In nature, the productive and the destructive elements are everywhere found side by side; and not only is this true as an abstract principle of actual existence, but there is not a creature without natural enemies who prey upon it and live by its destruction. Civilized man, however, although he lives by the destruction of life, animal as well as vegetable, takes care to reproduce by artificial means as much, if not more, than he destroys; but the savage does not always do so; and when he does not, this is surely a proof that he is not destined by Providence permanently to exist.
Most conspicuous amongst the latter class are the Navajos and Apaches of New Mexico and Arizona -- the hereditary enemies of the cultivator of the soil, whether he be Aztec, Mexican, or Anglo-Saxon -- the savages, by whose means the whole country has been nearly swept of its inhabitants, and changed from a fertile garden into a barren waste.
The Navajos, until lately, occupied a fine tract of country watered by the Colorado Chiquito, the Rio San Juan, and their tributaries, and the western branch of the Rio Grande. They were bounded on the north by the Ute nation, on the south by the Apaches, on the west by the Moqui and Zuni pueblos, and on the east by the inhabitants of the Rio Grande valley. Although often placed under the head of Apaches, they are in every respect a different and a finer race. They are bold and defiant, with full lustrous eyes and a sharp, intelligent expression of countenance; they had fixed abodes in their country, around which they raised crops almost rivalling those of the Pimas on the Gila: they carried one art (the weaving of blankets) to a state of perfection which, in closeness of texture and arrangement of colour, is scarcely excelled even by the laboured and costly seraphes of Mexico and South America. I tried at Santa Fe to puchase some; but the prices were so enormous, averaging from seventy to one hundred dollars for choice specimens, that I refrained.
For love of plunder and rapine, these Indians have no equals. Their number, twenty years ago, was probably about twelve thousand; and while they left their wives and old men to plant, reap, attend to the stock, and make blankets, the braves spent their lives in traversing the whole country, carrying off the stock of the helpless Mexican farmers, and keeping the entire agricultural and mining population in a constant state of alarm-To give a slight idea of the depredations of these hordes, I may state that between August 1st, 1846, and October 1st, 1850, there were stolen by them, according to the report of the United States' Marshals, no less than 12,887 mules, 7,050 horses, 31,581 horned cattle, and 453,293 head of sheep. The official reports from New Mexico appeared to contain nothing but catalogues of depredations committed by the Navajos, or of similar deeds done by the Apaches; and not only was the valley of the Rio Grande swept over and over again of its stock, but the Pueblo Indians of Zuni, and many other native towns, barely escaped destruction, and this, too, since the annexation. How many perished previously, who can tell?
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adapted from A. W. Bell
"On the Native Races of New Mexico"
1869 (Journal of the Ethnological Society of London)