Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Long History of Horses in America – Part I

The genesis of the “Horse Extinction” and “Stray Horse” theories in the Americas have a long and purposeful legacy in our history. According to most historians, geographers, and anthropologists, the American Indians knew nothing about horses until the 17th century, although much evidence exists to show otherwise. Political, religious, and economic motives were behind the emergence of theories that the New World was “isolated” from the Old World and that the indigenous people (Indians) did not have any horses until after Columbus.
The Indigenous Indians of the plains claimed to have had horses for thousands of  year

When reports surfaced to the contrary about Indians having horses before Columbus in opposition to the accepted dogma, it was dismissed by academic leaders as being groundless “fables.” As an example, claims by elders of the Sioux, Nez Perce, Chippewa, and Pawnee Tribes that their ancestors “always had horses” were cast aside by the academic authorities as being “wishful thinking.” In reality there were several powerful movements combined to crush and stifle claims that ancestors of the Plains Indians had horses and “horse culture” for thousands of years. The first force to emerge came with the War of 1812.
    Citizens of the young American Republic resented their British Heritage. After “Redcoats” burned the White House (in retaliation for raids by John Paul Jones along the English seacoast), Americans turned away from their British roots.
    At this opportune moment following the war, Washington Irving, an American intellectual who had gained popularity in Europe as a writer with works likeHistory of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828) and A Chronicle of Granada (1829). His three-year interlude in Spain also resulted in The Alhambra (1832), an evocative collection of legends and sketches. Upon his return to America in 1832, he published A Tour on the Prairies (1835), an autobiographical account; Astoria (1836), a narrative about John Jacob Astor's ill-fated commercial enterprise on the northwest Pacific Coast; and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A. (1837).
    These works were very successful, and he was tumultuously welcomed by his compatriots. For the rest of his career he enjoyed their virtually unanimous esteem. 
    Upon his writing the exciting book, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, after the War of 1812, his popularity and intellectualism went a long way in popularizing the event leading to the discovery of America, and captured the imaginations of disenchanted former British Colonists, dovetailing nicely with a campaign by Pope Pius 9th to have Columbus sainted.
    In America, following the massive industrial buildup in the Northern States to win the Civil War, the Senate and the US Congress became private clubs for wealthy industrialists and real-estate developers. Whereas the “Founding Fathers” of America had promoted isolation, neutrality, and non-interference in foreign affairs, the New Senate believed that the opposite strategy was preferable—at least when it came to making profits. Railroad barons (who had the Senate behind them) wanted to abolish the Indian Treaties. They sought to open up the Western Frontier to “Civilization.” Therefore, the Indians and their “Reservations” had to go.
The Chicago World’s Fair, or 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition—Looking West from the Peristyle, Court of Honor and Grand Basin

By sponsoring the “Chicago World’s Fair” (also called the Columbian Exposition), the US Senate hoped to reeducate the American public with a new hero—Columbus. He embodied the qualities and vision of an empire-builder. Indeed, it was due to the Columbus voyages that Spain gained sovereignty over profitable colonies from Florida to Argentina. Obviously, Columbus was an excellent hero for promoting the goals of economic expansion into the Western Indian Frontier and to overseas colonies.
    After 1859, anti-Darwinists joined in the campaign to promote Columbus as a new National Hero. A leading Swiss-French botanist, Alphonse de Candolle, added his weight to the pro-Columbus Movement by declaring that the Spanish mariner was the first to bring vital New World plants (such as maize, pineapples, pumpkins, and potatoes) back to the Old World in 1492.
    Pro-Columbus biologists declared that horses became extinct following the last Ice Age; and anthropologists promoted their own theory that all the Indians acquired “horse culture” after Columbus brought the first horses from Spain to the New World. None of these claims were ever proven in a scientific manner. They were simply the implied consequences of the “Isolationist Paradigm” that presumed the New World and Old World were isolated from contact until after God chose Columbus to discover America.
    The 1892-1893 Columbian Exposition had an enormous impact on Americans and the world. More than 26 million people viewed the exhibits. Spinoff public media and educational programs impacted practically everyone else in the Country (about 150 million people). These programs were endorsed by Presidents William H. Harrison and Grover Cleveland, and almost everyone adopted this revised “history.”
Columbus contemplating on the shores of Lisbon his future voyage to what turned out to be a New World that joined the old with the new lands

In 1992, the US Government sponsored the Columbus “Quincentennial Celebration.” New festivities featured a yearlong exhibit at the National Museum, the Smithsonian Institution. Called “The Seeds of Change,” the National Exhibit praised Columbus for uniting two previously isolated hemispheres and for bringing horses, maize, potatoes, and sugarcane across the Atlantic Ocean. A vast majority of university professors and public teachers participated in spreading this unsubstantiated “history” for the simple reason that: 1) they believed it was true; and 2) their jobs were closely tied to supporting the traditional educational and governmental agendas.
    As early as the 1700s, the geologic time scale was being developed, and seriously a part of American intellectual thinking by the late 17th century. The first grouping of periods into eras and the subdivision of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods in the early 1800s.
    In 1841 John Phillips published the first global geologic time scale based on the types of fossils found in each era. Phillips' scale helped standardize the use of terms like Paleozoic ("old life") which he extended to cover a larger period than it had in previous usage, and Mesozoic ("middle life") which he invented. As early as the 1820s, the idea that horses had anciently become extinct in America was well founded. The evolutionary dogma being spread was that “The end of the Pleistocene epoch—the geological period roughly spanning 12,000 to 2.5 million years ago, coincided with a global cooling event and the extinction of many large mammals. Evidence suggests North America was hardest hit by extinctions. This extinction event saw the demise of the horse in North America.
    In the Annales Zoologici Fennici journal, published by the Finish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board, Augusto Azzaroli, former Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Florence, was a geologist and palaeontologist considered among the greatest of the second half of the last century, wrote an article regarding the origin and extinction of the monodactyly (one-toed) Equus horses in the Western Hemisphere (Vol.28, Florence Italy, 1992, pp151-163).
Hippidion (meaning little horse) is an extinct genus claimed to have lived in South America from the Pliocene to the mid-Holocene

Azzaroli also stated that “there were never critical periods of mass extinction and many species disappeared through evolutionary change, resulting in the radiation of the final Pleistocene. The South American genera Hippidion and Onohippidium also dispersed widely and survived into the final Pleistocene or early Holocene with an unknown, but  probably restricted number of species. In view of their remarkable capacity of adaptation, the dramatic decline of equids in number of species…can hardly have been caused by climatic factors alone and is believed to be largely the result of prehistoric overkill.”
    An article published in BYU Studies Quarterly shows some strong support for the validity of the Book of Mormon's claims and examines several possibilities that explain the apparent lack of horses as noted by the first European explorers. Some of this information is also in An LDS Guide to the Yucatán.
(See the next post, “The Long History of Horses in America – Part II,” for more regarding the horses in America nearly everyone denies)

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