Horse Origins: As told by the Kainai (Blood First Nation)

photo by: Carrie Tait, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 28, 2015 - Warrior Publications

Who best to ask about the true history of a culture other than that Nation of People themselves? In Dr. Yvette Running Horse Collin's PhD dissertation entitled, "The Relationship Between the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Horse: Deconstructing a Eurocentric Myth", numerous accounts are given by Peoples of various Nations from around Turtle Island about how the sacred horses came to their Peoples.

The following account is given by a Caretaker, Teacher, and Traditional Knowledge Bearer of the Kainai or Blood First Nation regarding acquisition of the horse and the theory that the Native Peoples of the Americas received the horse solely from Spanish stock.

“I will tell you a story what my great-grandmother told me. I remember these stories because I was raised by ‘the old ones’ they call it in our language. And basically, my grandmother raised me. And my great-grandma they believe was born in 1880 and she died in 1976 when she was 96 years-old and she told us a lot of stories about everything. And right until the day she died she chopped her own wood. She carried her own water. She didn’t want electricity or running water. She said that was not ... who we are. It wasn’t “us.” She was born before the first white man ever came to our settlements, our areas. And she told me a story about horses ... “Ponokomitta.” “Ponokomitta” means “Elk Dog.” That’s how we translate it, horses. And she said, way back in the old days a man was leaving for the Oomspahtsikoo, the sand hills, to go and do a vision. When we do visions, we do it for four days and four nights with no food or water. And he walked and walked and walked and walked. And he came to this area that was almost uninhabited because there was no food or water anywhere. And I think we call it the Palace Triangle now in this territory. And after days beyond his quest, he got lost. He didn’t know how to get back. So, he started seeing visions because he was dying. He was dying. No water, no food. And he seen this man riding this animal he’s never seen in his life. He was chasing a buffalo. And that man speared that buffalo right in the neck and the buffalo dropped. And he went running over there over the bluff to say, ‘Well, this man can save me. Hopefully he can feed me because I am dying.’ When he got there, there was nothing there. But in the ground, he seen this mouse, with this spear grass stuck in his neck. And he goes, ‘What the ... what am I seeing?’ All of a sudden over the bluff there he seen these ears popping up, and it came over more and more. And there was this herd of Ponokomitta. And he was looking at them and they were looking at him. And this was the time when horses could talk to you. I don’t mean how we talk with our mouth. But, through your minds. They walked up to him and they said, ‘We know you are dying. We are going to help you. We are going to help you and your people. The only thing we say is you take care of us forever. And you love us, and you love us divinely. And we will take care of you forever. And we will feed you and we will help you, clothe you and everything.’ So, he got on the lead horse and that lead horse took him back to the camp because he was lost. And off this whole herd comes with him back to the camp. And when they came in, they seen this man that was gone for days and he brought in all these horses. That’s how we got the horses. And we called them ‘Ponokomitta,’ ever since then, ‘Elk Dogs.’ So, that’s the story she told me of how we got the horses. I like that story better than anything else and this story, I’ve tried to search for it. This story that was told to me has never been written, and she told that to me ... And so, we’ve always calmly known we’ve always had the horses. Way before the settlers came. The Spanish have never come through our area. So, there’s no way they could have introduced that to us.”