HOW IT BEGAN
"Our journey with these sacred animals began years ago with a gift from a friend during a time of great need. This friend lived on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, and had worked with horses his whole life. I (Yvette) was very ill, and there was nothing that medical professionals could do to help me.
This friend received a vision from Creator. He was to gift me his red-roan mare – the one that he always brought with him to spiritually protect him while he was praying in ceremony – and her newborn foal. While medical science had nothing left to offer me, these horses helped Creator to reach me at a time when I had lost faith and my body was failing.
As a result of this great gift, many miracles happened. We witnessed and experienced first-hand what the relationship between our People and these horses once was, and what it can be again. When we prayed with these animals, our ability to feel Heaven was amplified, and the power was strong. Not only was I able to receive help, in time I was completely cured. Creator spoke and it was so.
We wanted to grow closer to Creator, so our journey continued. We climbed Bear Butte (Noahȧ-vose "giving hill") to the Cheyenne in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is a mountain that our People have held sacred for centuries. When we reached the top, we prayed very hard for the world, for The People, and specifically for the women and children around the world who were suffering. We heard our ancestors clearly at the bottom of the mountain upon our return to “this world.” We were to find what was left of the most primitive of our People’s horses, preserve them, learn from them, experience Creator through them, and bring their story to the world.
In doing this, we discovered that in order to truly honor and understand these animals, we had to take most of the modern world’s “knowledge” about them and discard it. We found first hand, that such modern worldly views did not accurately describe their behavior, their nature, their genetic make-up, or their spirit. It did not “match up” with the way our Ancestors understood these animals to be. The caretakers of these animals were now scattered across North America, and they have become part of our extended family.
The Creator led us to various places around the United States and Canada where pockets of our people’s horses remained. Many of these places were far from people, far from “civilization,” geographically remote, or difficult to reach. Some of these places were ones where these horses were being held far away from their homes. In each place we found one or more caretakers. Many times these caretakers were of our People’s blood or they carried the traditional ways of the Ancestors in their hearts. They watched over, preserved, and guarded what few of these sacred animals remained on Mother Earth. Many of them had been praying to Creator and asking for Him to help to preserve the horses they loved for future generations.
We hooked up our horse trailer and we drove - in snow and ice, terrible heat, often without appointments, accurate directions, official time off work, or even knowing whether or not what we had been told by an Elder or heard in prayer could still be true. Would they still be where we had been told to go? South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Washington State, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Saskatchewan, and many other places.
Sacred Way Sanctuary is located in Florence, Alabama. We are an educational and research facility dedicated to the preservation of the Native American Horse and other animals that were held sacred to the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.
We are bordered by roughly two miles of streams that have been occupied by the Indigenous Peoples of the area since the Paleo period (from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.)
The Sanctuary lies on what was once part of the 1806 Congressional Reservation, the first Federal Indian Reservation in the United States.
The land, which had become a local dumping ground, took four years to restore.
There is no hunting or use of pesticides allowed on Sacred Way grounds, so deer, foxes, coyotes, beaver, otter, blue heron, and even eagles, have returned. It is now a safe home to the horses, buffalo, sheep and other animals that live here.
Our family ancestry traces to the Tribes that occupied this land and the Cherokee that were on the Tribal Rolls of this Reservation.
SWS Founders - Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin & Sean Collin
Our relatives ready to go to a new home in the SWS horse trailer
When we arrived at our destinations, we found the last surviving pockets of the descendants of the horses He gifted our People with the responsibility of caretaking long, long ago. So many miles … we hauled our trailer full of horses up and down mountains, along winding dirt roads, over rocky 4x4 trails. We burned through one truck and had to buy another.
At gas stations and restaurant parking lots people would look at the Sacred Way logos on our trailer and ask permission to “take a look.” They made comments like, “What are those?”… “Are those stripes on their legs?” and “Are they part zebra?” Domestic horse people would often comment, “Their bodies look so different than the horses I have at home.” Others would make comments such as, “I have never seen or heard that these horses even existed.” The “extinct” toured the country on their way home to Sacred Way, and they gathered interest and supporters wherever we stopped. Many people would stop to tell us about the Native blood that ran through their own veins and share “horse stories” that their Indian relatives had passed down to them. These horses touched their hearts. Whatever their physical condition may have been when we found them, these horses had great impact on people of all races, colors, and creeds."