Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492

Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492

Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492

Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492

Synopsis

The Native American on a horse is an archetypal Hollywood image, but though such equestrian-focused societies were a relatively short-lived consequence of European expansion overseas, they were not restricted to North America's Plains. Horse Nations provides the first wide-ranging and up-to-date synthesis of the impact of the horse on the Indigenous societies of North and South America, southern Africa, and Australasia following its introduction as a result of European contact post-1492. Drawing on sources in a variety of languages and on the evidence of archaeology, anthropology, and history, the volume outlines the transformations that the acquisition of the horse wrought on a diverse range of groups within these four continents. It explores key topics such as changes in subsistence, technology, and belief systems, the horse's role in facilitating the emergence of more hierarchical social formations, and the interplay between ecology, climate, and human action in adopting the horse, as well as considering how far equestrian lifestyles were ultimately unsustainable.

Excerpt

‘Prancing they are coming, All over the universe they come’

(Black Elk, 2000: 32)

‘If you have horses, everything will be changed for you forever’

(Isenberg 2000: 41, quoting the Cheyenne deity, Maheo)

Beginnings

Hidden by rocks near a waterhole in Australia’s desert interior an Aboriginal woman and her children catch their first sight of the shockingly large animal of which they have previously only heard: the newcomer’s kangaroo. Thousands of kilometres to the west and high in southern Africa’s mountains a shaman completes the painting of an animal that does not exist, horned at the front, bushy tail at the rear, a composite of two species, one long familiar, the other new.

Across the Atlantic Ocean on the grasslands of Patagonia the burial of an Aónik’enk leader is in its final stages, four of his favourite possessions killed above the grave to ensure his swift passage to the afterlife. To the north in what Americans of European descent call New Mexico, Diné warriors chant the sacred songs that ensure their pursuers will not catch them and that they will return safely home. And on the wintry plains of what is not yet Alberta, Siksikáwa hunters charge into one of the last bison herds they will harvest before the snows bring this year’s hunting to an end.

Two things unite these very different scenes. First, though we cannot be sure, the historical, ethnographic, and archaeological sources on which they are based allow for them all happening on precisely the . . .

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