Oral histories of native peoples, dismissed as folklore, say they were.
Now, research suggests that horses were distributed across indigenous communities from Wyoming to Kansas generations before European accounts established their presence, according to a story dated March 31 by The Hill.
The team performed genetic and radiocarbon testing on previously untested horse skeletons in museums and held by tribal nations, finding dozens of examples of horses in these communities that had been ridden, fed by humans and even received veterinary care long before European accounts allow for them having horses at all.
One of the investigators argued in her 2017 thesis that there was no actual evidence “scientific or otherwise” to disprove Native American oral histories of horse cultures that predated Spanish arrival.
Empirical conclusions can’t be proven like theorems in geometry—they are always subject to the test of future experience—but to accumulate enough evidence to cast doubt on the prevailing narrative would have a devastating effect on the ranching agenda, where horses and other native animals have been pushed aside on public lands across the American west to accommodate millions of nonnative cattle and sheep.