Monthly Archives: March 2012
Saving the Nokota Horses from Extinction
On a lonesome farm in Linton, North Dakota something wonderful is taking place. Frank Kuntz and his brother, Leo have taken on the difficult task of trying to resurrect a wonderful horse breed that was on it’s way to extinction if they had not stepped in. The two brothers are trying to preserve a piece of history that being the Nokota horse.
It is not only a story about bringing the Nokota horse back from the brink, but a story of the passion of the people who have put their entire lives into making certain the Nokota will be here for generations to come. The Nokota horse is believed by some to be descended from Sitting Bull’s buffalo ponies. It was long forgotten it seemed until that fateful day when Frank and his brother discovered them in a National Park in North Dakota.
The Woman Who Became a Horse
BACKGROUND | STORYTELLER
The Skidi Pawnee Legend
There was a village, and the men decided to go on a warpath. So these men started, and they journeyed for several days toward the south. They came to a thickly wooded country. They found wild horses, and among them was a spotted pony. One man caught the spotted pony and took care of it. He took it home, and instructed his wife to look after it, as if it were their chief.
This she did, and, further, she liked the horse very much. She took it where there was good grass. In the winter time she cut young cottonwood shoots for it, so that the horse was always fat. In the night, if it was stormy, she pulled a lot of dry grass, and when she put the blanket over the horse and tied it up, she stuffed the grass under the blanket, so the horse never got cold. It was always fine and sleek.
She followed him until they came to where the horse had been, and the man said, “You went with me. It is I who was a horse.”
She was glad, for she liked the horse. For several years they were together, and the woman gave birth, and it was a spotted pony. When the pony was born, the woman found she had a tail like that of a horse. She also had long hair. When the colt sucked, the woman stood up.
For several years they roamed about, and had more ponies, all spotted. At home the man mourned for his lost wife. He could not make out why should go off.
People went on a hunt many years afterward, and they came across these spotted ponies. People did not care to attack them, for among them was a strange looking animal. But, as they came across them now and then, they decided to catch them. They were hard to catch, but at last they caught them, all but the woman, for she could run fast; but as they caught her children, she gave in and was caught.
People said, “This is the woman who was lost.” And some said, “No, it is not.”
Her husband was sent for, and he recognized her. He took his bow and arrows out and shot her dead, for he did not like to see her with the horse’s tail. The other spotted ponies were kept, and as they increased, they were spotted. So the people had many spotted ponies.
The Salish Legend
A chief had many horses, and among them a stallion which his wife often rode. The woman and stallion became enamored of each other. The woman grew careless of her household duties and always wanted to look after the horses.
When the people moved camp, and the horses were brought in, it was noticed that the stallion made right for the woman and sniffed about her as stallions do with mares.
After this she was watched. When her husband learned the truth, he shot the stallion. The woman cried and would not go to bed.
At daybreak she was gone, no one knew where. About a year after this it was discovered that she had gone off with some wild horses. One day when the people were traveling over a large open place they saw a band of horses, and the woman among them. She had partly changed into a horse. She also had much hair on her body, and the hair of her head had grown to resemble a horse’s mane. Her arms and legs had also changed considerably; but her face was still human, and bore some resemblance to her original self. The chief sent some young men to chase her. All the wild horses ran away, but she could not run so fast as they, and was run down and lassoed. She was brought into her husband’s lodge; and the people watched her for some time, trying to tame her, but she continued to act and whinny like a horse. At last they let her free.
The following year they saw her again. She had become almost entirely horse, and had a colt by her side. She had many children afterwards.
Water Spirit’s Gift of Horses
A Blackfoot Legend
In the days before horses a poor orphan boy lived among the Blackfoot. Because he was so poor he knew that he could never obtain the things he wanted without the secret power of the gods. One day he left his camp to seek a vision that would tell him what he must do. He slept alone on a high mountain, he prayed near some great rocks, he fasted beside a river, but no vision came to him, no voice spoke to him. He traveled beyond the Sweetgrass Hills to a large lake, and because no sign of any kind had come to him he bowed down and wept.
In that lake lived a powerful Water Spirit, a very old man, and he heard the crying of the poor orphan boy. The Water Spirit sent his young son to find the boy and ask why he was crying. The son went to the weeping boy and told him that his father who lived in the lake wished to see him.
“But how can I go to him if he lives under the lake?” the poor boy asked.
“Hold on to my shoulders and close your eyes,” replied the Water Spirit’s son. “Don’t look until I tell you to do so.”
They started into the water. As they moved along, the Water Spirit’s son said to the boy: “My father will offer you your choice of the animals in this lake. When he does so, be sure to choose the oldest mallard of the ducks and all its young ones.”
As soon as they reached the underwater lodge of the Water Spirit, the son told the boy to open his eyes. He did so, and found himself standing before an old man with long white hair. “Sit beside me,” the Water Spirit said, and then asked: “My boy, why do you come to this lake crying?”
“I am a poor orphan,” the boy replied. “I left my camp to search for secret powers so that I may be able to make my way in the world.”
“Perhaps I can help you,” the Water Spirit said. “You have seen all the animals in this lake. They are mine to give to whom I wish. What is your choice?”
Great Spirit, I am Mother.
I was made by You so that the image of Your love
Could be brought into existence.
May I always carry with me
The sacredness of this honour.
Creator, I am Daughter.
I am the learner of the Traditions.
May I carry them forward
So that the Elders and Ancestors
Will be remembered for all time.
Maker-Of-All-Things, I am Sister.
Through me, may my brothers be shown
The manner in which I am to be respected.
May I join with my sisters in strength and power as a healing sheild
So that they will no longer bear the stain of abuse.
Niskam, I am Committed Partner:
One who shares her spirit,
But is wise to remember never to give it away,
Lest it become lost,
And the two become less than one.
I am Woman.
Freeman quoting a Hopi Prophecy
At the beginning of this cycle of time, long ago, the Great Spirit came down and He made an appearance and He gathered the peoples of this earth together they say on an island which is now beneath the water and He said to the human beings, “I’m going to send you to four directions and over time I’m going to change you to four colors, but I’m going to give you some teachings and you will call these the Original Teachings and when you come back together with each other you will share these so that you can live and have peace on earth, and a great civilization will come about.”
And he said, “During the cycle of time I’m going to give each of you two stone tablets. When I give you those stone tablets, don’t cast those upon the ground. If any of the brothers and sisters of the four directions and the four colors cast their tablets on the ground, not only, will human beings have a hard time, but almost the earth itself will die.”
And so he gave each of us a responsibility and we call that the Guardianship.
To the Indian people, the red people, he gave the Guardianship of the earth. We were to learn during this cycle of time the teachings of the earth, the plants that grow from the earth, the foods that you can eat, and the herbs that are healing so that when we came back together with the other brothers and sisters we could share this knowledge with them. Something good was to happen on the earth.
To the South, he gave the yellow race of people the Guardianship of the wind. They were to learn about the sky and breathing and how to take that within ourselves for spiritual advancement. They were to share that with us at this time.
To the West He gave the black race of people the Guardianship of the water. They were to learn the teachings of the water which is the chief of the elements, being the most humble and the most powerful.
To the North He gave the white race of people the Guardianship of the fire. If you look at the center of many of the things they do you will find the fire. They say a light bulb is the white man’s fire. If you look at the center of a car you will find a spark. If you look at the center of the airplane and the train you will find the fire. The fire consumes, and also moves. This is why it was the white brothers and sisters who began to move upon the face of the earth and reunite us as a human family.
And so a long time passed, and the Great Spirit gave each of the four races two stone tablets. Ours are kept at the Hopi Reservation in Arizona at Four Corners Area on 3rd Mesa.
Native Americans have always had many legends that span over thousands of years. Yet despite the many legends, the most sacred one involves the birth of a White Buffalo calf. There are countless stories about the White Buffalo, with a slightly different tale being told for every tribe. But the message is clear in all of them; The Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as a sign to begin mending life’s sacred hoop, to connect with each another and with our Mother Earth whom we must stop destroying. The White Buffalo is a very sacred sign and symbol to the Native Americans.
Although the buffalo in the U.S. are no where near the great numbers that they used to be, when they were flourishing they used to number between 60 – 80 million head. Under those favorable conditions, the chances of such an unusual white buffalo appearing was about 1 in 10 million. But although there are only approximately around 125,000 buffalo today, the odds against one being born have increased dramatically. There has been a spurt of white buffaloes born over the past 50 years or so. Native Americans are taking this as a sign that something profound is happening to our planet as well as to humanity.
About the Puberty Ceremony
What is the Coming of Age Ceremony?
The Winnemem Wintu have prayed for millennia along the McCloud River, at what was once a sprawling village known as Kaibai. Today, tourists go there to picnic, camp and park their powerboats. The U.S. Forest Service subcontracts with Shasta Recreation Company to operate the campground.
The Puberty Ceremony honors the coming of age for young women from the Tribe and sets the Tribal foundation of existence. The ceremony is planned in correspondence with lunar and seasonal cycles and lasts four days. It consists of the young woman camping on one side of the river for three nights, learning from older women who visit her there, grinding herbs and medicines at a sacred rock, known as Puberty Rock. On the fourth day, when the moon is full, the celebrant swims across the river and joins tribal dancers as a full-fledged woman.
“In Peace and Dignity”
In 2006, the Winnemem held the first Bałas Chonas in 85 years. Unfortunately the ceremony was marred by interference from boaters who yelled obscenities and “flashed” the young celebrant. Our ceremonies establish the fabric of this tribe. Experiencing racism of this magnitude indelibly stains this fabric.
After suffering the indignity of racial taunts and the threat of injury from boaters who refused to honor the voluntary closure of the River, the Tribe determined to never place our young people in that situation again and began the arduous task of trying to secure closure of the ceremonial area. In 2010 the Tribe once again returned to the River to celebrate the coming of age of two more of our young women. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe will hold Bałas Chonas this summer, and once again we struggle to ensure that this ceremony will be held in peace and dignity.