For many years, the Navajo fought off and raided settlers and neighboring tribes for resources, livestock, and territory. During the 17th century, the Navajo tribes could be found between the Little Colorado and San Juan rivers which they aggressively defended against colonizers and other tribes. A series of conflicts between the Navajo and other groups is now collectively referred to as the Navajo Wars. These events spanned over 300 years, and ultimately ended with the Navajos surrendering to the United States.
The Navajo Against the Spaniards
During this part of the Navajo Wars, the tribes had to fight against Facundo Melgares, the last Spanish governor of New Mexico. The man enacted two different expeditions against the Navajos but was ultimately unsuccessful in conquering the native tribe. To combat the colonizes, the Navajos joined forces with several other tribes including the Apaches and the Pueblos. It was in 1680 that the Great Southwestern Revolt began and it ended almost 20 years later, when the Spanish could no longer cope with the growing strength and number of the native tribes.
The Navajo Against the Mexicans
Under the direction of Jose Antonio Vizcarra, the Mexicans met with Navajo leaders in a peaceful discussion, persuading them to allow the colonizers to settle in their land, and in exchange, they would be given the gift of the Catholic Religion. Despite the peaceful approach, however, the Navajos rejected the offer and instead decided to kill several Mexicans to show how they felt about being colonized. It was after the death of six New Mexicans in May of 1823 that the Mexicans decided to engage in a 74 days expedition during which they captured numerous Navajo natives and used them as slaves. The Navajos in return raided their camps to steal goods, livestock, and to free their captured tribesmen.
The Navajo Against the U.S.
The U.S. military saw it fit to engage in the battles between the Mexicans and the Navajos to instill peace in the otherwise war-struck area. Several attempts at peace treaties were enacted, but Navajos always managed to break the pacts. It was when Navajo Chief Narbona was found scalped and dying that more aggressive and radical Navajo members like Manuelito emerged to talk tribesmen out of making peace with the whites and Mexicans. What happened thereafter was a series of raids and killings, that ultimately brought the Navajo tribe to surrender to the more powerful U.S. military, prompting the end of the Navajo wars.