American Indian Horse

History 1800 - 1890
The Indian Horse Period

The Americans Arrive

     In 1803, with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by United States from France brought with it the invasion of the American settlers and army. The next one hundred years will see the Indian Horse Culture rise to its highest and then be destroyed.
     At the begining of the 1800's the Indian Horses were descendants of the Spanish Colonial Horse as were the Mustangs of the wild herds. Although the Indians did catch and gentle some of the mustangs it was easier to steal horses ranches, settlers, or other tribes. The southern tribes continued to make raids on the ranches in Mexico and what is now Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to trade with the tribes to the north.

     In the second-half of the 19th century European buffalo hunters, armed with powerful, long-range rifles, began killing the animal in large numbers. Individual hunters could kill 250 buffalo a day. By the 1880s over 5,000 hunters and skinners were involved in this trade. It is claimed that the killing of buffalo was supported by the U.S. military in order to undermine the survival of the Plains Indians.

"Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance." - General Philip Sheridan
     In 1800 there were around 60 million buffalo in North America. By 1890 this number had fallen to 750. The Plains Indians (Arapaho, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Kiowa, Sioux, Arikara, Mandan, Osage and Pawnee) had now no means of independent sustenance and had to accept the government policy of living on Indian Reservations.  Buffalo

     The building of the railroads, the moving in of homesteaders and ranchers onto Indian Land, and the killing of the buffalo brought about the Indian Wars. One military tactic was to kill or capture the Indian Horses.

     In 1881 Juh and Geronimo and their people left the reservation and headed for the Sierra Madre. In 1882 they carried out their most ambitious raid of all when they attacked San Carlos.
     After the death of Juh, Geronimo became the leader of the Apache warriors. He continued to carry out raids until he took part in peace talks with General George Crook. Crook was criticized for the way he was dealing with the situation and as a result he asked to be relieved of his command.
     General Nelson Miles replaced Crook and attempted to defeat Geronimo by military means. This strategy was also unsuccessful and eventually he resorting to Crook's strategy of offering a negotiated deal. In September 1886 Geronimo signed a peace treaty with Miles and the last of the Indian Wars was over.  End of Indian Wars

     Now all the Indians are confined to small reservations and being forced to become farmers (most of the time on land that is not fit for farmering) with one or two plow horses.

The Mustangs

     Originally these were Spanish horses or their descendants but over the years they became a mix of numerous breeds. These were the horses which changed the lives of the Native Americans living in or near the Great Plains. As European settlers came farther west they brought their horses with them. Some were lost to Indian raids, others were freed as wild stallions tore down fences to add the tame mares to his herd or tame horse escaped from settlers as the original horses had escaped from the Spanish. Draft breeding was among the horses which added to the Mustang herds. Also the Indians bartered and captured horses between tribes, making the distribution more complete.
     Herds of wild horses from the eastern United States were forced west by civilization and eventually crossed the Mississippi River and joined the western herds. French blood was introduced to the mix from herds pressured out of the Detroit area and from French settlers in the South in the region around New Orleans.
     Another breed that probably contributed to the blood of the Mustang is the old-type East Friesian. For a period of over 10 years during the late 1800s and early 1900s about 150 stallions each year were purchased by the U.S. government from Germany. The old-style East Friesian of that time was a heavy warmblood or coach horse and was purchased to pull artillery or heavy wagons. So wherever the US Army was found in battles in the west these horses were found, and undoubtedly some escaped and added their blood to that of the American Mustang.  Mustang Breed History

     In less than three hundred years some American Indian Tribes became some of the best horseman and light cavalry with some of the horses the world has known. The US Cavalry started using mustangs in order to keep up with the indians.
     For more see History 1880-Present Today's Indian Horse

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