Encore program focuses on New Mexico history

The San Juan College Community Learning Center
Special to The Daily Times
Ranger Aaron Roth leads an outdoor tour on military grounds.

San Juan College’s Encore program offers opportunities for older adults to connect their own life experiences to new information, with field trips exploring cultural sites throughout the region.

Field studies are an “outstanding example of how education is both a rewarding and a life-long process,” said Encore student Stephen Carr, who traveled last year with historian Michael Lawson to Fort Sumner and the site of Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation. On April 22 and 23, Lawson will again teach a class called "The Navajo Long Walk and Bosque Redondo Memorial" at Fort Sumner Historic Site.

Students will travel to Fort Sumner, located along the banks of the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico, where 9,000 Navajo and 500 Mescalero Apache were held in captivity between 1864 and 1868.

During the winter of 1863-1864, General James Carleton, commanding the military district of New Mexico, ordered Kit Carson to wage war against the Navajo (Diné) and Mescalero Apache (N’de), relocating survivors from their homelands to Bosque Redondo.

The Diné remember these events as the “Long Walk” and Hwéeldi, Navajo for “place of suffering.” In June 2005, Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site opened to the public.

“The memorial, exhibits and guided interpretive walk, solemnly remember these tragic events in forced assimilation, while celebrating Navajo and Mescalero Apache cultures,” Lawson said.

The visitor center, designed by Navajo architect David Sloan, incorporates the traditional forms of an Apache teepee and a Navajo hogan.

“One of the most impressive and memorable displays was the realistic and haunting murals that … suddenly placed you in the Long Walk, between the U.S. military on one side, armed with weapons and pointed at the starving, ragtag, Navajo prisoners on the opposite wall,” said student Cecilia Silentman-Carr.

Students from the Encore program at San Juan College take in information at Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner Historic Site in this undated courtesy image.

By 1868, treaty negotiations secured the return of the Diné to their homeland and the creation of the Navajo Reservation, while the military closed Fort Sumner.

During the two-day field trip in April, students also will explore the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe and visit Fort Union National Monument near Las Vegas, New Mexico, which served as a supply depot for the Long Walk and Bosque Redondo.

“The geography and the multi-cultural southwest was on full display as we traveled across the mesas, mountains and plains of northern New Mexico,” said Silentman-Carr.

“All along the way the Encore students, an eclectic group of adults, shared rides, meals, coffee and conversation and also shared their own personal stories about their family connections to the past,” adds Stephen Carr.

In addition to this field trip, other Encore field trip classes in April and May will study "The White Mountain and San Carlos Apaches" and "Chacoan Archaeology of the Great North Road and Beyond."

To find out more about these and other Encore classes call 505-566-3214 or visit Encore classes are designed for adults 50 and older but are open to all students who are at least 18.