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Post Glacial Horses in America
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MtnHorse
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Joined: Tue Apr 19th, 2011
Location: Utah USA
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 Posted: Wed Feb 15th, 2023 01:50 am
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Dr Deb
I don’t want to be to pushy but I think you should reconsider your stance on these ideas about the horse in North America..

First, I understand you have a very different definition of successfully breeding horses than I do. I think if a tribe can maintain a herd big enough to transport everything the tribe owns, that is successful and all the plains tribes were nomadic in that sense. (We are talking large herds of horses.) Before horses there were very few tribes living on the plains year round. (I read about that when a college student but don’t have access to the source anymore.) I and probably a lot of others disagree with you that Native Americans have to raise hay or grain, nor do they have to selectively breed to be successful.

However on that note, the Horse and Dog in Hidatsa Culture shows that tribes practices when a colt was born. Page 145. It also lists the customs surrounding castration on page 146 which seemed quite common. In the foot notes he claims the practice was common among all the plains tribes and has historical quotes to support it. Some are probably the ones of Lewis and Clark you mention but they are compared to the two done by “Drewyer” who is Shawnee and French Canadian himself. I don’t have a copy the Ewers work with the Blackfeet readily available but I recall he had a drawing of how they laid the horse down to castrate it.

Further, when the tribes talk about where they got their horses from they mean where the first horses came from or where they got new blood if you will. That was not where every single foal came from. Obviously, if there were thousands of wild horses being born and growing in the mountains and plains then the Indians could raise their own just as well and there are tons of sources that confirm the tribes having foals. They don’t need grain or hay, they just need produce enough horses to match the attrition rate and since at least some tribes also ate horses they lost them that way as well. Selective breeding has brought us insubstantial horses and small feet as you have so well documented in your new books, so perhaps letting nature weed out the weak would create better mountain horses. If you read Goerge Catlins delightful stories with his horse Charlie, it is obvious that these Native raised horses were athletic and capable.

Perhaps your living in California has shadowed how well horses can live in harsh environments. They are tough and they can survive very well in areas that are not as mild as the Oregon Coast. (The Mongols are another example of a successful horseman in harsh environments.) I only mentioned the Appaloosa because you seem to believe that the Nez Perce have some special talents with horses and nothing against that tribe but I haven’t seen evidence of them standing out as horsemen. It has been a while since I read the Conquerors so I didn’t remember that you covered that.

I am listening to the podcast JTB mentions and lets make no mistake I am not questioning the extinction nor do I have any problems with what you say there about the South American history of horses. It’s this idea that they weren’t raised on the plains and mountains that just doesn’t stand with the evidence I see in lots of the histories. We can agree to disagree on this if you want to keep your ideas. I have learned a lot from you over these years so I am not trying to make light of your vast knowledge with this.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Feb 16th, 2023 06:29 am
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Mtn Horse, it isn't a question of whether you are being 'pushy'. You began by assuming that I had not read or considered crucial background research, and you did that without consulting the bibliography in 'Conquerors.' This might be because you don't know to do that; for all I know, you did not attend college and would therefore likely not be fully capable or aware of academic norms. But you began by ASSUMING that I had been lax. So that isn't pushy, amigo, it's hostile.

I often ignore peoples' evident hostility here, because I want to keep the focus on the intellectual and conceptual content. So I regularly do people a courtesy which they do not afford to me. But don't try to kid me by saying you don't have some other agenda. It is common, for example, for non-college-degreed folks to resent and fear those who have had the benefit of a higher level of education. Because of their lack of self-confidence, fear, and/or hostility, they are positively overjoyed at any opportunity they can get to prove the great lady wrong.

This makes me laugh a little bit, because it reminds me of the old joke about the guy who goes on a hunting trip. He's walking through a beautiful forest on a sparkling autumn day, and he is so taken with the beauty of the hike that he forgets pretty much about hunting. And he gets philosophical, and since he's in a forest, he starts thinking about the old saw about whether when a tree falls in a forest, if nobody is there, does it make any sound? But because he's a married man, he adapts this to his own situation and thinks -- "If I hear a tree fall in a forest and my wife is not there to hear it -- am I still wrong?"

So the underlying motive might be something like that -- that just for once, please God, let me be the one to prove the woman wrong. Or, it could be something a little more insidious, i.e. maybe you're a conspiracy theorist. And the conspiracy theory in this case goes like this: White people have conspired to keep down the Native Americans for generations. The U.S. and Canadian governments were both responsible for many atrocities carried out against tribespeople. One of the things that has also been done is to squelch and deny Native American skill with horses."

And your argument to this end is, as I hear it, this: that because there were tens of thousands, possibly millions, of head of mustangs on the North American prairie and in the Great Basin, everywhere from northern Mexico to northern Canada, THEREFORE native tribespeople must have been breeding them."

This is a logical non-sequitur; 'A' does not follow from 'B'. In fact, that there were indeed multitudes of mustangs makes it less likely that native Americans bothered to breed them. There is abundant documentation, for many different tribes who became mounted, that horse-raiding and horse-thieving -- both from White settlements and from other tribes -- was not only a yearly event, but one from which a young man could derive much prestige and status -- not to mention garnering for himself the valuable livestock. When tribesmen raided other tribesmen, the chances of getting killed were minimal but the enterprise required all the stalking skills of the most sophisticated hunter -- just dangerous enough to be thrilling, and if successful, pretty darned profitable.


The other documented way that tribesmen acquired horses was to hunt mustangs. This is why there are records of foals being kept and raised; the best and easiest way to tame horses is to get them when they are young and small. Therefore the prime target of every mustang hunter was a pregnant mare. If she could be caught -- often by being crippled -- without being killed, they would either confine her or tie her up until she foaled. At some later point, she would be slaughtered for food but the foal kept and raised. This is the identical technique by which horses were first brought into domestication over 6,000 years ago in what is now Ukraine.

By contrast, as I have already said several times and as Ewers and other authorities are at pains to point out, there were very few cases where a given tribe had the resources to overwinter horses, knew how to practice gelding or selective breeding, or produced foals. What they did instead was cycle them in and out, using damaged horses as food and for hides, bowstrings etc., and raiding or trading to get replacements if they had no captured foals on hand.

The idea that I or other authorities are not giving Native American horsemen enough credit is not only insulting, but it is entirely your own. We give 'em plenty credit. But we cannot credit anyone with doing things that there is no record of their doing and no basis for believing. Native Americans had no knowledge of horses before Europeans brought them beginning in 1493. Thereafter, tribespeople (perforce!) learned 100% of their horsemanship by either being instructed directly by Europeans, or else by observing them, either because they were enslaved by Europeans, or else had friendlier relationships with them i.e. as trading partners or allies in war. That they learned horsemanship and all the technology that goes with it is no discredit to the tribespeople: they were quick to pick it up and, once they did, they quickly became highly accomplished. -- Dr. Deb




Last edited on Thu Feb 16th, 2023 06:30 am by DrDeb


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