For Native Americans today, horses endure as an emblem of tradition and a source of pride, pageantry, and healing.

Horses had opened new possibilities. They relieved women of some onerous duties, such as lugging possessions from camp to camp. They tipped the balance, in population growth and territorial expansion, between hunting tribes and farming tribes, favoring the former.

They also replaced the only previously domesticated animal in North America, the dog, which was much smaller and weaker and had to be fed meat. A horse could live off the land, eating what people and dogs didn’t want: grass. When drought or winter snows made grass unavailable, it could even survive on cottonwood bark.

You embrace skills and a passion that have come down from your ancestors; you learn the skills from your elders and make the passion your own; you become proficient, then expert, then generous with your expertise; you care for your animals smartly and lovingly; you pass the favor along to younger kin. You make your family proud and whole. That’s the ultimate Indian relay.

Many Native American tribes and families held certain horses in high regard as Spirit or Medicine horses. The designation was made for horses with unusual markings.

These horses could range from appaloosas with a 'bearpaw' or ‘handprint' marking in its spotting to paints or pintos with an unusually shaped spot or spots (Medicine Hat or War Bonnet markings were highly prized) to the solid colored animal with an unusual facial marking.

Many so-called Spirit or Medicine horses also had blue eyes which were often called Sky-eyes or Heaven-eyes and added to the mystique which surrounded them.

The term Spirit or Medicine horse could also be placed on a more 'normally' marked horse who had shown its owner some unusual talent or power, such as alerting its rider to danger that the rider/owner hadn't discerned or being able to find game


Indian Museum Horses from winter on Vimeo.

Responses to "Stunning Images Showcase Native American Women with Sacred Horses of America"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful photos.
    There is much evidence to suggest Indigenous people have had relationships with horses for millions of years. The Euro-centric narrative that horses were brought to the Americas by the Spaniards has been debunked.

  2. Anonymous says:


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