The Reintroduction of the Horse to the Northern Great Plains and its Influence on Indigenous Lifeways


Plain's horses
protohistoric period

How to Cite

Stocks, J. (2021). The Reintroduction of the Horse to the Northern Great Plains and its Influence on Indigenous Lifeways. Pathways, 2(1), 62–72.


The presence of horses in archaeological sites across North America is often noted in research as an indicator of European contact. Fewer studies, however, have considered how Indigenous peoples incorporated horses as an intrinsic aspect of their lives. Research that considers Indigenous peoples’ relationships with horses typically focuses on Southern Plains groups and does not feature Northern Plains communities as a central aspect. Looking specifically at one Northern Great Plains Indigenous people, this paper analyzes how Blackfoot lifeways were altered as a result of the protohistoric (seventeenth to eighteenth century) reintroduction of the horse. Blackfoot lives were transformed as their relationship with the land evolved, economic systems reformed, and trade, religion, and war became centered around the horse. Almost all Blackfoot people would have felt the effects of the horse’s introduction, however not necessarily equally as these changes caused a shift in hierarchy. These impacts and changes on lifeways are evidenced by European historical accounts, Indigenous oral histories, and the archaeological record. Examining the relationship that the Blackfoot formed with horses demonstrates the significant influence that animals can have over people’s lives. Horses’ introduction to Blackfoot peoples proved to cause significant changes in the ways many conducted their lives, such as through the establishment of nomadic pastoralism and trade routes centered around the horse. This paper additionally calls for further research into the continued relationship between the Blackfoot peoples and the horse.


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