STATEMENT OF KATHERINE STEVENSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES STEWARDSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING H.R. 1384, TO AMEND THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM ACT TO DESIGNATE THE ROUTE IN ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO WHICH THE NAVAJO AND MESCALERO APACHE INDIAN TRIBES WERE FORCED TO WALK IN 1863 AND 1864, FOR STUDY FOR POTENTIAL ADDITION TO THE NATIONAL TRAILS SYSTEM.

 

MARCH 7, 2002

   

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Departmentís views on H.R. 1384, a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to designate the route in Arizona and New Mexico which the Navajo and Mescalero Apache Indian tribes were forced to walk in 1863 and 1864, for study for potential addition to the National Trails System.

 

The Department supports H.R. 1384, as passed by the House.However, the Department did not request additional funding for this study in Fiscal Year 2003.We believe that any funding requested should be directed towards completing previously authorized studies.Presently, there are 40 studies pending, of which we hope to transmit 15 to Congress by the end of 2002.New studies can eventually result in new designations, and we believe that it is important to focus our resources on working down the deferred maintenance backlog at existing parks.Of the studies underway during the ten-year period between 1989 and 1998, NPS has transmitted 79 studies to Congress.These 79 studies resulted in 15 new NPS units, 14 heritage areas, and 10 other types of designations or programs.To plan for the future of our National Parks, the Administration will identify in each study the costs to establish, operate, and maintain the site should it result in a future designation.

The Department testified on May 8, 2001 before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands, of the House Committee on Resources, that we could not support this bill as originally written.As introduced, H.R. 1384 designated the Navajo Long Walk as a national historic trail.However, the National Trails System Act, Public Law 90-543, requires that a desireability and feasibility study be conducted and submitted to Congress before a trail can be established and a study has not been completed on this trail.

 

H.R. 1384, as passed by the House, amends the National Trails System Act by authorizing a suitability and feasibility study on the series of routes which Navajo and Mescalero Apache Indian tribes walked beginning in the fall of 1863 as a result of their removal by the United States government from their ancestral lands, generally located within a corridor extending through portions of Canyon de Chelley, Arizona, and Albuquerque, Canyon Blanco, Anton Chico, Canyon Piedra Pintado, and Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

 

The story of the Long Walk came at a time in U.S. history when the military was called upon to remove Indian people from their homelands.In the 1850's and 60's more and more Americans were moving west into New Mexico, home of the Navajo people.Repeated clashes resulted in the decision to move the Navajo away from their ancient homeland to a reservation and teach them farming and Western European standards of self-sufficiency.The army destroyed crops and orchards, starving the Navajo into submission.There were several successive marches of the Navajo through the cold of winter to the heat of summer.The aged and infirm often died along the way even though wagons were sometimes provided.Broken and dispirited after their defeat in their homeland, the Long Walk was particularly grueling and hard on all of the Navajo people, even those who survived.

 

The destination of the Long Walk was a reservation at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, called Bosque Redondo (Round Grove), which was shared with Mescalero Apache people.More than 7,000-8,000 Navajo people were eventually placed on the reservation.Although seeds were provided and the Navajo planted them immediately, there was never any success in growing crops.Due to a lack of timber for both shelter and firewood, living conditions were poor.Additionally, the Navajo and Mescalero Apache did not get along and by 1866 the Apache had deserted the reservation.By 1868 conditions were so bad that a government commission was appointed to investigate the conditions at Bosque Redondo.General W. T. Sherman, commanding the Military Division of the Missouri, ordered the Navajo back to their homelands in June of 1868, after a treaty granting them their old homelands had been signed.

 

The Long Walk Trail is located within a corridor that includes National Park System units at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona and Fort Union National Monument in New Mexico and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed lands in New Mexico including El Malapais National Conservation Area and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.The route the army followed went from Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, to south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.From there several routes continued directly and indirectly to the Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner on the Pecos River.

 

The story of the Long Walk is being told in a number of ways through the efforts of the State of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.For a number of years, the Navajo people have made pilgrimages to the Bosque Redondo.Plans are currently underway for a memorial and visitor center at Fort Sumner State Monument.Legislation that passed in the 106th Congress (Title II of P.L. 106-511) authorizes funding from the Defense Department to match state funds for the establishment and development of the memorial and visitor center.The legislation also authorizes the National Park Service to work with the Navajo Nation and the Mescalero Tribe to develop a symposium on the Long Walk and a curriculum for New Mexico schools.

 

Any further federal involvement should consider more than whether or not the Long Walk has sufficient resources and integrity to meet the standards set for establishing National Historic Trails.A study should identify other options that best tell the story as well as identify the critical resources to that story.But most importantly, any work has to consider the concerns, values and wishes of the Native Americans affected by these tragic events.

 

Therefore, while a study to determine the suitability of national historic trail designation may be an important part of preserving this story and sites, any authorized study should include sufficient latitude to determine if that is indeed the best way to accomplish the task.

 

To that end, we are ready to work with the billís sponsor, the State of New Mexico and the Navajo and Mescalero to determine the most appropriate action.

 

That completes my testimony.I would be happy to answer any questions that you or any of the members of the subcommittee may have.