Indigenous Tribes | Our Stories Carry Important Records By Sunie Wood

Our Stories Carry Important Records

Our Stories Carry Important Records

By Sunie Wood

Chapa-De Indian Health Auburn Grass Valley | Medical Clinic

For years, Indigenous Tribes have kept historical records through oral history. Rather than writing their history in words on paper, as Europeans have done, Native Elders pass history through generations in the stories they tell younger generations about events. Drawings on hides and rocks were also used to record events. Unfortunately, these forms of records were often dismissed as inaccurate compared to words written on paper. Now that is being challenged.

Historically, there were considerable differences in the Lakota and Cheyenne accounts of what happened at the Battle of Greasy Grass (Little Big Horn) and records written by white commentators. Yet, archeological excavations of the area validated the Native American oral history of the event as being closer to the truth.

For hundreds of years, many Plains Tribes including Comanche, Pueblo, Pawnee, and Lakota have claimed they had horses before the Spanish or Europeans ever set foot on North America. European texts claimed horses came to North America only after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Exciting new research has confirmed the oral history of the American Indians as accurate.

“We have always known and always said we came across the horse before we came across the Spanish,” says Comanche historian Jimmy Arterberry. Recent fossil studies of more than two dozen horses prove the horse was a part of Native life as early as the late 1500’s – before the Spanish or Europeans arrived.

Where did they come from? DNA shows the horses had largely Spanish ancestry and most likely came to Mexico in 1519 with Hernan Cortes. There they were most likely included in a sophisticated Indigenous trade network that brought them into North America. The horses were not just a wild animal roaming the plains. The bones show they had worn bridles and even had veterinarian care. They had eaten maize (corn) and appear to have been integrated into Native culture.

The study confirms the importance of Indigenous oral history as a reliable source of actual events. It challenges the written history we were all taught in school. One of the Native Elders involved in the project said, “this is a time when the world is likely to have better ears.”

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