Native American Tribes Divided on Horse Slaughter

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Food Product Design, Josh Long

war_horse_breedsALBUQUERQUE—A lawsuit that challenges the revival of horse slaughter in the United States illustrates the divisiveness of the practice even among the people who have considered the animals sacred for centuries: Native Americans.

The Chief of the Minikoju Band of the Cheyenne River Tribe Lakota Indians—Chief David Bald Eagle—is among the plaintiffs who are seeking to enjoin the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from authorizing the resumption of horse slaughter for human consumption after a years-long hiatus.

USDA officials have been accused of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by neglecting to prepare an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment before granting inspection to horse slaughter plants and implementing a residue testing program for the animals.

Horse slaughter is considered vile by at least some animal-rights organizations and Americans, including natives with roots that long predate the U.S. government in charge of overseeing the practice.

“The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle believe that abusing a horse, including slaughtering a horse for human consumption, will bring misfortune or death to the abuser,” according to the 40-page lawsuit that was filed in New Mexico federal court. “The Lakota and Chief David Bald Eagle also believe that allowing the slaughter of horses on Native American land will not benefit the tribal nations, but instead will be an opportunity for more control by the non-native government and outside special interests.”

Sandy Schaefer, a member of the Sioux tribe, is another plaintiff  in the case. She resides in Roswell, N.M., where Valley Meat Company LLC plans to slaughter horses after USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service last month issued a “Grant of Inspection” to the business.

According to the lawsuit, Schaefer considers horse slaughter “greedy, disrespectful and contrary to the Native Americans’ relationship with its brother nation, the horse nation.”

But individuals who support horse slaughter maintain that many horses are unwanted in America, including on Indian reservations, and that an overpopulation causes damage to the lands.

James Stephenson, who is employed as a big game biologist by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington, cites an overpopulation of wild/feral horses on the 1.3 million acres of land his employer manages and owns.

The Yakama Nation projects the current horse population is 12,000 and it is expected to double every four years because the Yakama Nation has no way to control the population, he stated in a declaration filed with the federal court in the New Mexico lawsuit.

Stephenson said he has seen horses who have been abandoned and “appeared on the verge of starvation.”

“The increased number of horses on the reservation is causing compaction on the soil and is destroying traditional food and medicinal plants, such as camas, bitterroot, Indian celery, wild onions and many other plants of significance to the tribal members by trampling and overgrazing,” he stated.

Concluded Stephenson: “I believe it is critical to allow horse slaughter again in the United States because without it, the Yakama Nation is suffering massive economic and environmental damage.”

In 2007, Congress ended horse slaughter for human consumption. Four years later, lawmakers appropriated funding for inspection of horse slaughter facilities. At least six applications have been submitted to USDA to resume this activity.

The Obama Administration has asked Congress to reinstate the ban. Although lawmakers haven’t done so, the appropriations committees in the House and Senate have voted to eliminate funds for inspection of horse slaughter facilities.

Last month, a committee of the 69-year-old National Congress of American Indians adopted a resolution, which supported the resumption of horse slaughter facilities and opposed legislation that is aimed to ban such activity.

The resolution states, in part: “Whereas, the Economic Development/Natural Resources committee agrees that the horse market represents the only economically viable means of reducing the size of feral herds damaging reservation environments and would further assist reservation horse producers who need to sustain their livestock operations, in the productive utilization of tribal and allotted lands”.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
17 Comments
  • sherriey

    i for one cannot believe what i just read!
    of all people…Native Americans (some) have turned traitor on the horses that once carried them to battle and to be able to hunt food and not starve! for those that are pro-slaughter….you are shameful and are not worthy of who you represent! you are a disgrace to your people! for you, i have lost all respect….how dare you!?!

    July 29, 2013
    • michelle peacock

      Sounds like someone got paid off by the big Ag industry! Stop horse slaughter! Shame on anyone that supports the greed and cruelty of horse slaughter! It is always about money! Too sad!

      July 30, 2013
  • Judy Wendt

    The CTUIR – Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (a larger territory than that of the nearby Yakamas in the NW) has publically stated that they are against horse slaughter. This is the place where the descendants of famous Nez Piece Chief Joseph reside, along with the Cayuse – notable horse people.

    David Duquette’s “friend” James Stephenson is just an employee of the Yakama Nation and not a tribal member, so he has no voice to speak for any Natives.

    The Lakotas and Chief David Bald Eagle, however, are a powerful, well respected voice.

    July 29, 2013
    • Daniel Cordero

      True. In fact, if someone still remembers what was going on 6 years ago, this thing about tribes supporting horse butchering began with obnoxious mouthpiece Charlie Stenholm presenting no other but the Yakama Nation as his new publicity stunt in support of “his cause”. And the excuse back then was also to cull an excess of wild horses that had nowhere to go.

      When the torch was passed on to his successor as mouthpiece of horse hate Sue Wallis, she and her protégé Duquette also inherited this PR stunt and used in several occassions, not to much effect, and also then the excuse was an excess of wild horses.

      Now that they are trying to keep a low profile and are using Ricardito De los Santos aka “Cantiflas” as front for their scams and dubious deals, they come again with the Yakamas and the excess of wild (I meant feral, saying wild is heresy) horses that needs to be killed ’cause they are trampling on some “herbal medicine”. This is getting old…

      So basically it all boils down to some sort of freaky tennis game in which Stenholm, Wallis and Duquette keep moving around the same PR garbage devised by an OFW intern in DC six years ago. Bravo Sue… instead of a think-tank you’ve become a reciclyng trash-can. Do your country a favor and look for a real job (or emigrate to Australia).

      July 30, 2013
      • JanSchultz

        Very good, Daniel.

        July 30, 2013
      • Judy Wendt

        So agree, Daniel. For those who don’t remember or never knew, Charlie Stenholm (retired) is a Texan former US senator and a (small “d”) democrat. Wallis is a republican house rep. The 3 in congress who reversed the ban on horse slaughter in the 20111 budget were Sen. Herb Kohl (d-WI, retired), Sen. Roy Blunt (r-MO, and one of Monsanto’s best friends in congress) and Rep. Jack Kingston (r-GA, still on the subcommittee for Agriculture).

        Horses have a bi-partisan group of enemies as well as a bi-partisan groups of friends, such as all the sponsors and co-sponsors of the SAFE Act.

        PS – the above spelling should have been “Nez Perce.” Any Natives advocating the slaughter of wild American horses in the west is tantamount to being accomplices to when the railroads slaughtered the buffalo – very shameful indeed.

        July 30, 2013
  • Deb Schroer

    Incredibly sad to read. Why are they allowing a non-tribal member speak for them on such an important matter. How incredibly short sighted to send out a representative to advise that horse slaughter should be reinstated and he isn’t even a member of the tribe. The Horse Nation is owed so much more from both cultures and deserve to rewarded for doing so much to advance those cultures. It truly is shameful how they are considered unworthy to exist in our world as a valued and recognized member of substance in both cultures.

    July 30, 2013
  • Patricia Coffman

    Once again..there is a divide between Tribal Nations! This does go back further than when the White Man murdered their people and took the land for themselves.They viewed all creatures as for the taken and without spirits..I am speaking of the White Man..they poisoned The Native children into doing their bidding and hyjack their ancestors culture! Some have resisted them and that shows us who they are!I say (save a horse (eat a politician) Washington..keep your lying representatives in your pockets and leave the horses (ALONE)!

    July 30, 2013
  • shirley mix

    HOW disappointing that the Native American would want horses killed. I have only a little bit of indian and I have horses. I would never let anyone kill or abuse one of my horses.

    July 30, 2013
  • elizabeth dana

    Killing spirits for greed will only bring death to the killer souls and their families – if the pro slaughter people cared so much for the horses they would volunteer at the rescues and donate to them. Instead they encourage death by over breeding back yard kill breeders for kill buyers. Horses are being stole out of pastures- The weather and drought will stop and rain return when horse slaughter is BANNED!

    July 30, 2013
  • Donna Taylor

    I agree with Deb,Judy and Sherriey 400 percent.
    I keep hearing this population of wild horses, just like the mustangs why aren’t they practicing birth control? Casterate most of the stallions and leave one or two not. Round up a few, have them TRAINED and sell to people who would like to purchase a mustang. Control the breeders and make them responsible for over breeding. It’s NOT that many of them are not wanted, it’s due many times to either a loss of a job, death or divorce. Some horses get banged up or old after giving years of service a awards to their people then they send them down the line all because they dont want to feed a horse they can’t use.I have a 26 yr old Bask Arabian mare that got used up and has joint problems. My ex said if he took her he would put her down, I gave up my wonderful trail horse to care for her. Now on my feet and looking for a good trail horse.

    July 30, 2013
    • Tselikis

      I agree with Donna Taylor’s comments and especailly that horses should be neutered or castrated to control the population. Just like with cats and dogs, spay/neuter works. It is proven to reduce overpopulation humanely. This horror to slaughter horses is immoral on many levels, including being yet another way the white man is further dividing the tribal people. All people of conscience should stand with the Lakota, the Sioux, and the horses.

      July 30, 2013
  • Judy Wendt

    Stephenson doesn’t appear very bright if he states that 12,000 horses cause “massive environmental damage” on 1.3 million acres of the Yakama Nation. First of all it is highly doubtful there are that many wild horses. Remember, this guy is a friend of Duquette’s, so there is a credibility problem in whatever he would say. But assume someday there actually are 12,000 horses on 1.3 million acres consuming a generous 50 acres of range grasses per horse yearly. That is 600,000 acres NOT 1.3 million.

    Beside being math challenged, this guy is so disingenuous. The Yakama Indians make their $$$$ from the large gambling casino, not from “roots” so there is no economic damage caused by wild horses. As the tribe has become a tourist destination, they would be wise to take groups of people in vans to actually see the wild horses – if they can find them!

    July 30, 2013
  • Louie C

    Scroll back and Get to the SOURCE:

    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2013798888_horses30m.html
    Northwest tribes seek solutions to unwanted horses
    United Horsemen members want to see a solution in 2011, Wallis said. Tribes, too, are seeking an answer. The Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition has morphed into the National Tribal Horse Coalition, as other tribes join with Northwest nations that last year embarked on a
    feasibility study of opening a slaughter facility on tribal lands.

    That study, paid for by the BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS (BIA), is expected back soon and will help guide tribes’ decision making, said Jason Smith of the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon, president of the coalition.

    July 31, 2013
  • Linda Taschereau

    Some may have been swayed after seeing some starving horses on a Reservation .HOWEVER Not realizing that BLM should have been helping by now !!! Instead of helicopter chases ,,they should be dropping hay & filling water hole , then irrigation !! Aho cousins ,Idle no more !! Seek help needed !!Do not be fooled ;Chief Bald Eagle has spoken the truth !!Yena ha and do not be fooled by lies , . Spirits share his facts ,, please look ,and do not violate NATIVE TRADITION !!!

    July 31, 2013
  • susan carter

    Jason Smith is having a sale of 300 bucking horses that he prides as being raised on the range. He needs the land those wild horses are on.. Jason Smith is that an Indian name?

    August 2, 2013
  • Linda Taschereau

    Aho please STAD TALL kara he to Native tradition ! A neeh ya

    August 3, 2013