“Betrayal”by: Sandra Brestel
“Many ancient rock art sites and their images were created as prayers to the spirits. They were magical and peaceful places where reverent shamans and people could connect with the spirit world. Etched and painted these figures and symbols represent religious concepts. The rock art sites in Northern Arizona, specifically the Canyon De Chelly area, are different. They represent actual events in time. These painted images tell a story of war and betrayal, and the dark times the Navajo people endured in the last half of the 1800’s.
In 1863 the U.S. Government sent Colonel “Kit” Carson to remove the Navajo people from the territory. The Navajo endured more than a year of battles and raids conducted by the “Blue Coats” and Ute Indians. The Utes were the sworn enemy of the Navajo and Kit Carson encouraged them to raid and attack the Navajo people at every opportunity.
By 1864, Kit Carson and U.S. soldiers has successfully burned all of the Navajo’s homes and crops and the Utes had stolen or killed all of their live stock. Many Navajo people were driven into the mountains, and they soon realized they were facing a hard cold winter and they knew they could not survive. Surrender was their only chance for survival and so they surrendered to the U.S. Government. They were promptly rounded up nearly eight thousand Navajo people began the “Long Walk” to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. More than three thousand Navajo did not survive the journey to the “Suffering Place” of Fort Sumner.
About five hundred Navajo refused to surrender and remained in their homelands around Canyon De Chelly. For years they continued to evade capture. Then a decision was made to do something about their imprisoned people in New Mexico., and two chiefs from the remaining free Navajo, made the journey to Fort Sumner. After reaching the Fort they witnessed the suffering of their people and began to negotiate their release.
Appealing to the gambling nature of the officers in charge, the two chiefs wagered the remaining free Navajo for the release of the imprisoned thousands. This was to be decided with an archery contest, the best Ute warrior against the best Navajo brave. The Ute warrior was chosen to shoot first. A six-inch piece of leather was tied onto a great oak tree. Using a blackened stick from the fire, a solider rubbed a small black dot in the center of the leather target. The dot was as black as his commanding officer’s heart and easy to see from a distance.
The Ute warrior shot. His arrow left the bow lurching back and forth like a frightened fish, all the way to the target. The stone tip and wooden shaft ripped a long gash in the target just once inch from its dark center.
The Navajo brave stepped forward and plucked an arrow from the battle worn deer skin quiver on his back. His people called him “Man like shooting arrow” and he was from the Folded Arm People clan. As the brave positioned his arrow on the bow, he checked the shaft once more for the sacred markings made by the shaman the night before. The fate of his people was at stake. The shaman’s marks were there. As Man like shooting arrow drew back his bow, his mind was focused only upon the black spot. The arrow leapt from the bow and flew toward the target with the grace of an attacking hawk, straight, true, and unstoppable. The Navajo brave would later recall that he could not actually remember opening his fingers to release the arrow. What the shaman told him was true and when the moment was right it felt as if the bow string had passed through his fingers as if for a moment, they were the fingers of a warrior spirit. The blessed arrow cleanly sliced through the exact center of the target, piercing the dark spot of hatred. The contest was won and the agreement was honored. Thousands of Navajo were allowed to return to their homes in northern Arizona.”
Edition Type: Limited Edition Giclee
Edition Size: 100
Dimensions: 24"H 48"W