"When Barack Obama was running for President, he made a point of bringing Native Americans into his fold, understanding that they are America's first citizens. They responded accordingly and joined the hopeful parade. At the inaugural parties, one tribe presented Michelle Obama with a hand-woven shawl, bedecked with running horses - the very horses that the US government wiped out by the thousands in order to vanquish the Indians. She happily donned it and it was a beautiful moment and my heart swelled: there was our great icon of freedom, the animal that blazed our trails and fought our wars, entering the White House, even if in image only. Perhaps, I thought, the voracious wild horse round-ups that have continued across the West for decades would come to a halt; maybe, just maybe, we were about to follow a law that went into effect in 1971 - or what was left of it - and preserve the horse we rode in on.
While we are not quite there yet, a ray of hope cracks the darkness. In fact, a reconciliation that has been a long time coming may be upon us, and it cannot arrive too quickly.
Several years ago, while working on my book Mustang, I met with Joseph Medicine Crow, the oldest living Crow chief, during re-enactments for the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He spoke of his tribe's horse traditions and history, and also of the government's campaign to wipe out the Crow herds during the early part of the 20th Century, when bounty hunters were sent to the reservation; these men kept count by way of ears, and when they were finished, at least 45,000 wild horses that were then flourishing on Crow lands were gone. These killings were just a small part of an era that came to be known as "the great removal," during which America's wild horses were nearly wiped out - and would be completely gone today, if not for the efforts of Wild Horse Annie, who fought for two decades to end this brutal campaign"
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Deanne Stillman: Barack Obama, Yom Kippur, Chief Plenty Coups, and Wild Horses
(The Huffington Post 9/28)