Tribe Divided On Horse Slaughter

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Navajo Times, News Report, Alastair Lee Bitsoi, Posted: Aug 12, 2013

stortellWhile President Ben Shelly has publicly supported the idea of a horse slaughtering operation in Roswell, N.M. to deal with the soaring feral horse population on the reservation, some medicine healers and horse lovers like Leland Grass oppose it.

The reason Grass is against Shelly’s endorsement of the slaughterhouse, which was temporarily barred from operating by U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo on Aug. 2, is because of the sacred nature of the horse in Navajo ceremony, singing and chanting.

Contrary to what most believe about the Spaniards bringing the horse to the Americas during the 16th century, Grass said the horse has always been part of Navajo culture and ceremony, as evidenced by the Navajo Creation Story.

According to Grass’s oral history, when the Hero Twins, known as Naayéé’ Neizghání and Tóbájíshchíní, journeyed to their father, The Sun, to rid the Fourth World of monsters, they not only acquired knowledge from their father to defeat the monsters, but also saw at their father’s lodge, the horse.

The Twins didn’t take the horse with them because they were looking for tools to protect the living of the Fourth World.The-Legend-of-the-Navajo-Hero-Twins-cover

“‘No, we didn’t come for that,'” Grass said, recounting the dialogue between the Sun and his sons, which is also cited in the Blessing Way Ceremony. “‘We need something that will kill these monsters …'”

The Sun, according to Grass and other oral accounts, gave the Twins weapons – lightening as an arrow and bow – to kill those monsters that ravaged Diné Bi Kéyah during that period of time.

“When they observed the horses at the Sun, all they took was the knowledge they seen, and the songs and prayers were brought back down,” Grass said. “They kept it with them until the horse was right here.”

Right here is on Diné Bi Kéyah, where Navajos like Grass are in disagreement with Shelly’s endorsement of slaughtering horses for meat. On July 31, Shelly, on behalf of the Navajo Nation, announced he supports Valley Meat Co., who would export horse meat, because the 75,000 feral horses on the reservation are drinking up wells and destroying the rangeland of the 27,000-square-mile arid landscape.

Grass compares Shelly’s backing of the horse slaughter plant and the recent round-ups to the 1930s Navajo Livestock Reduction, when the BIA decided the range of the reservation could no longer support flocks of thousands of sheep and herds of goats, cattle and horses.

“They took a lot of things from the reservation and gave us a little bit back,” Grass said, adding that sacred knowledge linked to these domesticated animals and their relationship with Navajo healing were also taken away with them. “They only gave us in return a chapter house.”

Grass added that songs and prayers were reversed when the BIA “came about and killed all these animals. That’s when the medicine people backed away from the songs and prayers and got scared of what the BIA was doing for them.”

With the herds of feral horses – some in Western Agency reported to be 100-strong or more – roaming the mountains, canyons and deserts of Navajo land, Grass fears livestock reduction will occur again, this time with these beings that have been here “since the earth was made with the Creator.”

Instead of rounding them up for slaughter, Grass thinks that they should be rounded up for adoption or treatment centers.

The medicine healer, who equates horses to guardian angels, says they can help heal people suffering from suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

“When you work with the horse, it heals you with Mother Earth,” he said, before adding that if the Navajo Nation supports slaughtering, he would like Shelly to shoot the first horse.

Grass also added people need to be responsible for their horses. He theorizes that horses that are vaccinated once but not yearly are responsible for spreading disease among the feral horses.

But according to Scott Bender, tribal veterinarian with the Navajo Nation Veterinarian Program, if horses are vaccinated yearly and they’re put out with roaming feral ones, they’re relatively protected.

CONTINUED… To read the rest of the article and to COMMENT, click HERE

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
8 Comments
  • Nancy Albin

    I am … .can’t express… but my apache “Native American blood “is all i have anymore to be proud to belong to. Now this I cannot believe they will sacrifice our honor for money this is sick you my Nana told me many years ago “Miiha” don’t ever let go of who you are to what has become so important to the white man. Well I feel her from the heavens telling me to fight & fight hard against now what used to be our blood “red blood” because it is the right thing to do to not go against our beliefs,,, culture for the white mans ways of corruption because no matter what, the only thing we take with us to the great spirit is our soul … ^& Honor Our WORD so let them sit pretty with the souls of the horses & decept towards our elders & we will be waiting for them & theres

    August 12, 2013
  • Arlene

    The only reason the Indians lost against the Government is because the Government took away their Horses , and i dont think your people will forget that , the bond between the Tribes and horses was very strong , Please remember this !!!!!do not forsake the Horses they never did that to the Tribes, fight for their lives, they fought for yours !!!!!! Just as your Spirit runs deep , the Horses Spirit runs deep!!!!

    August 13, 2013
  • Barbara

    Only the Yakama leaders are for horse slaughter. I was called by a member of the tribe who told me the tribal members are NOT for horse slaughter. The cattle need to be removed so that the range will recover. Horses do not destroy it or riparian areas but cattle and sheep do. Horses will restore the land unless they are fenced in and not allowed to roam. Horses are symbiotic to ecosystems.
    I tried to leave these comments on the article but was not able to. If somebody can do it please do so.

    August 13, 2013
    • tammy

      totally in agreement with you Barbara as far as the cattle and sheep being removed. I’ll pay more for beef if the horses can remain free. but that would require the BLM to stop selling grazing rights and making money… it will be a very wonderful day indeed when there is a BLM full of thinking people rather than robots with no conscience or compassion. as far as who is for this and who is against it within the tribe… I have no first hand knowledge of that so I can’t speak for or against it.

      August 13, 2013
  • Arlene

    Dear Barbara, Thank You for that clarification, I found it hard to believe the Tribes would be for Horse Slaughter !!!! their bond and respect for Horses to me has always been deep and Loving for all the Horses have done for them !!!!!! Faith restored !!!!!

    August 13, 2013
  • Nancy Albin

    Dear Barbara, I agree with you 100% as for it only being “Yakama” leaders for horse slaughter. It’s already been said that BLM & NM valley Meats slaughter house has already got the “Navajo Nations” OK & in Nevada Shoshone & Pauit had already ok’d the Round ups but because made public it was just postponed for legal reasons. So sorry I hope your tribe member can help us stop all this masacre of horses & thank you

    August 13, 2013
  • JanSchultz

    The tribes are not for slaughter, but their hired employees are. The positions held on their Natural Resources Committees are for the most part _nonIndian_.

    August 13, 2013