The Navajo

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. They are the second largest federally recognized tribe in the United States with 300,460 enrolled tribal members as of 2015.

The Navajo came into contact with the United States Army in 1846, when General Stephen W. Kearny invaded Santa Fe with 1,600 men during the Mexican–American War. In 1846, following an invitation from a small party of American soldiers, Narbona and other Navajo negotiated a treaty of peace in 1846, at Bear Springs, Ojo del Oso. The treaty was not honored by many young Navajo raiders who continued to steal livestock from New Mexican villages and herders. New Mexicans, on their part, together with Utes, continued to raid Navajo country stealing livestock and taking women and children for sale as slaves.
In 1849, the military governor of New Mexico led a force of 400 soldiers into Navajo country, penetrating Canyon de Chelly, and signed a treaty with two Navajo leaders who presented themselves as "Head Chief" and "Second Chief." The treaty acknowledged the jurisdiction of the United States and allowed forts and trading posts to be built on Navajo land. The United States, on its part, promised "such donations [and] such other liberal and humane measures, as [it] may deem meet and proper." While en route to this treaty signing, Narbona, a prominent Navajo peace leader, was killed resulting in hostility between the treaty parties.
During the next ten years, the U.S. established forts on traditional Navajo territory. Military records cite this development as a precautionary measure to protect citizens and the Navajo from each other. However, Spanish/Mexican-Navajo pattern of raids and expeditions continued. New Mexican citizen and militia raids increased rapidly in 1860–61.
In 1861, Brigadier-General James H. Carleton initiated a series of military actions against the Navajo. Colonel Kit Carson was ordered by Carleton to conduct an expedition into Navajo land and gain their surrender. Only a few Navajo surrendered to Carson until he was joined by a large number of New Mexican militia volunteer citizens who aided in a scorched earth campaign against the Navajo. Carson and his forces swept through Navajo land, killing Navajo and destroying any crops, livestock, or dwellings they came across. Facing starvation and death, the last group of Navajo surrendered at Canyon de Chelly and were taken to Fort Defiance for internment on July 20, 1863.

Vocabulary
Raid: Raid and road both descend from the Old English word rād, which meant primarily "the act of riding" but could also be used specifically to describe an act of riding with hostile intent—that is, a raid.
Scorched: To destroy (land and buildings) by fire or military action so as to leave nothing salvageable to an enemy army.

Resources
Interview with Ben Shelly, president of Navajo Nation.