A Song for the Horse Nation, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
O’siyo. We are celebrating Native horsemanship and their horses for American Indian Heritage month. The exhibit “A Song for the Horse Nation” currently at the The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in D.C. will be going on the road after January 7, 2013. It is a wonderful exhibit that tells the story of Natives and their strong relationship with horses over the years. Horses have become an integral part of Native life. Among the items presented in the exhibit are special ceremonial regalia such as chest ornaments, saddle blankets, and fancy masks which were worn by the horses for special occasions. In addition there are paintings, toys for children, and articles of clothing that feature beautiful embroidery and beadwork depicting horses.
“The story of the relationship of Native peoples and horses is one of the great sagas of human contact with the animal world. Native peoples have traditionally regarded the animals in our lives as fellow creatures with which a common destiny is shared. When American Indians encountered horses—which some tribes call the Horse Nation—they found an ally, inspiring and useful in times of peace, and intrepid in times of war. Horses transformed Native life and became a central part of many tribal cultures.
By the 1800s, American Indian horsemanship was legendary, and the survival of many Native peoples, especially on the Great Plains, depended on horses. Native peoples paid homage to horses by incorporating them into their cultural and spiritual lives, and by creating art that honored the bravery and grace of the horse.
The glory days of the horse culture were brilliant but brief, lasting just over a century. The bond between American Indians and the Horse Nation, however, has remained strong through the generations…
For some Native peoples, the horse still is an essential part of daily life. For others, the horse will always remain an element of our identity and our history. The Horse Nation continues to inspire, and Native artists continue to celebrate the horse in our songs, our stories, and our works of art.
Through an array of 122 historic objects, artwork, photographs, songs, and personal accounts, A Song for the Horse Nation presents the epic story of the horse’s influence on American Indian tribes…”
Visit the site and explore this educational and wonderful exhibit!
As an extra treat we found this wonderful you tube video posted by OMisterMan:If you love to watch horses, you’ll enjoy this video with the following message:
“Mostly wild horses and old native Indian photos in the United States. The REAL wild west. The audio track has not been modified or enhanced. Just great lively music and photos worth a thousand memories. Best viewed at my channel because of the background. Enjoy!” Uploaded by OMisTerMan on Jun 10, 2010.
A Sky Full of Horses
I looked over there and I saw twelve black horses toward the west, where the sun goes down…
Then they showed me twelve white horses [in the north]…
Then I turned around toward the east… I saw twelve head of horses, all sorrels.
Then I turned to… the south, and saw twelve head of buckskin horses…
The bay horse said to me, ‘Behold them, your horses come dancing.’ I looked around and saw millions of horses circling around me—a sky full of horses…
Teachers will find free and Complete Lesson Plans with Answer Keys on the following U.S. tribes: Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Crow, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Mohawk (read about the fascinating “Sky Walkers”) Navajo, Shawnee, Sioux, and Zuni.
We also offer our unique and informative Tribalpedia which offers concise historical and current material about many Native tribes. Included are Discussion Questions for students.
Visit some our reader’s favorite posts! Many thanks.
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather”. Here is one of them…
Long years ago, when gods walked this earth and the land beyond, Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei, were together enjoying the warm summer day. It was a day when the crickets chirrupted in the waving, green grass,when they noticed a figure moving towards them.
As the figure approached closer Kanati said “Look, that woman is crying, what could be the matter?” “I can not imagine why anyone would cry on such a glorious day.” Replied Asgaya Gigagei. “Let’s ask her.”
As the woman drew nearer, they could see her buckskin was decorated with beautiful designs and colors. She carried a bundle filled with leaves, sage, and colorful stones and feathers. They knew immediately this woman was a holy being.
Kanati asked her “Holy mother, why are you crying so?” The woman looked up in wonder, because she had been walking with her head down. “I’m crying because the men of my village are fighting constantly! Each thinks his ideas for leading the tribe is the best!” Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei glanced at one another, in perplexity. “Why, if there are so many good ideas for leading your tribe, why are the men fighting? And why aren’t you and the other members happy!” The poor woman shook her head sadly and replied, “Yes, you are right, the men do have very good ideas, but every man wants to speak his own ideas, and not listen to anyone else. They all shout and scream at one another so loudly, that it frightens the children who run and hide behind their mothers. The women are sad because their husbands come to the house upset and angry. Furthermore, the tribe is suffering, because no one can seem to make a decision.” Just then a beautiful Eagle was soaring overhead, Kanati called out “Brother Eagle, may I have one of your feathers, there are poor humans in desperate need!”
Bother Eagle replied “Yes” and shook himself until a single iridescent, large feather fell to the ground. “Many thanks and Blessings on you” said Kanati. Kanati made secret signs and prayers over the Feather. Asgaya Gigagei helped him with the blessings. Kanati then said to the woman “This is the sacred Talking Father, it holds great power for the one who holds it. Go back to your people, hold this feather up in the air, all who see it will fall silent, and listen to what you have to say. Tell all who listen that from now on, who ever holds this feather, all present within the Circle Council must listen to his words. The feather must then be passed on to the next speaker.”
The woman thanked Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei and hurried back to her village where there was total chaos!. Everyone was talking at once, children were crying, men were screaming at each other. As soon as she held the feather over her head, all became quiet! No one could utter a sound! the holy woman proceeded to give the directions given to her by the gods. She then passed the feather to the first man. He called the Talking Circle together, and each man had his say as he held the feather. From that time on that tribe flourished because they now had direction, and each person could hear and understand what their peers said. The people worked together, to build a great nation. Along the way, they shared the wonders of the Talking Feather with other tribes they met. “And that my friends is the true story of how the Talking Feather came to be!”