Historic document makes its first visit to Navajo Nation

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, will present an opening event on Friday to start the month-long exhibit for the Treaty of 1868.

This is the sesquicentennial year for the treaty between the United States and the Navajo tribe, which was signed on June 1, 1868, and emancipated Navajos interned at Bosque Redondo after they were forcibly removed from their homeland.

The original treaty was presented to President Andrew Johnson and is usually kept in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., according to the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

The document is on loan from the National Archives to the Navajo Nation Museum. It is the first time the treaty has been taken to the Navajo Nation.

A copy of the treaty was presented to the Navajo tribe, but its whereabouts are unknown, according to the cultural affairs department.

The existence of another copy was confirmed by the National Archives in April after it was discovered in the Massachusetts home of the great-grandniece of Indian Peace Commissioner Samuel F. Tappan, the department stated.

Opening day for the exhibit starts at 8 a.m. with a walk from the Navajo Division of Transportation building in Tsé Bonito to the museum, according to a press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

The museum opens at 9 a.m., and there is no admission fee. The treaty will remain on display until June 30, and the museum will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

An event closer to the Northern Agency will take place Friday at the Shiprock Chapter house.

The chapter has organized the event, starting at 11 a.m., to discuss and share narratives about the Long Walk and Bosque Redondo.

Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said the idea for the event came about after he heard about several chapters scheduling gatherings that appear to celebrate the treaty with activities such as dances and re-enactments.

While those activities are well-intentioned, Yazzie said, the traditional Navajo concern is that when the people who were interned left Hwééldi — the area of Bosque Redondo in the Navajo language — Navajo elders advised their people not to look back and not to return to a place that holds sorrow and suffering.

"We are cautious not to have our event in Shiprock as a celebration or a fun event," he said, adding the discussion will add to people's understanding of the period.

Additional topics will focus on the treaty and whether it remains applicable today, and about sovereignty and a proposed Declaration of Diné Identity, Yazzie said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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