In a conversation with Charles Deland, Sitting Bull was asked, “Are you a chief by inheritance and if not, what deeds of bravery gave you the title?” “My father’s name was Jumping Bull,” He replied. “My father was a very rich man and owned many ponies in four colors: roans, white, and grey.”
Creating a path to healing through the Spirit of the Horse
The Nokota are descendants of horses that were confiscated from the Hunkpapa when Sitting Bull turned himself in at Fort Buford in 1881. They come in many colors but are predominantly blue and bay roans, blacks and grays with a tendency to throw overo paint patterns, bald faces and an occasional blue eye. This suggests selective breeding. Horses that were bred and cherished for these genetic traits. We would like to revive a Hunkpapa Breeding Program.
In 1883 the Marquis de Mores, who founded Medora, North Dakota, purchased 250 of the confiscated horses from post traders hoping to use the mares as a foundation stock. In 1884, De Mores sold sixty of the Sioux mares to A.C. Huidekoper, founder of the immense HT Ranch near Amidon, ND. Wallis Huidekoper wrote that some of the horses still carried scars from bullet wounds suffered in battle. Over time the Nokota found themselves in the Badlands of North Dakota where they were fenced in when Theodore Roosevelt National Park was created in 1947. Theodore Roosevelt National Park became the last stronghold of wild horses in the Dakota’s.
In the 1980’s the National Park Service began rounding up and removing the wild horses. Frank and Leo Kuntz recognized the significance of the history of this unique breed and began purchasing horses from the park. They would later found a breed registry and the Nokota Horse Conservancy in Linton, ND. By 2000 the last of the Nokota were rounded up from the park and if not for the efforts of the Kuntz brothers this breed and their story would have been lost forever.
Nokota Horse Preservation Herd
We come from a horse culture and are actively working to bringing horses back into the lives of our people. We often talk of the affects the Indian Wars, forced assimilation, US federal Indian policy and boarding schools has had on our people but what we seemed to have forgotten was how traumatic the loss the of the horse was to our ancestors. All across the world, people who are descendants of horse cultures are working towards bringing the teachings from the horse nation back.
The Lakota Oyate have a point of origin stories of the coming of sunkawakan ki, the horse and the gift they brought. Within those stories is the foundation of Lakota horsemanship, which began with developing a relationship first. Our ancestors weren’t just good horsemen, they were good relatives to sunkawakan oyate ki, the horse nation. We are committed to preserving the teachings of the horse nation so that our children, grandchildren and those not yet born will flourish.
We are in the process of developing a Nokota Horse Preservation Herd that will serve as a living exhibit of our past. A place where people can come and reach back into history and touch our ancestors. A place of healing where teachings from the horse nation will be shared. We would eventually like to purchase or lease enough land to return the Nokota back to their natural state. Back to the way Tunkasila intended them to be.
(1) Sunkawakan Ta Wounspe: Teaching from the Horse Nation.
Our ancestors knew horses could affect you in powerful ways. We would like to purchase mares for foundation stock from the Nokota Horse Conservancy. By purchasing them we also contribute to the success of the NHC. We want to create learning and healing opportunities for our people by sharing teachings from the horse nation. By hosting omniciye (traditional gatherings) on our reservation the people will find their center again because of the healing abilities of the horse nation.
(2) Sung Nagi Kici Okiju: Becoming one with the Spirit of the Horse
With the spirit of the horse, we will nurture leadership among our youth by reinstiling Woope (Traditional Social Rules to the Lakota way of Life) and Wotakuye (Lakota kinship), the foundation of Lakota society. We are committed to preserving the teachings of our ancestors.
(3) Eco-friendly herd management:
Our ancestors had a small ecological footprint on the land. We can’t expect our government to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels if we’re not willing to change our own behavior. Our goal is to develop eco-friendly herd management practices completely off the grid utilizing a combination of geothermal, wind and solar energies. We would also like to create learning environments where people can come and learn about the possibilities.
Help us return the Nokota to Standing Rock
Your contribution will go towards purchasing mares from the Nokota Horse Conservancy in Linton, ND, so that we can revive a Hunkpapa Breeding Program and create a preservation herd.