Perhaps not. The Lakota (called Sioux by the French) and Diné (known as Navajo) say their people have always had horses. The standard historical concept taught at US schools is there were no horses for 12,500 years until the Spanish arrived in the Americas. Considering the fact that Europeans did not use the correct names for the indigenous nations they met, is it possible they could have been mistaken about other aspects of Native cultures?
What evidence might prove which is true? Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin published her dissertation, “The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth” in 2017. She spent years gathering information and conducting interviews. According to her findings and additional research online, I’d say if there were Equus quadrupeds in the Americas before Columbus, we would expect to find:
- Eyewitness accounts
- Native oral history and origin stories
- Deeply equestrian tribal culture
- Written or pictorial evidence
- Horse bones in the pre-1492 archeological record
European Explorer Eyewitnesses
- 1522, Spaniards reported seeing Native Peoples with horses in present day Georgia and the Carolinas. (see dates below)
- 1527, John Cabot observed horses in South America in present day Peru (1535 Spanish horse introduced in Argentina)
- 1579, Sir Francis Drake arrived in what is now called Northern California and Oregon was very surprised to see large herds of wild horses, since the Spanish had not found any in the Americas
- 1598, Juan de Oñate reported 300 horses lost en route to New Mexico because wild mares were too distracting to his stallions.
- 1642, French explorer Louis-Joseph LaVerendrie, visited “The People of the Horse” in Wyoming, before the Pueblo Uprising of 1680, that marks the academic start of Native horse culture
- Late 1700s Félix de Azara, observed curly horses (considered Bakshirs) in Paraguay before any were brought from Asia
Three important dates about first contact with Spanish horses are:
- 1492 Columbus in the Caribbean
- 1519 Cortés in present day Mexico
- 1680 Pueblo Rebellion in New Mexico (Spanish fled leaving horses behind, Europeans consider this the beginning date for Indian horse heritage )
Why were there so many wild horses and Indian Nations riding them before contact with the Europeans according to these witnesses? Is it possible that the Spanish chose to misrepresent the truth when writing home saying there were no horses in this new land? One theory is that the Spanish King would have levied taxes on the soldiers for the horses in the Americas, a potential source of great wealth. More importantly, as Dr. Running Horse Collin presents in her dissertation, horse culture was equated with civilization and status. The Spanish wanted to characterize the people of the Americas as primitive, horse-less, in need of refinement.
The pervasive theory that the herds of horses observed by Cabot, Drake, and Oñate were from Spanish runaways ignores two main facts; nearly all Spanish cavalry horses were male and horses were considered a key military tactical supply. Meticulous records of horse and human loss were recorded. More horses died or were eaten than escaped in the accounts of the early Spanish explorers I’ve read.
That’s what a few European explorers said. What do the people who were here first say about their history with horses?
- Dr. Running Horse Collin interviewed study participants from seven different Indian Nations, including the Lakota and Diné. Each reported having horses prior to Spanish arrival, and each had a creation story about the spiritual importance of the horse within their community.
- Ojibwe Tradition: Lac La Croix Indigenous Ponies were always here
- In the traditions of these Nations, a storyteller was expected to memorize and recount them exactly to honor the ancestors.
- According to the Kiowa, it was the Storm-Maker Red Horse, a supernatural being with the upper body of a horse and a long, snakelike tail that whipped around and creates tornadoes
Creation legends and traditional stories develop over centuries and millennia. They do not change quickly. The story about the tornado, for example, shows horses are a deep part of Kiowa culture.
We’ve confirmed European and Native peoples have stories about horses in the Americas before the Spanish calvary. Do we find Indigenous nations with deep equestrian culture?
- Dakota has terminology and concepts about horses unique to their culture.
- Lakota: Pre-columbian bridle without a bit and unique saddle.
- Level of horse ridership among Plains Indians on par with Asiatic Steppe cultures that developed skills for thousands of years.
- Cultural traditions of the Native People concerning horses did not match those of Europeans: Horses were spiritual companions.
- Unique breeds of horses: horses with different phenotypes, less than 13 hands tall, wider, larger lungs, more friendly, sturdier, more tolerant of heat or cold.
- Native American horses particular to horse nations: the Lakota, Nakota, Cheyenne, Mayan, Kiowa, Apache, Ojibwe, Mohawk, Ute, and Pueblo.
We’ve found horse stories and culture. What images of horses can we find from pre-Columbian times?
Writing and Pictographs (very abbreviated list)
- Alabama site, Dr. Joseph B. Mahan of Columbus, Georgia said, “We kept finding small sculpted horses in nearby Alabama in a site we thought was older than the sixteenth century”
- Arkansas and Oklahoma, pre-Columbian horse petroglyphs found by Gloria Farley.
- Eastern California petroglyph of horse and rider more than 1000 years old.
- Blythe, CA horse geoglyph, the Blythe Intaglios 900 BCE to 1200 CE. (see photo).
- Ancient Tennessee Cave Paintings of horses.
- Sego Canyon Thompson Springs, UT Petroglyphs: Fremont culture CE 600 to 1250.
- Dinosaur National Monument UT & CO Horse petroglyphs.
- Three Rivers NM, Arches National Park, Moab UT Horse petroglyphs.
- Maya tomb vessel with a horse painting.
- Maya glyph with a horse in Guatemala.
- Alto de Pitis, southern Peru, horse petroglyph in Pre-Columbian rock art.
However, not all the petroglyphs have been dated conclusively. Could there be any pre-Columbian horse bone evidence?
- Pre-Columbian horse remains are at sites in: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming and the Yukon.
- Canyon de Chelly, AZ horse petroglyphs from 200-100 BCE (end of article photo)
- Carlsbad, CA contains horse remains from 50 years before Spanish, unshod.
- Wolf Spider cave, Colorado, Elaine Anderson, expert on Equus identification, bones dated to CE (scientific term for AD) 1260 – 1400.
- Horsethief Cave, WY, Dr. Patricia Fazio tested a horse bone dating to c. 1100 BCE, using thermoluminescent methods.
- Pratt Cave, TX, Equus samples from near El Paso, Texas, by Prof. Ernest Lundelius of Texas A&M University. Horse bone from Pratt Cave dated to BCE 6020 – 5890.
- Black Forks River, Wyoming, horse skeleton dated to CE 1426 – 1481.
- Stevens Village, on the Yukon River, permafrost sediment DNA analysis: Sediments from 7,600 to 10,500 years ago contained mammoth and horse DNA. American Museum of Natural History.
- Mayapán, Yucatán, México; Horse teeth found in a Mayapán cenote, a Maya capital until about CE 1440.
- Huechil Grotto at Loltún, Yucatán, México; horse bone fragments recovered from levels VII to II of the excavation, which also contained Classic and Preclassic ceramics before 900 CE. (indigenous civilization with pre-Columbian horses).
We’ve found Native and European testimonials, seen the cultural and pictorial evidence and scoured the archeological evidence. Then why do scientists continue to date horse petroglyphs and bones as post-Columbian by reflex rather than by the scientific method and carbon dating? What’s the stumbling block considering the overwhelming evidence? Racism is one strong candidate. They couldn’t have horses because they’re not like us. So they didn’t have horses. How invested are we in our opinions of the First People as barbarians and savages? We chose not to see these Nations’ merit and accomplishments.
Colonialism is another major contender. Dr. Running Horse Collin talks about these notions Europeans had about the Native Americans; We are better than you. Everything you are is because of us. You stole the horses from us. Aren’t you lucky we taught you about horses? This goes hand in hand with racism. Colonialism uses Academia to erase and redefine culture. Yet, somehow the stories about horses remain.
The facts line up. I am convinced that horses never left the Americas. Once you examine the evidence, decide for yourself. Who do you believe, the people who lived here first or the people who came afterwards?
What are your thoughts? Looking forward to your comments.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca
#petroglyph #horse #truthabouthorses