Saturday, March 22, 2014


Peña inscription, Campbell Grant,  Canyon de Chelly,
Its People and Rock Art, 1978, Fig. 2.59, p. 119.

The fascinating thing about historic inscriptions (and prehistoric inscriptions too) is that they make the past come alive. Something marked on the rock gives the sense that you are looking directly into the thought processes of the maker. This inscription speaks directly to an event that changed the whole of existence for the Navajo people of Canyon de Chelly.

 “In August 1861 Ceran St. Vrain and Kit Carson organized the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry Regiment. This regiment fought at the battle of Valverde. On March 31, 1862 the 1st and 2nd New Mexico infantry regiments were consolidated to form the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry Regiment with Kit Carson as colonel. The regiment was dispersed throughout the Department of New Mexico stationed at various frontier forts. In January 1864 Kit Carson led a detachment of nearly 400 in the battle of Canyon de Chelly." (Wikipedia)

Navajo raiders had reportedly been attacking small communities and isolated farms and ranches and running off stock. Kit Carson was sent with the 1st New Mexican Volunteers to put down the depredations. The 1st New Mexico conducted a sweep through Canyon de Chelly, a stronghold of the Navajo, and rounded up people for “the Long Walk”. Actually, many groups of Navajo (as many as 9,000 people in total) were marched to eastern New Mexico at Bosque Redondo (just south of Fort Sumner) in many different military actions in 1864, but the one led by Colonel Carson was the one most remembered in popular history.

“On the left cliff at the entrance to Many Cherry Canyon, there is a dim inscription carved into the sandstone:
C H 1 N. M. V. &

“Jose Peña, Company H 1st New Mexican Volunteers passed here the 13th day of January, 1864.” (Grant 1978:118)

“Later that year Carson led a detachment at the first Battle of Adobe Walls. The regiment was mustered out on September 30, 1866. With the declaration of war with Spain in April 1898, 164,932 National Guardsmen entered Federal service. The 1st New Mexico Cavalry entered Federal service as the 2nd Squadron, 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the "Rough Riders." (Wikipedia)

Not all history is pretty, or happy, but it is all history, and in this inscription we have a concrete reminder of it which we would do well to remember.


Grant, Campbell
1978    Canyon de Chelly, Its People and Rock Art, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.


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