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The land on which Fort Defiance was eventually established was first noted by the U.S. military when Colonel John Washington stopped there on his return journey from an expedition to Canyon de Chelly. Fort Defiance was established on September 18, 1851, by Col. Edwin V. Sumner to create a military presence in Diné bikéyah, Navajo territory. Sumner broke up the fort at Santa Fe for this purpose, creating the first military post in what is now Arizona. He left Major Electus Backus in charge. Fort Defiance was built on valuable grazing land that the federal government then prohibited the Navajo from using. As a result, the appropriately named fort experienced intense fighting, culminating in two attacks, one in 1856 and another in 1860. The next year, at the onset of the Civil War, the army abandoned Fort Defiance. Continued Navajo raids in the area led Brigadier General James H. Carleton to send Kit Carson to impose order. General Carleton's "solution" was brutal: thousands of starving Navajo were forced on a Long Walk of 450 miles and interned near Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and much of their livestock was destroyed. The Navajo Treaty of 1868 allowed those interned to return to a portion of their land, and Fort Defiance was reestablished as an Indian agency that year. In 1870, the first government school for the Navajo was established there. Source: Wikipedia.
Navajoe dance, old Fort Defiance, New Mexico, 1873. O'Sullivan, Timothy H., photographer.