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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
 
Thursday, May 26, 2005  

Grant, Sherman, Kit Carson and the Navajo Peach Tree Incident

Chapter Three: The Outpost

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

“Later (Clark), as governor of the Missouri Territory - "the most powerful American in the West," as Jones puts it - he directed a series of punitive expeditions against the "Hostile Indians" who refused to submit to his authority. At the same time, Jones credits him with "struggling to find a balance between his conflicting constituencies," including "the land-hungry citizens of his territory, and the Indians he was supposed to protect."

Jonathan Kirsch

TUBA CITY, Arizona. We followed 160 to Tuba City and the Navajo National Monument instead of driving north on the 89 to Page and Lake Powell, while making our way to the northeast corner of the state. Somehow we missed Jessica Lynch and the “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition Crew” as they filmed their heart warming Season Finale in Tuba City building a Native American Veteran's Memorial Center on the Navajo Reservation.

J2020F: What did you mean back there at Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post - about the Apaches, Kit Carson and the Navajos?

Pathfinder: Arizona was not as quickly populated as the other Western territories because of fear of the Apache and Navajo.

J2020F: And, likewise Larry McMurty says his pioneer grandparents could have settled Archer City, Texas -where he grew up -- at least a decade earlier, if it had not been for the lingering fear of Comanche and Kiowa raids.

Eagle: These are the grandparents that had little use for your Missouri roots, correct?

J2020F: Good memory. Here, they had decided to seek land ownership in Texas, rather than to stay in Missouri because of the increase in outlaw activity from the likes of Jesse James, and the Daltons.

Explorer: Only to find their destination in the grips of a long guerilla war, right?

J2020F: McMurty says the fear lasted far longer than the actual end of hostilities.

Explorer: What do you mean?

J2020F: He writes: “But, while the looming war -- WWI -- may have occupied peoples' minds in other parts of the county, "(t)he war that still loomed prominently in the consciousness of frontier citizens such as my grandparents was the long guerrilla war that had been concluded, more or less, in the mid-1870s, when the power of the Comanche's and the Kiowa's were finally broken.”

Eagle: But?

J2020F: But his grandparents “like many prudent frontier citizens, lingered in safety about one hundred miles short of their eventual destination while these bloody hostilities wound down.”

Explorer: When was Archer County founded, then?

J2020F: Not until 1880. McCurty says, “It was that war that had kept Archer County largely unsettled and unsurveyed for so long, while other, safer counties were filling up. The settlers stayed back, waiting, hesitating, wondering whether the empty, farmable, homesteadable Comancheria was finally safe ...."

Trailblazer: You know what I don't get, is why they stuck around for so long? What attracted them to god-forsaken places in the first place?

J2020F: McMurty offers some clues.

Trailblazer: Like?

J2020F: Well, first of all he says, "I ... am one of the few writers who can still claim to have had prolonged and intimate contact with first-generation pioneers, men and women who came to a nearly absolute emptiness and began the filling of it themselves, setting twelve children afoot on the prairie grass, a covey of McMurtys who soon scattered like quail in the direction of the of even emptier Panhandle.”

Trailblazer: My point exactly! I still don't get why?

J2020F: Here's how he explains it: “The sense that resides in me most clearly when I think back on the twelve McMurtys (all dead now) is of the intensity and depth of their hunger for land: American land, surveyed legal acreage that would relieve them of nomadism (and of the disenfranchisement of peasant Europe) and let everybody know that they were not shiftless people.”

Explorer: And, talk about shiftless people, even Mark Twain writes how the Apaches forced the Overland Stage to abandon the southern route and delay the massive emigration to the southwest area:

"During the preceding night an ambushed savaged had sent a bullet through the pony rider's jacket, but he had ridden on, just the same, because pony riders were not allowed to stop and inquire into such things except when killed....

About two hours and a half before we arrived at Laparelle Station, the keeper in charge of it had fired four times at an Indian, but he said with an injured air that the Indian had 'skipped around so's to spile everything -- and ammunitions' blamed skurse, too.'....

The coach we were in had a neat hole through its front -- a reminiscence of its last trip through this region.

The bullet that made it wounded the driver slightly, but he did not mind it much.

He said the place to keep a man 'huffy' was down on the Southern Overland, among the Apaches, before the company moved the stage line up on the northern route."

Eagle: Kit Carson spent a twenty-five year period, beginning in 1843, as a U.S. Army officer sent to the territory -- that later becomes Arizona - for the duration of the war with Mexico, with the Confederacy, and with the Navajo.

J2020F: The U.S. military campaigns stepped up during the Mexican-American War culminating with the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, right?

Pathfinder: Right. The treaty creates the New Mexico Territories including the Arizona Territory as a part of it, carved out of Mexican Possessions. And the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 brought the rest of the Arizona and New Mexico areas under US control.

Explorer: The “Gadsden” part of Arizona had become the Confederate Territory of Arizona.

Pathfinder: And, the cash-poor Union Army chose Fort Whipple just north of Prescott as a government center because of its proximity to gold fields, while Southern sympathizers dominated Tucson.

J2020F: So that accounts for the period of time when Arizona's capital bounced back and forth between Tucson and Prescott before landing in Phoenix in 1889.

Eagle: And Fort Whipple outlasted the ”Civil-Tug-of-War.” General George Crook used the fort as his headquarters for all Indian affairs in the region.

Pathfinder: And get this. Ulysses Grant said he felt the Mexican-American War was one of the causes of the Civil War.

J2020F: How so?

Pathfinder: In his opinion, wrangling Texas away from Mexico was little more than “… a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union."

J2020F: Really? For the American Union? Wow!

Pathfinder: Civil war heroes, like Grant and others, played an important role in the taming of the southwest.

J2020F: Grant and who else?

Pathfinder: When Grant became President of the United States in 1869, William Tecumseh Sherman became the top general in the U.S. Army and served in that post until his retirement.

Trailblazer: What I remember about Sherman was one of his famous lines about his loyalty over the years that preceded Grant's election: "Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk. Now we stand by each other always."

Explorer: What I remember about Sherman is that he had commanded various campaigns against the Native American tribes - to protect the Union Pacific Railroad.

J2020F: Wasn't he famous for his bloody march to Savannah?

Explorer: Yes, as in his Civil War service, Sherman sought not only to defeat the enemy's soldiers, but also to destroy the resources that allowed the enemy to sustain its warfare.

Eagle: So, as the Civil War winds down, military attention under “The Great Warrior” (as he was known to Native Americans) Sherman turned to the “Indian Issue.” In 1862 General (“Star Chief”) James Carleton declares war on the Navajos as an overreaction to events that unfolded in the two previous years.

J2020F: What?

Eagle: He had led a force, the California Column, from well - California -- to engage the Confederates, but they had long since high-tailed out of the territory to Texas. So he focused on tracking down the Mescalero Apaches and then the Navajo - at the expense of Kit (“Rope Thrower”) Carson's reputation.

Trailblazer: Carson's reputation?

Eagle: As a trusted friend he earned as a trapper and trader in the early days of his career.

Pathfinder: While related to the nomadic Apaches, the Navajo had adopted some of the Spanish ways by raising sheep and goats and cultivating grain and fruit. Some bands grew wealthy as stockmen and weavers.

J2020F: So if all the Navajo prospered as you say unlike the Apaches, why attack them? Weren't they leading the kind of life that McMurty described as the reason his family came to Texas?

Pathfinder. Not all of them. Other bands practiced a nomadic life like famous Apaches, raiding their old enemies, the Pueblos, the white settlers and even the prosperous members of their own tribe. And the military began building more forts in Navajo territory as a means for achieving their Navajo relocation strategy.

J2020F: The relocation strategy, why?

Eagle: Here's Dee Brown's take on the “Star Chief's” ambitions: “The Navajos soon learned that Star Chief Carleton had a great hunger for their land and whatever metal wealth might be hidden under it. 'A princely realm,' he called it, 'a magnificent pastoral and mineral country.' The Navajos, he said, were 'wolves that run through the mountains' and must be subdued....”

Pathfinder: In September 1862, Carleton sent out an order to spare the women and children, but to kill the men wherever they are. He wasn't interested in any talks or negotiations.

Explorer: Kit Carson is tapped by the Army to subdue the “bellicose Navajo” and remove them from their homes in Canyon de Chelly.

J2020F: Canyon de Chelly?

Eagle: In 1863 the Navajo holed up in Canyon de Chelly as they had a natural fortress that repelled attacks for years against the Spaniards and all enemies.

Explorer: In Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo in cultivated crops on the fertile floors of canyons home to the ancient Anasazi people.

Pathfinder: Rather than killing them in a military operation as Carleton wanted Carson, taking a page out of Sherman's book, chose to destroy their livestock and crops, forcing them to capitulate for fear of starving to death.

Explorer: This time, though Carson employed the mercenary Utes over several months until the Navajo were found in the canyon. That's when he destroyed 5000 peach trees - the pride of the Navajos - and most of their food supplies so that their harsh-winter food stockpile vanished.

Eagle: The Navajo never forgave Carson for what he did to their peach trees.

Pathfinder: But, after two years of investigations into the poor treatment and conditions on the Navajo reservation in 1868, and as a result of a treaty with General Sherman, the Navajos were finally allowed to return to their homes.

Explorer: Despite his harsh treatment of the warring Indian tribes, Sherman spoke out against government agents who treated the natives unfairly within the reservations system

J2020F: Speaking of which, have you zeroed in on the Grey Owl's cache location yet?

Trailblazer: Got it. Here we are, turn left.

Got Knowledge?
Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

11:42 AM

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