Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Song for the Horse Nation

Where: National Museum of the American Indian

When: through January 7, 2013

This very large exhibit tells the story of the relationship between Native Americans and the horse.  It is one of the great stories of human contact with the animal world.  Without the horse, the history of the Native American people would be utterly different.  Native Americans see animals as fellow beings sharing a common destiny with humans, a different view than those of European descent have historically taken.

The horse originated in North America, then migrated elsewhere and died out in North America.  It returned to the continent with Columbus on his second voyage, in 1493.  In 1680, the Pueblo Indians staged a revolt against the Spanish in New Mexico, and 1500 horses passed into Native hands.  By the late 1700s, almost every tribe in North America was mounted.  Along with the spread of the horse, was the spread of firearms.  On display is a genuine Geronimo rifle.  I could not help but be reminded of the many hopeful people on "Antiques Roadshow" with their items they're just certain belonged to Geronimo or Sitting Bull.  I'm going to assume that the curators at the museum have authenticated this item.

One of the larger items on display is a Lakota tipi with horse decorations from the late 1800s.  The use of horse images shows how integral to their culture horses had become.  Horses transformed the lives of Native Americans in many ways, allowing them to travel longer distances and freeing women from many laborious tasks, thus giving them more time for creative pursuits.  Several famous people have been named for the horse, including former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Verdict: To see this in a lunch hour, you'll have to skim fairly quickly.  If you want to spend some serious time at this show, you'll need two hours easily.  Very informative and well laid out - worth the time, if you have it.

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