Navajo Treaty of 1868 arrives in Window Rock

President Russell Begaye and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne view the original Treaty of 1868. (Office of the President and Vice President)

President Russell Begaye and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne view the original Treaty of 1868. (Office of the President and Vice President)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation leaders were on hand May 31 as the Navajo Nation Museum unveiled the original Treaty of 1868, also know as Naaltsoos Saní, at the “Year of Naaltsoos Saní” at a ceremony in Window Rock, Arizona.

Members of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathon Nez, and Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne were in attendance.

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President Russell Begaye looks at a painting depicting Hwéeldi, which hangs in the newly unveiled exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of 1868. (Office of the President and Vice President)

In 1864, the Navajo people were forcefully removed from their homelands and moved 300 miles east to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, which is known as Hwéeldi. The signing of the Treaty of 1868 allowed the Navajo people to return to their homelands and established a government-to-government relationship between the Navajo people and the U.S. Government.

During the event, Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland) stated that the Naaltsoos Sání acknowledges and reflects on the strength, growth, healing and resiliency of the Navajo people in the past, present and future.

“The Naaltsoos Sání is the final treaty that Navajo people signed with the U.S. Government and marks a shift in Navajo history from a time of despair to the reclamation of our independence, sovereignty and self-determination,” Bates said. “Today, we remember the deprivation that our past Navajo leaders and people experienced and their perseverance to retain our homelands, culture, tradition and language.”

Bates said moving forward as a sovereign Nation, the Nation must continue to emphasize the importance of the Navajo way of life.

“Each day, we are blessed and fortunate to practice our way of life within our sacred homelands,” Bates said. “This time allows us to rededicate ourselves as sacred people and remember that we overcame many obstacles and that we will continue to overcome many challenges that are before us.”

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Museum visitors view a newly discovered photo of Navajo leaders taken at Fort Sumner. (Office of the President and Vice President)

The Treaty of 1868 exhibit will be on display at the Navajo Nation Museum for the entire month of June. The exhibit was achieved through an agreement between the Navajo Nation and the Smithsonian’s National Museum, thanks to the efforts of the Navajo Nation Museum staff.

To assist in bringing the original treaty back to the Navajo Nation, the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation, sponsored by Council Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd (Jeddito, Cornfields, Ganado, Kin Dah Lichíí, Steamboat), approving supplemental funding in the amount of $350,000 to allow the Navajo Nation Museum to exhibit the treaty for the public to view and acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the treaty signing.

Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw emceed the reception, Diné Bi Ołta students of Window Rock Unified School District delivered the Pledge of Allegiance, Talibah Begay sang the National Anthem, Chief Justice Jayne and Miss Navajo Nation Crystal Littleben also provided welcome remarks, and Avery Denny of Diné College provided the keynote address. Following the event, tribal leaders cut a ribbon for the soft grand opening of the “Naaltsoos Saní” exhibit.

During the month of June, the Legislative Branch will host Diné cultural nights every Wednesday evening and daily tours of the Council Chamber in coordination with the treaty exhibit.

“On behalf of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, we extend an invitation to our visitors and Navajo people, families, and communities to join us and recognize the Navajo Nation’s journey of strength, growth, healing, and resilience,” Bates said.

The Navajo Nation Legislative Branch Treaty of 1868 event schedule can be found at www.navajonationcouncil.org.

Information provided by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President

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