The Yakama people have been living with horses for hundreds of years. In all that time, horses living wild on their land have been a part of their wealth. When settler culture gave up on horses for cars in the twentieth century, many people did an astonishing thing: they set their horses free (illegally) on the Yakama Reservation, in a gesture of brotherhood, and then they turned away for the future. This gesture of affection and peace has led to so many herds of horses on the fragile bunchgrass lands of the reserve that the land is being destroyed. No one wants the horses gone, as they are the heart of the people, and a direct link with a dynamic cultural past, but their numbers are just too high.
These horses are far from wild. Their brothers and sisters, however, are, and number over 13,000. Read more here.
What does this have to do with Canada? We have much the same problem in the grasslands of the Cariboo and the Chilcotin, with much the same binds. That’s one connection. Another is that here in the Okanagan, the Yakama lands, and their horses, are the southern tip of our traditional territory. The history of the Yakamas is our history. We are all bound (differently) by the same treaties, with many of the same joys and grievings and the same fundamental problem: there is too little land for all of the demands made upon it. Reservations are not enough.