The Effect of the Navajo Long Walk Through Photos

byJennifer Tsosie


Navajo children on the Navajo reservation live in two cultures; traditional Navajo and westernized U.S. culture. They have to navigate, function, and incorporate the two worlds. Art class in our school, is an elective class where students learn about how colors are combined to make primary, secondary and tertiary colors. It’s a class where students are learning about lines, shapes, how art supplies are used and creating art pieces using different mediums. It is a basic introduction due to it becoming a recent class. In contrast, the Navajo people are very enriched in art. Everything from rug weaving to jewelry making is considered art. While some middle school students may not be familiar with the theory and practice of art, many of them will have absorbed traditional Navajo aesthetics from family members, looking together at items like textiles, jewelry and moccasins produced in the community.

Being part of this seminar, I’ve learned art is not just something that hangs on the wall to be admired, it is telling a story that is either personal or telling a story about a time in history and why it is important. After a summary of the background, this course unit is structured to help us understand and critique the history of North America through art. The course unit helps us to look at the powerful messages of beliefs and practices of the earlier generations. In this curriculum, students will be learning about the Navajo Long Walk through photos and art pieces that were created to tell about this traumatic event.

School Description and Rationale

Chinle Unified School District is a public school on the Navajo reservation. It is located in the central part of the Navajo Nation and in the Northeastern part of Arizona. There are seven schools within the Chinle Unified School District. They have three elementary schools, a junior high school, and a high school in Chinle.

Our sixth graders in Chinle range in the ages of eleven and twelve. The majority of them are Navajo. We do have non-native students who are either full or half Caucasian, African American, Mexican, Asian and of other Native American tribes. They come from the community of Chinle and surrounding areas. Some travel to school by bus from their communities or the local area, while others may get dropped off by parents due to working in the community. Some students who travel by bus get up very early in the morning to catch the bus due to living over 30 miles away. Our students share buses with our sister local schools in Chinle but Tsaile and Many Farms have their own buses. All children in the Chinle Unified School District are under the National School Lunch Program. They do not pay regardless of parent income. 

There are two sixth grade classes at Canyon DeChelly Elementary. They are taught reading, math, writing, social studies and science by their regular classroom teacher using a curriculum that was adopted a few years ago called Beyond Textbook. Beyond Textbook came from a school district in Tucson, Arizona, called Vail School District. It provides resources beyond those of the traditional textbook. The resources are created by teachers of the district and from schools who partnered with Vail. Schools in Arizona are graded based on how they preform after the state testing. Vail School District is graded as an A school and for this reason, Chinle Unified School District would like to reach that level and some schools are close to attaining that status. In creating this curriculum unit in my content area of Dine Studies, I am able to help with regular content standards and able to help my colleagues attain school goals to reach in being an A school. 

Students at Canyon DeChelly attend Special classes that consist of P.E., Music, Art, a social emotional learning class called Why Try and my class, Navajo/Diné Studies. They attend these classes once a week for fifty minutes. P.E., Music, and Art are the only classes who have curriculums in Beyond Textbook. The Navajo Studies and Why Try classes do not have their curriculums with Beyond Textbook, however the Navajo Studies does have their own curriculum that mimics Beyond Textbook’s format and layout. One of perks of teaching Navajo Studies is I am able to create resources that fit to my students.


One of the units that I teach is called Places, History, and Government. At the fourth to sixth grade level, students begin learning about the history of the Long Walk of the Navajo people. This curriculum unit will be for the sixth graders. The objective of the unit is for students to analyze how the historical event of The Treaty of 1868 affected the Diné/Navajo. Students will be using reading strategies where they will analyze in detail how a key individual event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and developed in a text and analyze relationships among the key individuals, events, or ideas. They will also be using the social studies standards to describe, explain and evaluate the causes and effects of an historical event.

Sixth grade students will learn about what lead up to The Treaty of 1868, what happened during the event, what happened after the event and the effects of it today. When I am teaching this unit, it comes at a time when you can see these young children transitioning into teenagers. This unit grounds some of them into being humble and instills in them pride of being a Navajo. They begin to explore more on their own and ask their family members about this event. It is a very important traumatic historical event that happened to their People and they need to realize that this event has affected their present and future. This event is not recognized in Arizona standards for History or Social Studies content and I have not seen it in any textbook. The curriculum in Beyond Textbook has a social studies Arizona State standard that states:, this authorizes me to explain in my classroom the cause and effects of interactions between cultures and civilizations of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, China, Major World Religions, African Kingdoms, Middle Ages and India.1 It does not mention surrounding Native Americans.

In the Navajo culture, it used to be and still is a taboo to have your picture taken or drawn because it was believed that it captured your soul and it would be trapped. There have been oral Navajo stories passing on these beliefs, but they are not documented in published texts. In the article, “Taken Pictures: On Interpreting Native American Photographs of Northwest Coast,” author Carolyn J. Marr states, the Native Americans were wary of having their photographs taken in the late 19th to 20th century. They claimed that the camera could steal a person’s soul and that photography was disrespectful to the spiritual world.2 However some Indigenous people agreed to letting themselves be photographed for future purposes, to document their appearance so their descendants would have a record of Navajo culture in hard times.

Looking at these photographs, with information like this in mind so, can definitely help today’s students to wonder about what the thoughts were of the ancestors, what they may have felt, and thus to build that sense of empathy for how things were. The Navajo People had the freedom to wander where they wanted, to have their livestock graze where there were plants and to be able to hunt where they wanted. After the ‘Long Walk,’ the Navajo People had to rebuild, had to learn to begin using U.S. economics and learning to stay in set boundaries of a land. Historical awareness of this event will aid in understanding of why things are the way they are today. The Navajo People have a document now that states where boundaries are, how much land they are only to occupy and how much livestock they may have. The use of photography in this curriculum will help the learners to have that visual of what our Navajo People went through and how colonialism shaped their destiny.   

In the 1960’s, during the Civil Rights Movement the Navajos were given permission to write, produce and create texts that would allow them to tell their own history. 3 However, they tended to accept the colonial approach of earlier historians and wrote narratives that incorporated it. The history of the Navajo people and their stories had to rely back on documents recovered by land claim researchers and anthropology reports.4 Stories about our people, however, are not found in such sources. Rather, oral stories are passed down from generation to generation, a process that demands the use of our imaginations. In modern times now, we use colonial media, including different types of art, for our own purposes: to convey what we believe our ancestors saw. On this course unit, after some introductions, research and evaluating photographs of the Long Walk and the Treaty of 1868, students will create their own interpretations, using a range of materials and media.

A majority of our learners are visual learners. When they are shown step by step processes on how to create traditional art pieces, parents or grandparents use hands on learning approach. The traditional art practices are taught generation to generation. The beautiful objects made using traditional methods were not considered to be “art” in the sense that the word was used in European cultures. Every piece of what is now considered as art was used in everyday living. As part of the teaching process, family members passed down historical stories of why that piece was made. Today some of these traditional pieces are now displayed in museum settings, and have become something to only look at and not use. Much is lost when objects are placed in a glass case.

My students and I will take a deeper look at images of that Navajo time era and analyze the meanings. The students will make inferences and convey the meaning of the portraits. At the end of the curriculum unit, students will be able to take a closer look at Navajo Arts and Crafts and be able to understand why it was created and have value for it. Discovering the history, interviewing and asking questions will create a dialogue that is sometimes missing in learning about one’s culture.

Content Objective

The projected time for this curriculum unit is four weeks. Students will be introduced to art terms about photography to analyze photos taken during the Navajos imprisonment in Fort Sumner. Students will learn about an important Navajo history event that is not in the regular social studies or history books. They will research, ask questions of their People/relatives and they will create a portrait of a Navajo ancestor/leader that will reflect the experience of that person. Students will gain knowledge of how an artist is creating an artwork that is telling history, giving an insight as to what is being told and why it is important to convey that message.

The Navajo People

As mentioned before, the town of Chinle, AZ, where I teach, played a major role in the history of the Long Walk. In 1863, the United States government began their process of the removal of the Navajo People from their homeland. 5  They began a raid where they burned and destroyed homes, crops and water sources. The Navajo people sought refuge in the canyon to avoid being captured, however more than 8,000 Navajos were captured and sent to Ft. Sumner in New Mexico, 400 plus miles from their homeland.

The Navajo People were people who moved about freely between the sacred mountains. They were free to game, plant and use resources from where they wanted to. As settlers began moving to the west, their land was invaded. As they protected their homeland, raids began, which forced the United States government to intervene. Treaties were made but resistance made controlling the region a daunting task for the United States government. General James H. Carlton, New Mexico commander, enforced an extinction order. This ordered Kit Carson to round up and capture not only the Navajo but also the Mescalero Apaches and take them as prisoners to Fort Sumner also known as Bosque Redondo.6 The Navajo endured four horrific years of imprisonment at Ft. Sumner. After realizing the failure of imprisoning more than eight thousand Navajo, the U.S. government decided to let the Navajo return to their homeland under strict conditions which was called the Treaty of 1868. 7

In the canyon of Canyon DeChelly, there are some petroglyphs that give some information about this historical event. One oral story tells of how the Navajo people created a small community on top of a high mesa rock in the middle of the canyon which they called “Fortress Rock.” 8 The People prepared by taking necessities they needed up this rock. They created a long ladder and would drag up this ladder so no one could reach them. One day the US soldiers spotted the People and camped out below, awaiting them, waiting for them to run out of water. 9  The soldiers gave up and left. Stories like this help our students give a more pride in our school being named after this canyon, Canyon DeChelly. In Navajo Canyon DeChelly is called, “Tséyi,” which means “inside the rock.”

All Navajo children should be able to learn about this important event that happened to their ancestors. If they trace their family lineage, they would find great, great, great, great grandparents who were a part of this history and it should give them a sense of not taking opportunities there are for granted.

The Navajo people suffered tremendously during this time and continue to do so with the effects of it. During the time of imprisonment and the journey home, photographs were taken of the Navajo people. Stories were recorded about the event; artists created the visual pictures of what it could have looked like. Fort Sumner today is a small town and the actual Fort has been made into a memorial about the event that took place.

Visual Learning Through Art

My Navajo Studies class include a lot of visual learning. We look at art work, media, and other tangible items of the Navajo People. Sometimes students create drawings or create items that are considered arts and craft of the Navajo people. We learn that what is being created was not fine art, as understood by European cultures, but something that serves as a purpose for ceremonies of the Navajo people. With the help of recorded written military documents and photographs that were taken, we can learn more about what artists are conveying to their audience in art pieces relating to the Long Walk. In addition to having these art pieces, students will also see that not only did the Navajo but also other Indigenous tribes have gone through the same traumatic experiences.

The definition of art according to is, “the expression of ideas and emotions through a physical medium, like painting, sculpture, film, dance, writing, photography or theatre.” 10 Majority of schools on the Navajo Reservation are bilingual and bicultural of Navajo and English. Very rarely are other cultures introduced which has classrooms mostly focused on European and Navajo art. Knowledge on other cultures is limited.11 Navajo art in the early stages were of mostly physical mediums, such as Navajo rugs and Navajo jewelry. Now in the modern day, there is a mixture of different types of art the Navajo people make. 

Photography of the Native Americans came around the mid 1800’s.12 Photographers began capturing images of what an “Indian”/Native American looked like for those who had not traveled to the West. It was a propaganda to show how Native Americans had been colonialized. The U.S. government had photographers capture images to show what was happening on the frontlines, to show what may be the “truth” of the subject. 13 They would have photographers take pictures of the Navajo People clothed and looking as though they were well taken care of but the truth was, the Navajo People were malnourished and lived in poor conditions.

According to Carolyn Marr, “Photography can be viewed as the outcome of an interactive process between artist and subject, though mediated to some extent by a mechanical device. The photographer brings to the process a set of beliefs and motivations and can in many ways manipulate the scene to express his own ideas.”14 Photographers determined what their subjects did for the photographs that were taken regardless if that was the truth or what the subject wanted. Native Americans who were subjects in photographs would pose in photos regardless of how they felt or looked.

The survival of photographs from the Long Walk allows for vivid engagement on the part of students. Students will look at these images, along with current modern art work from the Navajo People of that time period of the Long Walk. Students will discuss the events, the Treaty of 1868, and create a literature and graphic analysis through the form of art and writing. 

Marniella Lentis writes in a study on artist David K. John: “In Navajo culture, art is of life as much as is spirituality. Navajo and art are inseparable. To create beauty is foundational and express the fundamental philosophical principles and values of Navajo culture.”15 This is what I express to my students. Everything we do as Navajo people involves art: we use artistic objects without calling them art.

In her research, Lentis states that David makes contemporary art. What he creates is something that tells a story and is passed down to the next generation. This is what I would like the sixth graders to be able to do when they look at the photographs. To use the pictures to remind them of where their ancestors were, what they endured and how to use that to shape their future.

In the time of 1864-1868, there are photos of the Navajo people and their imprisonment in Ft. Sumner. There have been other portraits and other types of art, such as replicas done in paint to make a painting, since 1866. In the Navajo Nation Museum, there is painted picture of the Navajo Leader, Chief Manuelito and his wife Juanita. This art piece was done by, Julius T. Bedonie and in the description of the art it states, “I was painted by a young Navajo artist who walks in two worlds to maintain a balance and harmony with his Navajo traditional ways of life. His art reflects a reminder to the Navajo people that education is the key to success to move forward.”16 In prior research about Leader Chief Manuelito, he encourage the Navajo people to go to school and use what they learned to help their people. The art piece shows Manuelito and his wife Juanita sitting on a train that passes several changes that happening on the Navajo Nation, from telling oral stores about the trickster Coyote to a windmill that says, “Protect our  H2O,” to traffic lights in the city. In another art piece done by David V. Draper, called, “Government Property,” 17shows the land with fencing around the People being held as captives in the set boundaries given by the United States Government, shows how some Navajo People still feel about what was handed to the People upon their return to their land.

Modern art like this will be used so the students and I can analyze art work looking at it in different perspectives of the people, the land, of the United States Government and of the soldiers. Students will create deep questions about the art works. We will look into the art of previous and current artists’ take on that time period of the Navajo people.

There are no textbooks about the history of the Navajo people for the elementary level. Looking at the art work that is created by artists, we can explore that history and how it has shaped today.

There are several archive photographs, books written and modernized art work that pertain to the “The Long Walk.” Students will explore these and will create their own projects of their choice to explain this event that took place.

Hweeldi/Fort Sumner Photos

Photographs that are now being shared and shown in books about Fort Sumner/Bosque Redondo, also known as Hweeldi to the Navajo, give us a glimpse at what took place while being held captive for four years. The book, “Souvenir of New Mexico,” (2014) gives some insight of the stories to the photographs that were taken during the encampment. This book was an album of remembrance of a New Mexican Cavalry officer. 18 It is now in the Photo Archives of the Palace of the Governors. It has photos of not only what unfolded for the Navajo People but also photos of the soldiers.

This book was reviewed by several authors who uncover stories and research behind the pictures in “Souvenir of New Mexico.” Khristaan D. Villela’s, “Remembrance of times Southwest,” she states the book contains 64 photographs, each made using wet glass plate collodion technique and reproduced for print.19 Wet glass plate collodion technique was a technique where the photographer would coat the glass with collodion and placed in the camera before it dries to be exposed. The photographers use to use their wagons as a dark room due to the time sensitivity of developing the photo.

Villela uncovers that this book was created to reveal the important faces and places in New Mexico during that time period. The images in this book show Fort Sumner’s development of buildings, soldiers and the Navajo and Apache being forced to move and live there in the time period of 1864-1868.20 Some of these photos’ negatives were sold and prints were made that they appeared in places far away.

In the photos of Fort Sumner, it shows adobe buildings which were buildings for the military who were station there. There are some trees in the photos but you can see that the ground is plain dirt with no flowers or other plants. The paths of the wagons are shown along with the types of transportation they used, wagons and horses. In some of the photos, the background shows a horizon of trees and what looks like a dusty area. Looking at a photo like this, in my perspective, this landscape would not be an ideal place for me to live in. It would make one feel the Navajos need to return home to their homeland that have trees, plants, the mesas and the mountains.

In Khristaan D. Villela’s examination of the photos, she found that the photographer made their subject pose the same way, use the same backdrop and used some of the same props. In 1866, a photography studio was opened by a St. Louis photographer named Nicholas Brown and his son William in Santa Fe, New Mexico.21 The photographer, Valentine Wolfenstein, would have their subjects pose in the same manner as seen in the photos of the Navajo People and the soldiers. 22 Seeing the same likeness of the photographs taken at the studio and of the time in Fort Sumner gives that conclusion. When taking a closer look at the photographs, you can see the people using the same blanket, sitting in a chair with a bow and arrow and wearing the same jewelry. The Navajo leaders in the photos show a diplomatic approach by being photograph with a gun, in which it was prop. 23 The subjects in each photo sit in the same stance and seem to have the same expression. The arrangement of the subjects makes one wonder if they were guided in the way they were sitting and if the subjects did want to pose for the photos.

In her findings, Kristaan, also sees some similarities of how the Navajo woman are portrayed in the photographs to a representation of art which showed fantasy and reality called Orientalist odalisque. In one portrait, there are a group of Navajo women who are posing as an object for men to gaze at. 24 In looking at the photograph and not knowing the background this photo would present, I would see this as photo of women who were posing for just a photo from that time period. However, through her research, in a medical report filed in Fort Sumner, it hints that women were used as prostitution due to the ailment of syphilis that women were being treated for. In one photo in the book, the title under a Navajo female picture labels, “Belle of the Navajo.”25 The information about these photos are informant and shocking.

Navajo Leaders

The book also has a photo of Navajo leader, Chief Manuelito. In Navajo communities, we do not have chiefs, we call them leaders. The Navajo word for a leader is Naat’aanii. I feel that to create that propaganda to sell the photographs during that time, the Navajo leaders were called Chiefs. Stories about Chief Manuelito are he was a war leader, he wanted to fight the U.S. soldiers and keep his people from going to Fort Sumer. In the book “Souvenir of New Mexico,” Manuelito is sitting in a chair with his bow and arrows. He looks at a stage in his younger years compared to other portraits of him. He is the only identified Navajo in the book.

In an oral story told to me about Chief Manuelito was that towards the end of the imprisonment of the people, he was asked to have a portrait painted of him. He agreed but he wanted to be paid. Manuelito was paid eight dollars in dollar bills. He said it was not enough money. The person or whoever was negotiating the deal, brought him back the same amount of money but in coins and then he agreed. It is assumed that he thought the coins were more than the dollar bills and so he agreed.26

During the time of the Navajo People being taken and held as prisoners of the U.S. government was called, “The Fearing Time.” The People feared for what was about to come and in each community of the Navajo land had Peace Leaders and War Leaders. Manuelito was a war leader who had a band that followed him into battles against the U.S. government soldiers. Another important leader of this time was his brother, Barboncito.

Barboncito followed Manuelito but always wanted to settle matters peacefully. He and his brother were highly recognized for their braveness and eloquence skills. They gained the trust of their People and he was asked to help negotiate the Treaty of 1868. He was fluent in Navajo and Spanish. During the negotiations, the U.S. government had Spanish translators for them.

Barboncito asked that his People would not be sent anywhere else, but back to their homeland. The U.S. Government were going to send the Navajo People to another reservation in Oklahoma. When negotiations were finalized, the Navajo Leaders signed the Treaty of 1868 and Barboncito was the first person to sign.

His photograph circulates in the same manner as his brother’s. He is sitting in a chair with the same backdrop, a gun for prop to show he is a warrior, even though he was a prisoner of war, and wearing some colonial clothing with Navajo traditional clothing. 27 His facial expression shows he is resilient and gives a, “we did not succumb to what was being handed to them,” look.

Fort Sumner Landscape

Fort Sumner is located in southeast New Mexico. It began as a military fort in 1862 when James H. Carleton justified it was a place to keep settlers in the Pecos River safe from the Mescalero Apache, Kiowa and Comanche tribes.28 He also created the Bosque Redondo reservation there in a 1,600 square mile area for the Navajo and Mescalero Apaches to held. This fort was named after General Edwin Vose Sumner, who served as military governor of New Mexico Territory from 1815-1855.29

Fort Sumner had poor water and soil. The Pecos River flowed nearby but it was too alkaline that it caused intestinal problems and diseases. The soil made it hard to plant and caused a short supply in food. One of the plans to “civilize” the People was to have them become farmers. The People already had those skills upon coming to Fort Sumner but due to alkaline water and poor soil, the crops failed. There was also not enough firewood in the area. The People needed firewood for building their traditional homes, cooking and keeping warm during the winters. There are several surveys that were done on the Bosque Redondo that specified it had its pros and cons but they were ignored.30

In the photographs of the Navajo at Fort Sumner, it shows them working in building forts for the military soldiers. They are being guarded by the soldiers as they are working to help build adobe houses that were requested for the soldiers. In other photos, the people are awaiting to receive their food rations while the military soldiers are on horses and watching them. These photos mimic present day photos of what it looks like when being held as a prisoner. They were confined to the area and given food when available. The stories and documentations of how Fort Sumner came about brings sadness to one. A group of People who were living the only way of life they’ve known to place that brought them to humility makes one see why historical trauma continues for the Navajo People.

Teaching Strategies

The teaching strategies that will be used in this curriculum unit are the gradual release model, the Kagan Strategies, graphic organizers, gallery walk, telling a picture story and create an illustration portrait.

Gradual Release Model

In Chinle Unified School District, we use the Gradual Release Model. The framework of this model is gradually releasing all responsibility of learning to the student. The student takes ownership of their learning. The Gradual Release Model is in a hierarchy of steps but does not necessarily have to follow those steps. The model begins with the “I do” step. In this step, the teacher models and introduces the lesson. The next step is “We do.” In this step, the teacher and the students do the lesson together. The next step is “You do it with some support.” The student is guided with some teacher assistant. The last step is “You do.” In this step, the student has taken total ownership of the lesson. As mentioned earlier, these steps sometimes are not in that order. This model is built out of several theories of Jean Piaget’s cognitive structure and schema, Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of proximal development, Albert Bandura’s Attention, retention, reproduction and motivation and David Wood, Jerome Bruner and Gail Ross’ Scaffolded instruction.31 These theories together suggest learning happens when it is specific, purposeful and there is engagement with other learners. The Gradual Release Model has four components, Focus Learning, Guided Instruction, Productive Group Work and Independent Learning. The framework helps to target the specific learning.

Using the Gradual Release Model has helped me to stay focus to the learning objective. I’ve created majority of my PowerPoints that follows this model for each of my units. My content has a limited time with students coming to me only once a week for forty minutes. This model helps me to pace the intended learning.  

Kagan Strategies  

The Kagan strategies are cooperative learning structures. It helps a classroom to have engagement and get all students involved. In the Kagan Cooperative Learning structure, students create teambuilding that establishes trust and encouraging support among each other. It promotes language acquisition. Students listen to each other and build their vocabulary. Two of the Kagan strategies students will be using in this curriculum is the “Think, Pair, Share,” and “Round Robin.”

In “Think, Pair, Share,” students will be looking at the photographs taken during the Long Walk and will analyze it. They will then pair up with a peer and share with their peer what it is they think about the photographs. “Round Robin,” has the same logic as “Think, Pair, Share,” but they will be in small groups in where they will look at one photograph and take turns sharing what they think about the photographs.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers help organize, clarify and simplify complex information. Graphic organizers help students to break down information into chucks they can understand. The majority of our students are English language learners (ELL) due to having Navajo language being spoken in the home. ELL students struggle with content due to not having the vocabulary knowledge. In this curriculum, students will be acquiring art language they might be hearing for the first time. Students will take notes and create Venn Diagrams to compare photographs. They will also be creating a consensus map during their grouping to come to a conclusion as a group about the photo they are given.

Narrative Photography and Gallery Walk

Students will hear and watch videos about the Long Walk. One story that will be read to them is, “Dzani Yazhi Naazbaa’/Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk.” While the teacher reads this story, students will create a picture to the story, narrative photography. After the reading, students will display their pictures and do a “Gallery Walk.” They will retell the story based on their pictures. After the gallery walk, students will compare their pictures to the illustrations that go with the story. Narrative photography gives the person who is listening to the story a feel for being there. The Gallery Walk gives a person to see different views or even picture the same image.


Students will experience with sketching and painting. They will create a portrait of the Navajo People who were featured in photographs after the Long Walk. After reading and researching about the subjects in the photographs they are shown, they will create their own portrait of that person of choice. It can convey the way they think their ancestor should have been drawn.


The overall objective of this unit is for students to analyze how the historical event of The Treaty of 1868 affected the Diné. The unit will be scaffold into four sub-objectives of:

  1. Students will identify what is a treaty.
  2. Students will identify what lead up to the treaty.
  3. Students will analyze photographs that were taken during and after the imprisonment of the Navajo People.
  4. Students will create an art piece of choice telling about the Long Walk & the Treaty of 1868.

Identify what a ‘Treaty’ is

In this activity, students will be shown the word, ‘Treaty.’ They will use a consensus map, a KWL chart and write an Exit ticket. They will use the KWL chart to define what a ‘Treaty” is and have a table discussion and discuss what they think the word means. Students will be asked what the word means, have they heard of that word, and why is it important? The teacher will then show students the ‘Treaty of 1868.’ The teacher will use a PowerPoint to discuss how this treaty came about for the Navajo People. They will be asked, what they know about the Long Walk. During the presentation, students can add to their KWL chart about what they know about the Long Walk and create questions like, “How do these two topics tie together?” Pictures will be shown during the presentation, but the focus will be on defining what a ‘Treaty’ is. At the end of the lesson, they will create a consensus map to come to an agreement together to tell what a Treaty is.

What lead up to the ‘Treaty of 1868’

In this activity, students will dive into what lead up to the ‘Treaty of 1868.’ Students will be using a cause and effect chart, an illustration summary and do a gallery walk. The teacher will read the story, “Dzani Yazhi Naazbaa’/Little Woman Warrior Who Came Home: A Story of the Navajo Long Walk.” During the read aloud, students will create an illustration summary. After the read aloud, students will post their illustration and do a gallery walk. Students will create their cause and effect chart. They will use the story and the PowerPoint from the week before to identify the cause and effect of the ‘Treaty of 1868.’

Analyze photographs of the ‘Long Walk’

In this activity, the teacher will show several photos from the Long Walk and analyze them. Students will be given a set of questions to think about as they look at these photos. “Who are these people in the photographs? Where are these people at? What are they wearing? Look at their faces, how do you think they feel?” One of the photos will show the Navajo People signing the document. Students will be asked, “How do you think the People felt when this document was signed? Look at their faces, do they seem to know what is going on? What would you do? During the gallery walk, students will choose a photo that stands out to them.

After analyzing the photographs, teacher will give students information about the photographer and how the subjects were told to pose for the photos. After this given information, students will give their own opinions about the photos and what they think the People should have done.  Students will then be shown recent modern replicated illustrations of the Navajo Leaders who had their photos taken and discuss in groups what the artist was trying to convey. As the activity concludes, students will be told to go back to the photo they chose and think about how they would change the photograph like what modern artists have done. They will also be asked think about how to explain their changes for the next activity.

Creating an Art Piece of choice

In concluding this unit, students will create an art piece of choice that tells about the ‘Long Walk/ The Treaty of 1868.’ Students will be given the book, “The Navajo Treaty of 1868: Treaty between the United States of America and the Navajo Tribe of Indians.” This book has more photographs that students will look at and think about what to create. The choices they will have are creating a collage, an illustration using paint/color pencils/pencils, or creating a digital image using technology. Students will be given two class periods to complete this activity.

When students have completed their projects, students will do another gallery walk. They will look at each other’s work and give each other affirmations about the work.

Appendix on Implementing District Standards

This curriculum will be using the Navajo Nation and Arizona State Standards.

Navajo Nation Standards from the Navajo Nation Government Section

The standard is from the 4th-6th grade section that states: I will understand historical/factual events, people and symbols that influence my family. The concept from the standard that will be used is from Concept 1: I will explore and explain how Diné people and historical events have influenced the development of my community. The performance objective of this concept that will be used are, PO 2: I will recognize leaders that have impacted the Diné Nation; PO 3: I will explain the Diné historical timeline; PO 4: I will retell Diné oral narratives.32 Students will be learning about the ‘Long Walk’ which is a historical event that impacted the Navajo Nation. Through the research of the event students will learn about the Navajo leaders too. They will be retelling the events in their own words to their peers, family members and the teacher.

From the same standard’s section of the Navajo Nation Government, the curriculum will also be using Concept 4: I will understand the integrity of my culture, language and values that are protected and maintained by the Diné. From this concept, the Performance objective that will be used are; PO 4: I will retell major Diné historical events.33 Students will be learning about the major event that shaped the Navajo Nation’s future after the signing of the ‘Treaty of 1868.’

Arizona State Standards: World and Native Languages

Presentational Speaking

Present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners or viewers. The student can: Make simple presentations on a wide variety of familiar topics sing connected sentences.34  Students will present their art work to their peers.

Cultural Competencies

Use the target language to investigate, explain and reflect on the relationship between the practices, products and perspectives of cultures studied. The student can: Investigate and describe similarities and differences in practices, products and perspectives used across cultures (e.g., holidays, family life, historical and contemporary figures) to understand one’s own and others’ ways of thinking.35 Students will be investigating and reflecting on photographs that were taken of the Navajo People during that time period and modern photos/illustration and interpret them and reflect.

Arizona State Standards: Visual Arts Academic Standards

Grade 6: Responding and Connecting

Perceive and analyze artistic work: a. Use art-specific vocabulary to compare how artwork made in different cultures reflect the times and places in which they were made. b. Identify and analyze cultural associations suggested by visual imagery (e.g. skulls and skeletons used in Day of the Dead festivals, dancing dragons used in Chinese New Year celebrations, broken chain as a symbol of freedom). Students will be analyzing the photographs that were taken during the captivation of the Navajo People and ponder the meaning of them. Students will use simple art terms to describe the photographs.36

Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding: a. Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society (e.g. religious art can illustrate a group’s beliefs, community murals can reflect concerns of the neighborhood, an advertising image can be persuasive). Students will look at modern art that reflects the history of the people and understand the art work that is being presented.

Arizona State Standards: 6th Grade Social Studies


The standard in the History section is, the development of civilization, societies, cultures, and innovations have influenced history and continue to impact the modern world. Performance objective states, explain the cause and effect of interactions between cultures and civilizations. 37Students will be researching the cause and the effect of the ‘Treaty of 1868.’

Another standard from history that correlates with the curriculum is the standard, Patterns of social and political interactions have shaped people, places, and events throughout history and continue to shape the modern world. The performance objective is, Describe how different group identifies such as racial, ethnic, class, gender, regional, and immigrant/migration status emerged and contributed to social and regional development, characteristics, and interactions over time.38 Students will make connections of the how colonialization and the migration to the west impacted the Navajo People and how it has shaped the Navajo Nation.


The informal assessments that will be used in this curriculum are, observing, monitoring, questioning, exit tickets and the graphic organizers. During the monitoring of each activity the teacher will have questions that students will respond to, either orally or through the graphic organizers. Students will also have the exit tickets where they will answer questions pertaining to the activity. In the informal assessments, I am checking students understanding of the objective of the lesson. The graphic organizers will be graded on a point system.

The formal assessments that will be used in this curriculum are, a district formative assessment that will have five questions, where 3 will be multiple choice and two will be a written response, and they will create their art piece that will be graded using a rubric scale.  


Arizona Department of Education, “Arizona State Standards,”, August, 2023.

Begody, Chrystalee. 2015. "A Study about Navajo Art Education of Familiar and Unfamiliar Art." Order No. 1604802, Arizona State University.

Bell, Morgan F. “Some Thoughts on ‘Taking’ Pictures: Imaging ‘Indians’ and the Counter-Narratives of Visual Sovereignty.” Great Plains Quarterly 31, no. 2 (2011): 85–104.

Marr, Carolyn J. “Taken Pictures: On Interpreting Native American Photographs of the Southern Northwest Coast.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 80, no. 2 (1989): 52–61.

Lentis, Marinella. Colonized through art: American Indian schools and art education, 1889-1915. U of Nebraska Press, 2017.

Kristona Melcher.

Roberts, David. 1997. "The Long Walk to Bosque Redondo." Smithsonian, 12, 46-57.

Gradual Release Model


1 Beyond Textbook

2 Marr, Carolyn J. Taken Pictures: On Interpreting Native American Photographs of the Southern Northwest Coast

3 Denetdale, Jennifer. Reclaiming Dine Hisotry: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita. PG 6

4 Ibib

5 Laljani, Rohan. The Navajo Long Walk: A Cultural History of Genocide.

6 Roberts. David. The long walk to Bosque Redondo

7 Ibib

8 Tohe, Laura. Hweeldi Beehaniih: Remembering the Long Walk.

9 Roberts, David. The long walk to Bosque Redondo.


11 Begody, Chrystalee

12 Bell, Morgan F. Some Thoughts on “Taking” Pictures Imagining “Indians” and the Counter-Narratives of Visual Sovereignty

13 Ibid

14 Marr, Carolyn J. Taken Pictures: On Interpreting Native American Photographs of the Southern Northwest Coast.

15 Lentis, Marinella. Colonized through art: American Indian schools and art education, 1889-1915

16 Navajo Nation Museum, 2018.

17 Ibid

18 Melcher, Kristina. The Long Walk Photo Essay

19 Villela, Khristaan D. Remembrance of times Southwest

20 Ibid

21 Ibid

22 Ferber, Andrea. Pivotal Moment: Imaging Dine Leaders in 1868

23 Ibid

24 Villela, Khristaan D. Remembrance of times Southwest.

25 Ibid

26 Black, Percy. 2023. Personal interview.

27 Ferber, Andrea. Pivotal Moment: Imaging Dine Leaders in 1868


29 Ibid

30 McNitt, Frank. Fort Sumner: a Study in Origins

31 ASCD. Gradual Release of Responsibility

32 Navajo Nation Standards. 2023

33 Ibid

34 Arizona State Standards: World and Native Language Standards. 2023

35 Ibid.

36 Arizona State Standards: Visual Arts Academic Standards. 2023

37 Arizona State Standards: 6th grade Social Studies. 2023

38 Ibid

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