbol for the Bosque Redondo Memorial.


In the summer of 1947 a young boy was taveling with his uncle visiting various archaeological sites and places of interest throughout the desert southwest. The boy and his uncle were on a road trip so the boy could learn first hand about The Long Walk endured by the Navajos and Apaches as well as visit the gravesite of Billy the Kid after an excursion into the Arizona Strip. The two had been searching for fossils related to the Teratorn, a giant bird with over a twenty-foot wingspan thought to be the inspiration of Native American Thunderbird legends. Leaving the Arizona Strip, they made a stop for some exploration at the Elden Pueblo where prehistoric Native Americans had buried an extremely rare type meteorite in a ritual fashion then on to Meteor Crater. Following an indepth discussion regarding the discoverer of the crater, Albert Franklin Banta, known then as Charley Franklin, a former scout and guide for the U.S. Army --- AND --- it came out that he had worked at Bosque Redondo where the Navajos and Apaches had been interned after The Long Walk --- they made the decision to go to Fort Sumner.(see) On Fourth of July weekend of that year the boy and his uncle, a notorious bio-searcher who will eventually have several plant species named after him and strong ties to southwestern Native American cultures, after visiting both sites, were about to turn onto a main highway from a side road near Fort Sumner. In the process they were stopped by a five or six truck convoy of military vehicles headed northeast at a high rate of speed. Several were carrying huge wooden crates, some covered with tarps. A few days later the noted astronomer and famed meteorite hunter Dr. Lincoln La Paz informs the boy's uncle some mysterious objects have been found in the desert near Roswell that have an unknown writing on them. The uncle goes to Roswell to investigate and takes the boy with him. Because of The Long Walk and the boy's visit to Fort Sumner that July his life took a dramatic turn. The Roswell Incident Updated contains some of the previously unpublished insights taken from the boy's reminisces and conversations with his Uncle, interjected into, and thus modifying standard Roswell UFO fare.









Mescalero Apache Reservation, New Mexico
New Mexico State Monuments
The Museum of New Mexico

Pima County deputy sheriff Charlie Shibell who, as sheriff, had at one time appointed Wyatt Earp as deputy sheriff in Tombstone, challenged Banta to track down a fugitive 900 miles into Old Mexico and back. Banta returned with his prisoner, though, as he has been reported as saying, "had one horse shot; missed being assisinated three or four times, but I am here yet, telling the story."

While living, working, or traveling around the Tucson and Yuma area, Banta had, on a regular basis, come into contact with Yaqui Indians that inhabited the region. The Yaquis had been in an ongoing on and off war between the Spanish and later the Mexican government basically since their initial contact --- with no real beginning or a defined finalization date in sight. In the 1880s, in an attempt to quell the seemingly never ending hostilities, a major relocation or Yaquis occurred. Yaquis were moved from the United States Territory to Sonora and from Sonora to United States Territory (Arizona did not become a state until 1912). In the process of that relocation some Yaquis became not only quite adept at skirting back and forth across the border while avoiding the authorities on both sides, they also developed an intimate knowledge of the Sonoran Desert and surrounding terrain. Banta drew on that knowledge when he went on his manhunt into Mexico by recruiting a Yaqui who, because he was married to a Yuma Indian on the U.S. side, had lots of experience going back and forth traversing both sides of the border. Banta thought the idea perfect because the person he was seeking was operating outside the law and, since the Yaqui had to operate by avoiding the law as well, Banta felt it would put him in a much better position to apprehend the suspect he was seeking. In the end of course, his idea paid off as Banta returned with the fugitive.

The interesting part to the whole story is that the Yaqui Indian Banta recruited from Yuma to help him apprehend the outlaw turned out to be, according to the Wanderling's uncle, the father of one Don Juan Matus, who grew up to become famous in a series of books by Carlos Castaneda. How would the Wanderling's uncle know such a fact to be the case, and if so, why would it even come up in conversation? As a young boy the Wanderling spent a lot of time traveling in and around various haunts of the American southwest --- with many hours, days and weeks in and around the general Meteor Crater area --- so conversations regarding the crater would not be unusual. Secondly, the Wanderling's uncle WAS the informant infamous for being the person that first introduced and taught Castaneda the use of Datura and other medicinal plants indigenous to the desert southwest, so he knew Castaneda and more than likely had time for casual interaction with him as well.