Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Development of Horses in America – Part V

Continued from the previous post regarding horses in the Americas.
    In 1785, the Royal British Cartographer, William Faden, indicated that a Tribe called “Wachipaunnes” (Wachipa Unnes) was located in Montana.
Lewis and Clark discovering the Chopunish or Nez Perce toward the headwaters of the Missouri River

Lewis & Clark came upon them in 1806 alongside the headwaters of the Missouri River in Idaho. In the entry made in Clark’s journal, the explorer indicated that “a tribe of Chopunish” or Nezperces  (people of the “pierced nose”), of the Walla-Walla and Kooskooskee countries,” was noted for its beautiful spotted horses—the Appaloosas). The Chopunish were also identified fifty years later by French trappers as the Nez Percé They were situated along the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon. It might be of interest to know that these Choppunish, who were near the Chinuc tribe, and both were south of the Wakash and Atnah tribes, from the mountains to the falls of the Oregon or Columbia River, and according to C. S. Rafinesque, both spoke the Lenapian language, buried their dead in sepulchers, formed of boards constructed like the roof of a house. They were an extremely amiable mannered people, with a placid and gentle character rarely moved into passion, yet not often enlivened by gaiety.
The tribes location and areas of control

Their living quarters in the village of Tumachemootool was only a single house one hundred and fifty feet long and forty feet wide, in the Chopunish fashion with sticks, straw and dried grass, or built of boards and covered with bark. It contained twenty-four fires about double that number of families, and might perhaps muster a hundred fighting men, making five hundred people in a single house. The interior of the house was entirely above ground, under one roof, divided into seven distinct apartment containing three or four families, each thirty feet square, by means of broad boards set upon end from the floor to the roof, with a single passage or alley four feet wide, extending through the whole depth of the house, and the only entrance is from the ally through a small hole about twenty inches wide and not more than three feet high (Lewis H. Morgan, Houses and Houser-Life of the American Aborigines, Department of the Interior, U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1881).
    One of the Indian artifacts found by archeologists and dated by radiocarbon analysis is the Utz-Oneota Tablet (c.1300). The Tablet shows a horse being pierced by an arrow. Artworks by Nez Perce warriors show them riding Asian-like horses not the large, heavy Spanish mounts.
    In 1936, Jim Utz unearthed an engraved catlinite tablet—Catlinite, also called pipestone, a type of argillite (metamorphosed mudstone), usually brownish-red in color, which occurs in a matrix of Sioux Quartzite, while plowing his fields near Van Meter State Park, which had just been established four years earlier. The tablet measured approximately 9 inches long, 6 inches wide and ½ inch thick. The location of this discovery, on the south side of the Missouri River in Saline County, later understood to be a former Missouria Indian village and now designated the Utz Site, a National Historic Landmark.
The ancestral people preceding the Missouria tribe, who also lived on the Utz site, are defined as Oñeota. Other Oñeota materials found at the Utz site include incised shell-tempered pottery, snub-nosed scrapers, triangular projectile points, and catlinite pipes and tablets. J. Allen Eichenburger of the Missouri Archaeological Society studied the Utz tablet in 1961 and made castings, then outlined each design in a different color. The original catlinite tablet etchings had no color or at least no color survived; so the coloring is really an interpretive device added in the study of the tablet (Eichenberger, Investigations of the Marion-Ralls Archaeological Society in Northeast Missouri, Missouri Archaeologist, Columbia, 1944).
    Archaeologist Robert T. Bray, who excavated the Utz site through the 1960’s, published this tablet, along with other tablets found in central Missouri and elsewhere. On the main surface (obverse side) of the tablet is a series of scratches or etchings that form several designs superimposed on one another (The Missouri Archaeologist, Vol.25, National Archaeological Data Base, 1963).
Ancient Wooden Saddles

Another issue to consider is the famed Indian saddle for their horses. Several writers have speculated that the Plains Indians didn’t know how to make saddles until they learned the craft from Spanish cowboys. The Spanish saddle consisted of a solid wooden foundation that had a curved bottom that fit snugly on top of a horse’s back; and an inverse curved surface with a leather covering provided a seat for the rider’s bottom.
    However, this style of saddle was actually unknown among the Plains Indians, who preferred riding bareback or with a small pad. Riding ponies was not as difficult as sitting on a large war horse with full armor. The heavy horses that carried armored cavalry were often huge and difficult to manage. Indians and Mongols preferred light horses, or ponies. Typically, they wrapped their feet around the horse’s chest. This manner of riding was impossible with a heavy horse
Bows used by Marco Polo and by the Hidatsa “Dog Dancer” were essentially the same kind of weapon. It took a skilled Indian craftsman a whole month to build the complex weapon – going through all the same steps that were followed in Mongol and Chinese craft shops.
    It should be noted that the Spanish horse was mentioned in the writings of Homer and Xenophon, was the same horse breed of war horse of the Carthaginians, Romans, Moors and Conquistadors of Mexico. The Spanish-Iberian heavy horse was great for carrying an armored rider; but it had little appeal to Indians who liked riding light, fast, and agile. But to the, Conquistadors it was essential. On their Spanish Horses, they were seen as Centaurs, so at one were they with their horses during the conquest of Mexico and Peru.
    It was only after Spanish governors turned their interests towards developing haciendas, industries, and cattle ranches that the military suppliers in Barcelona began importing light horses into New Spain.
Huge herds of horses existed in North and South America before any Spanish horses could have developed so much in the short time
Yet, in the American Southeastern Woodlands there were so many horses that American historians were initially inclined to think that they were strays from expeditions by Ponce de Leon (1513) and Hernando De Soto (1540-45). However, most early Spanish explorers brought heavy mounts that were not of much interest to the Indians. Scholars now accept the interpretation that neither De Leon nor De Soto contributed significantly to the Indian horse population of North America.
    The principal Spanish light horse was an Arabian breed that was developed principally for speed, endurance, and agility—all of which were needed for controlling cattle. While it is thought that later, after the introduction of the Spanish war horse, George Catlin made a sketch of a Crow Chief’s stallion in Montana in 1851. This horse is not the same as previous Indian ponies, but like the Andalusian breed—with a prominent neck, elegant head, and powerful body. This was a medium build horse somewhere between light and heavy, and an excellent mount for parades or warfare; but on a buffalo hunt, where a faster, more-agile mount, was needed and preferred.
    While “hard” evidence is limited, the study of how the horse was depicted in early Indian art as well as early colonial art, suggests that the small, fast, ponies of the American Indian as well as those in pre-Columbia Central and South America, suggest that the horse had always existed in the Americas and that the American Indian has horses long before the Spanish arrived.

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