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Message-Id: <25031222195644@vms2.macc.wisc.edu>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 1995 22:20:57 -0600
From: (Anj Petto) <ajpetto@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: Horses and Euro/Native Contact

Horses and Euro/Native Contact

Citations compiled by by Andrew J. Petto
12 March 1995.

Key references for this subject include some oldy goldies:

  1. John Ewers: The Horse in Blackfeet Indian Culture (Smithsonian, 1985)
    Frank Raymond Secoy: Changing Military Patterns on the Great Plains (17th-19th c) (Monographs of the AES, 1953)
    Bernard Mishkin: Rank and Warfare Among the Plains Indians (Monographs of the AES, 1940)

    These are not so much about cultural ecology, but may contain some leads. I can't think of more recent treatments off hand, but if you hear of any I'd be curious to hear what they are.

    Ann McMullen
    Curator of North American Ethnology, Milwaukee Public Museum

  2. There's a nice essay by the late Symmes C. Oliver entitled: "Ecology and Cultural Continuity as Contributing Factors in the Social Organization of the Plains Indians" appearing in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. 48 (1) 1962. It was reprinted in Yehudi Cohen's Man in Adaptation:The Cultural Present (Aldine: 1968).

    Best, Dave Smith

  3. There was an interesting piece comparing the changes that came with the horse on the Plains, with the early Kurgan culture. The reference is "Kurgan Culture" and the Horse." Current Anthropology Vol. 27, No. 4, August-October, 1986.

    Yours, Ray Scupin
    Sociology/Anthropology Dept., Lindenwood College, 209 S. Kingshighway St. Charles, MO 63301
    314-949-4730 (Office);
    314-949-9244 (Home); 314-949-4910 (Fax)

  4. Graham, R.B. Cunninghame. THE HORSES OF THE CONQUEST (American edition published by University of Oklahoma Press, 1949. First published in England in 1930).

    Anita Cohen-Williams; Reference Services; Hayden Library Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1006 PHONE: (602) 965-4579 FAX: (602) 965-9169 INTERNET: IACAGC@ASUVM.INRE.ASU.EDU Owner: HISTARCH

  5. An interesting article on the horse culture is by either Patricia Albers or Beatrice Medicine titled "When The Horse Came Hell Began" which "deconstructs" the sexism of the squaw image perpetrated by white historians and ethnographers. It appeared in the Montana Journal. It gives a more reasoned view of the impact wrought by the horse culture on Native Americans.
  6. Date: Wed, 01 Feb 95 09:10:57
    From: tkavanag@ucs.indiana.edu
    Subject: More on Horses and Women on the Plains

    The article in question is "Hell Came with Horses: Plains Indian Women in the Equestrian Era" by Dr. Margot Liberty (_Montana_, 1982). It is a good article for a state history magazine. But I don't think Margot would call it exactly "'[deconstucting]' the sexism of the squaw image"; indeed, I don't think she uses the word 'squaw' at all. What she does point out is that Plains Indian cultures of classic times have been so male- dominated in their general image as to almost totally obscure the women who constituted the other half of the story.

    Note that it is not simply "white historians and ethnographers" who produced this skewed result, but the classic Plains cultures were themselves male-dominated.

    Her basic argument is that [in Paleo times] small hunting and gathering bands in which relative equality between men and women prevailed. From this baseline the addition of river bottom gardening technology ... allowed women in some groups ... to increase their personal contribution to the basic food supply and thus to rise in prestige ... The hunting and gathering peoples, meanwhile, continued the old traditions, until the introduction of horses created a genuine revolution. There was then geometric expansion of ... male and warrior enterprises ... led to a sharp plunge in women's rights and prerogatives. The gardening tribes were badly shattered by invasion and disease during equestrian times, but women's status among them appears to have remained at a relatively high level.

    My own concern is the image of the Paleo group as "small hunting and gathering bands." If the reconstruction suggested in my other post is valid, then Paleo groups, such as the group that produced the Olsen-Chubbock site, could have been upwards of several hundred people. This, of course, says nothing about the relative egalitarism within the group.

    On the other hand, it certain is probable that with the increased production of buffalo hides for sale/trade to Euro-Americans that came in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was an increased demand for women's labor as hide dressers. But this did not result in an increased status for the indidivual woman, rather it resulted in polygamy.

    Thomas Kavanagh, Curator of Collections

    Mathers Museum, Indiana University

  7. Warning LONG POST!

    Andrew Petto asks about review articles on horses on the Plains. Unfortunately, there are no good recent ones. Most folks would begin with Chad Oliver's 1962 "Ecology and Cultural Continuity..." However, there are serious flaws with that argument, most seriously because he begins with the Mooney- Kroeber-Eggan-Lowie position that the Plains were unoccupied before the horse, or at best by 'skulkers in the woods.' Moreover, as Waldo Wedel has pointed out, this model is more the result of the absence of archaeological evidence.

    A more ecologically sound model would take into account the interactiosn between several variables: buffalo, horses, and people. Since earliest times resource domains on the Plains have been derived from the buffalo. Unfortunately, there are no good first-hand descriptions of hunting until the nineteenth century, long after the addition of the horse. But several general inferences can be made from other sources. While individual or small group stalking is no doubt of extreme antiquity, the most productive pre-horse hunting technique was the trap, fall, or pound (Ewers 1955:302-4). The archaeological evidence for the productivity of pre-horse buffalo hunting techniques reaches back to at least the Olsen-Chubbock event, ca. 8500 B. C. That day, almost 200 animals were killed; the 150 fully butchered animals yielded some 60,000 pounds of "usable" meat, plus another 10,000 pounds of tallow, marrow, and "variety" meat. Depending upon several variables, including percentage of meat preserved and the presence of dogs, the product could have fed 50 people--with no dogs--for over three months, or 100 people and 100 dogs for 22 days (Wheat 1972:121). Even then, only 75 of the kill was butchered, 150 animals out of 200 killed, a probably standard percentage; fuller utilization of the kill might have added another several thousand pounds of meat, with a concomitant increase in either the supportable population or the duration of the organization, but not both.

    Such hunts required organization and coordination. They required investment in an infrastructure, at least a knowledge of the potentials of the terrain for traps or falls, greater for an investment of labor in the corral, pound, and drive lines. They required an ideology and social structure that could mobilize and organize the combined labor of a number of people. Ethno- historically reported communal pounds and drives among horse poor groups were under the direction of the "pound-maker," often, but not necessarily, a shaman, who distributed the meat and hides to all present for further processing and final consumption. Such an economy was redistributional, with a flow into and out of a center. In turn, the control of this redistribution would have been the source of political power. Depending on specific conditions, a trap needed at least 24 grown males (Frison 1971:89). Lowie (1909) reported that the horse-poor Assiniboines made drive lines two miles long which were manned every ten feet; this is probably an over-generalization, for at such figures, some 2,112 people would have been required for the lines. Even at twice the distance between drivers, several hundred people would have been required. However, depending upon the successes of the hunts, such large numbers of people could have been supported by the technology, and there is ethnohistorical evidence for large assemblages. Arthur (1975:111) notes that "the Assiniboine were noted for their large winter camps," often in the range of 200- 300 lodges. At 8 persons per lodge, some 1,600-2,400 people could have been in these camps.

    It was into such a situation that horses were introduced. The initial effect of the horse would have been to expand the range of search parties and to ease the job of maneuvering the animals to the traps. In doing so, the horse would have added a new source of economic and political power: by controlling access to his horses, a horse owner--there are no reports of communal ownership of horses--could control access to the products of the hunt. But as the horse population grew, the necessity of cooperation in buffalo hunting decreased: individual horse- mounted buffalo hunters could produce as much as pedestrian communal hunts with significantly less infra-structural and structural costs. Thus, in political terms, the horse would have democratized access to the buffalo, transforming its economic role from being the basis of the political economy to being primarily an object in the domestic economy.

    However, other processes intervened. The largest post-horse hunts were the so-called running hunts, in which mounted hunters charged the herds in a coordinated attack under the direction of a chief hunter, and with the enforcement of hunt rules by a police force. The political importance of these hunts lies not in their productive activity--a single horse mounted hunter was more efficient in terms of input/output ratios--but in their restrictions upon that production. As in the coincident economic revolution in Euro-America, having access to the means of production was not sufficient to control political power, restricting access of others was equally important in maintaining power. This is what the men's societies-as-police did. As Ewers notes of the Blackfeet, police regulation of the summer hunt . . . preserved the fiction of equal opportunity for all. Actually, it enabled the owner of the fastest running horse to get first chance at the herd and deprived the poor man, who owned no buffalo horse of the right to hunt. It is obvious that under such conditions the poor would have been much worse off then they would have been under pre-horse conditions, when every family participated actively in the hunt and shared of its spoils, unless special provisions were made for their benefit. The Blackfoot adopted two measures necessary for the welfare of the poor: (1) the loaning of buffalo horses . . . and (2) the presentation of outright gifts of meat. [1955:305] In adding to the prestige of the already wealthy, these "special provisions" served to maintain the existing distribution of social power as well as drawing supporters into the circle of power. Thus, although buffalo retained an importance in the household domestic economy and in the cosmology after the introduction of the horse, they constituted a direct political resource domain only insofar as access was controllable. The advent of the horse meant that controlling access to the buffalo was transformed from a direct to an indirect political resource domain; conversely, insofar as changes in domestic economy could affect the political climate, the buffalo retained a political significance. One of the most historically important of such changes was that by the first third of the nineteenth century, the "Little Ice Age" precipitation cycle, begun in the 1500s and resulting in increased buffalo and human populations, had reversed. This initiated a general decline in the buffalo carrying capacity leading to increasing pressures on the herds by the existing human population. This pressure was exacerbated by first the forced migration of eastern Indians, and later by the presence of white hide hunters. These latter not only decimated the remaining herds, but their very commercial activity bypassed the Indians as producers of hides, whose trade had been an important source of individual income, and whose control was an important political resource domain for their chiefs.

    At the same time, given an increased population in the period 1500-1800, there would also be increased intergroup pressures; thus one would expect wars of territorial exclusion, and with increasingly structured military actions (Reher 1977:35). The appearance of stockaded villages on the Middle Missouri during this period, antedating the horse, suggests such pressures. Increased tensions would also place a value on military capability. Pre-horse battles on the Plains were fought between opposing lines of what may be called heavy infantry, armored and with shields, who shot arrows at each other from the protection of a shield wall until "one chief decided to substitute shock for fire" and ordered a charge. The battle then ended with a hand-to-hand melee (Thompson 1916; Secoy 1953:34).

    The horse would not have immediately disrupted the aboriginal military patterns. Along with the horse came the heavy cavalry tactics of the Spaniards including mass shock attacks by leather-armored horsemen (Secoy 1953:18). Like the heavy infantry tactics of pre-horse battles, these depended on discipline and coordination for their effectiveness, and required definite leadership. But the use of such heavy cavalry tactics by Indians would have been offset until the number of horses available surpassed a certain undefinable risk level; if horses were primarily used in hunting, there was a risk to their economic value in using them in warfare. Later, however, the general mode of acquisition of the horse by aiding emphasized the light cavalry tactics stereotypical of later Plains warfare. Such coordinated efforts were maintained for the large-scale wars. Moreover, soon after the introduction of the horse came that of the gun, providing both a long range defense against the shock tactics of heavy cavalry as well as emphasizing the value of light tactics.

    Shimkin (1947) described the interaction of these forces, "More horses would have meant closer pursuit of the buffalo, better defense in war . . . but also less fodder per head, consequently more frequent moving, and temptation to horse raiders. Fewer horses would have meant longer stays, but poorer defense, less close pursuit of the buffalo" (1947:268). Thus, by devaluating the prestige system built on the relative number of horses owned, by devaluating the need for social nucleation in hunting, and simply because increased horses put a strain on the immediate resources, increased absolute numbers of horses were a force for atomization. Counterposed were forces stressing societal maintenance. In particular, the increased population density brought about by both internal population growth and by migration to the Plains by peripheral peoples brought increased pressures towards military organization and tribal nationalism.

    Thomas Kavanagh, Curator of Collections
    Mathers Museum, Indiana University

Andrew J. Petto, PhD, Associate Director
Center for Biology Education
666 WARF, University of Wisconsin
610 North Walnut Street
MADISON WI 53705-2397

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