We Are The God Dogs

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The Comanches called us God Dogs. We were known by other names as well. The Sioux called us Medicine Dog, while the Blackfoot referred to our kind as Big Dogs, though we are not dogs nor related to them. Before we arrived on the plains the Sioux and Blackfoot had only the canine, and their own women, to carry their burdens. We have changed the lives of the People forever, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad.

We are Horses. Hernando Cortes brought our ancestors to America. When he landed in Mexico in 1519 with him were ten stallions and six mares. Before then, no American Native knew of us as we look today. The horse, by a variety of scientific names and different appearances, lived in America eons ago but those creatures are gone now. So to the Indians of America we were something new and mysterious.

Before the Spanish brought us to this New World very few of the Indian People made the Great Plains their homeland. This was a fierce and forbidding land to these People who traveled only on foot. We changed that.

As Spaniards came to the New World they brought even more horses, both for riding and as pack animals. The bloodlines of these ancestors consisted of a mixture of Arabian, Barb and Andalusian. The Plains Indians first became aware of us when the Spaniards began to move northward.

Even though the Spanish had a law forbidding the sale or trade of horses to the Indians the inevitable happened. The Indians saw us and had to have us. While the Spanish used Indians as grooms, herdsmen and cattle workers these native people learned all they could about us, and they learned well. Then they learned to take us from the Spanish.

In 1680 the Pueblos rose in a violent revolt against the Spanish who tried to be their masters. The Indians killed or drove away all the Spanish in the New Mexico region, leaving several thousand horses behind. Now any Indian could have a horse, or many, who could catch one. Not all of us were caught. Many of us got away, never to be recaptured. Those of us that remained free became the ancestors of the wild mustangs in the West.

Some fifty years after the revolt in the Pueblos the Shoshonis to the north and the Comanches who were moving south onto the plains from the Rocky Mountains began to acquire many horses. Now the People could more easily hunt buffalo, and transport their belongings when they traveled. We became the symbol of wealth for the People. Those tribes that became adroit at raiding other tribes and taking away their horses became lords of the plains to be feared by all. Now when a young man, or an old one, wished to take a bride the value of the desired woman was determined by how many horses her father would accept for her hand in marriage. But sometimes things were not always good for the horse. The Apaches also stole us from other Indians as well as from the Spanish but the Apaches thought of us as more than just mounts. And this was not good. The Apaches, it is said, would as soon eat us as ride us.

As more tribes possessed horses they traveled greater distances to trade with others, including the whites. This was a good thing. Such occasions called Trade Fairs were held in places like Taos and Bent’s Fort. The Indians brought beaver pelts to trade, and later buffalo hides. In exchange they received wonderful European-made goods. But not all was exchanged for good things. The whites brought liquor to trade for valuable furs. It got so bad that sometimes the Indians would not trade without the liquor that the white traders used to soften up the Indians. Except for this bad thing the God Dog brought an easier life to the Indians of the Great American Plains.