A warm homecoming was waiting for four Ojibwe Spirit Horses, a nearly extinct breed that predates the American Mustang, when they arrived in Wiikwemikoong, which is Unceded Territory of the Wiikwemkong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario.

According to the Hamilton Spectator,  the small herd consists of three mares named Lucy, Three Sisters, and Thundercloud, as well as a gelding called Kind Moon Dancer.

An elderly woman in a chair patting a horse.

The horses promote “understanding self-compassion, being kind to ourselves and others, learning to heal and let go of all the things we carry, so we may move forward.” (Reflections Nanaandwejgejig Bezhigoogizhiik Facebook)

Marcia Manitowabi had been working on bringing the Ojibwe Spirit Horses back to her community for years. She had been in touch with one of the breed’s best-known breeders and advocates, Terry Jenkins, who operates TJ Stables in Chatham, Ontario, about getting some ponies north.

Eventually it was agreed that Jenkins would loan four ponies to their ancestral communities for two years. Manitowabi, who had been working in Equine Therapy in Sudbury, has changed her focus to a traditional Anishinabek-centred practice.

“For me, it’s about bringing these horses back to work to aid healing within our community. I have witnessed firsthand how they help us,” she tells the Spec. “This isn’t a riding program; it’s about our people connecting to the horses and allowing themselves to let go. Not many people remember the history of these ponies. By connecting with them, we are reclaiming parts of ourselves that we might not have even known as lost.”

She’s developed her own program called Reflections Nanaandwejgejig Bezhigoogizhiik, which means “healing horses.” Manitowabi says in the article that the project is designed around the horse’s “ability to aid with mental wellness recovery from issues like anxiety, depression, aggression and addiction.”

There will be group sessions for members of the First Nations communities of Manitoulin Island, including youth camps.