If you ask most horse people the history of the animal in North America, chances are it goes something like this. Sometime in the 15th Century, the Spaniards arrived on ships carrying steeds that helped the colonizers blaze a trail across the west. The indigenous people then learned how to capture, breed, train, and ride horses, all thanks to the European colonizers.
Not so fast. A new study supports a theory that the First Nations of the Great Plains have long stated as fact: that indigenous peoples have their own history with horses that predates the European invasion.
The study, published in the journal Science, provides evidence-based on archaeology and tribal oral history. The researchers used genetic and radiocarbon testing on horse skeletons located in museums and tribal nations that had never been tested before. The evidence proved that many of these horses had been fed, ridden, and in some cases been treated for ailments, long before the Europeans documented horses on the continent.
“To attribute the horse as Spanish because everyone knows all the horses went extinct in Americas — that isn’t going to work anymore,” Oglala Lakota researcher and co-author Yvette Running Horse Collin told The Hill.
These new discoveries are in part due to advances in science, but also due to European historians and researchers having the willingness to consider Indigenous oral history as legitimate sources for their work.