Working the Range: Essays on the History of Western Land Management and the Environment

By John R. Wunder | Go to book overview

I
NATIVE AMERICANS AND THEIR LANDS

"Outside my country we cannot raise a crop, but in it we can
raise a crop almost anywhere; our families and stock there in-
crease, here they decrease; we know this land does not like us,
neither does the water."

Barboncito, Bosque Redondo,
May, 1868

The first Americans to claim real estate that would become a part of the United States approached the land in a multitude of ways. They either traversed it, taking carefully from it what it had to offer, or settled permanently, farming and irrigating the responsive soils. Discovery of what the lands could support and the competition for these lands punctuated the early native American experience.

For the non-Indians who flooded the domain of the native Americans, control of the land was paramount. They especially desired the areas that could sustain and increase agricultural activities. Consequently, sedentary and semi-sedentary tribes caught the brunt of the outpouring, each nation responding to the crisis as best it could.

The Pueblo and Navajo endured tremendous suffering and substantial land losses. Willard H. Rollings traces the fight of the Pueblo of New Mexico to maintain their agriculturally based city-states against pressures from the Spanish, Mexican, New Mexican, and United States governments. David Lanehart relates how the Navajo, after having their homeland--Dinetah--destroyed by a scorched- earth policy of the United States Army, made the long walk to a de-

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