Horses in the USA
The Story of the Horse
A Terrifying First Vision: For many Native peoples, the first sight of a horse was terrifying. A Spanish soldier on horseback seemed to be a single monstrous creature. The Spanish used this terror to advance their conquest, sometimes attaching bells to their armour to add more noise and confusion. Jose Barreiro of the Taino people said, “In the islands of the Caribbean, Taino people were the first to see the horse, and the sight inspired fear – animal fused to sword-wielding conquistador – the legs of the rider blending with the galloping extremities of his mount as it rode down Native people, while the metal of rein and bit and stirrup clanged with the fury of war.”
‘Story of the Horse in the U.S.’. The story of the relationship between American Indians and horses is one of the great stories of human contact with the animal kingdom. Forty million years ago, the horse originated in the Americas. About ten thousand years ago, after spreading to Asia and Europe, it vanished from its homelands until 1493, when on his second voyage Christopher Columbus returned the horse to the Western Hemisphere. Horses flourished, eventually spreading across Central and South America and what is now the United States and Canada, edging along Native trade routes. In the 1700’s, traded guns and traded horses converged on the Great Plains, resulting in the mounted Plains warrior, s feared opponent of settlers expanding into the West and a source of many stereotypes about native people. In horses, American Indians found an ally that was useful and inspiring in times of peace and loyal and intrepid in times of war. Horses transformed Native life, becoming a central part of many tribal cultures.
Between 1680 and 1875, horses revolutionised Native life. By the 1800’s, American Indian horsemanship had become legendary, and many Native peoples – especially those living on the Great Plains – had come to depend on horses during their daily lives. In the early days of buffalo hunting, acquiring food had become a full-time job, leaving little time for anything else. On horseback, however, a lone hunter could bring down a buffalo virtually single handed. As hunting became easier, many Native peoples had more time to devote to art, spirituality and philosophy.
We had no idea there were so many Native peoples. Just the dozen or so mentioned by John Wayne.
Pictorial art of the Plains Natives was mostly seen on tipi linings and on their clothing. Later as new materials became available, vivid battle scenes sprang to life on paper. The best know examples of Plains art are drawings made by Southern Plains fighters held prisoner at Fort Marion in Florida. Men from the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa tribes were arrested at the end of the Red River War in 1875 and held as hostages to ensure the peaceful behaviour of their tribes. At Fort Marion, many turned their hand to recording scenes of battle and traditional life in army-issue ledger books. This example was drawn by Hunkpapa Lakota.
Today lacrosse is an international sport played competitively by teams all over the world. This modern game originated with the Haudenosaunee people. Explorers to the territory saw the game being played on a field that could be as short as one hundred yards or as long as two miles. Teams could have from five players to hundreds.The game of lacrosse is a gift from the Creator. It is a medicine game played for the healing and strength of the people. Lacrosse was sometimes played to resolve a dispute and get rid of any bad feeling between clans and nations within the Haudenosaunee. It was and still played to bring families, communities and nations together. Playing the game promises the continuation of Haudenosaunee culture and traditions. The game should not be played for fame or money; the player should be humble and of a good mind when the stick is taken in hand.
And there was I thinking it came from Enid Blyton.
American Indians had traveled on foot or by canoe before the arrival of horses. When the hunting tribes of the Plains moved camp, tipis and other household goods were usually carried by women or pulled on travois by dogs, this limited the distances that could be covered and required that possessions were kept to a minimum. With horses, tribes moved farther, faster and with larger loads. Horses brought a period of abundance that lasted until the reservation era – more food, more leisure time, also a mark personal and family prestige, the ownership of horses conferred status and respect within the communities.
In the early 1800’s, on Native trade routes, the going rate for a horse was:
A fine racing horse – 10 guns.
A fine hunting horse – several pack animals.
Ordinary riding horse – 8 buffalo robes,
or 1 gun and 100 loads of ammunition,
or 3 pounds of tobacco,
or 15 eagle feathers,
or 10 weasel skins,
or 5 tipi poles,
or 1 buffalo-hide tipi cover,
or 1 skin shirt and leggings, decorated with human hair and quills.
Horses dramatically changed Native warfare. On horseback, Plains warriors could move more quickly and stage more complicated attacks; armed with guns, they became truly formidable. Horse cultures in the United States arose as tribal nations struggled to defend themselves against settlers and soldiers. At the same time, new intertribal conflicts emerged as neighbouring nations sought to expand their hunting trerritories. The battles that resulted produced new warfare strategies and protocols, including the raiding of enemy horses.
Horse ownership became a mark of personal and family prestige. In early times, people spent all their energies gathering the bare essentials of survival. In many tribes, class divisions, based on the number of horses a family owned, appeared for the first time. A name that included the word “horse” – such as Crazy Horse, Horse Capture, American Horse – signified strength of character. And images of horses on ceremonial objects, clothing and personal possessions were a deep sign of respect.
Some names for horses:
Mistatim meaning big dog - Cree
Sunkakhan meaning mystery dog or holy dog - Lakota (Sious)
Thongatch-shonga or Sho-a-thin-ga meaning big dog – Assiniboine
It-shuma-shunga meaning red dog - A’aninin (Gros Ventre)
Ponoka meaning elk dog - Siksika (Blackfoot) .
Native peoples paid homage to horses in many ways in the last few centuries, incorporating them into their cultural and spiritual lives and celebrating their grace, beauty, loyalty and bravery in a variety of objects and songs, ceremonies and stories. Horse sticks honoured dead war ponies, painted war shirts recounted dangerous battles. Intense personal meanings were seen in beaded or quilled horse gear, stunning examples of this creative _expression_ gave us much to admire.
Today many Native Americans continue to honour the role of the horse in both their spiritual and contemporary lives. Feats of horsemanship are seen at rodeos, mounted parades, fairs and just about any gathering where Native people proclaim their identity.
Time to bimble on with my own – Wild Horse
ALL IN ALL A WONDERFUL STORY