Paula LaPierre

Kwey. Hello.

I am Paula LaPierre, Principal Sachem of the Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation, Kichi Sibi Anishnabe of Canada, and founder of the Sacred Hoop National Indigenous Equestrian Centre. I am an artist who has also worked in social and employment services. As a life-long horse enthusiast I have owned horses, worked in the horse sector in various capacities, and rescued and rehomed traumatized horses. Horses are an important part of my Indigenous heritage.

The Sacred Hoop National Indigenous Equestrian Centre represents our interests in preserving and enjoying our unique equestrian heritage. Our community has a documented relationship with horses more than 400 years old which had broad influence throughout the continent. The horse played a pivotal role in our survival and continues to hold a special place in our lives and aspirations and is recognized as Sacred, being a keystone cultural species.

The concept of Convergence has always held a special place within the ideologies of most Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island. Convergence is represented with the braiding of divergent elements to create a strengthened synergy, symbolized by the popular Sweetgrass Braid. This is a valued Good Life principle recognized and captured within the deeper structures of our knowledge and governance systems. From places of convergence great ideas emerge, and deliberate meetings and events have facilitated the exchange of ideas and benefits that have contributed to the ancient social structures of these lands since time immemorial. From ancient places of convergence great Tress of Peace have risen and rushing waters have symbolized transformative change and the need for the constant monitoring and renewing of relationships. As the Circle of Life emphasizes, we exist within systems that are
patterned, dynamic and changing.

Our connection with horses represents a Sacred Convergence to us, where powerful and sensitive prey animals build a unique bond and purposeful relationship with a dangerous predator species. It needs to be a reciprocal relationship. There needs to be understanding and respect. This bond requires a sharing of lands and resources, resulting in new exchanges and ecological networks.

We believe this researchable indigenous horse history holds important details about our past, along with factual evidence that could have positive implications for our shared futures. By following the path of this unique horse history, along with the activities of our indigenous ancestors, we glean important new information regarding descendant populations that should inform our national Truth and Reconciliation processes. These stories about continuing relationships to land, with horses integrated into the local economies and ecologies of daily life, should inform a more holistic and accurate narrative. This narrative should provide a crucial baseline for our paths moving forward. This perspective could make valuable
contributions to any work facilitating a more balanced relationship with Mother Earth. This is especially true when we consider the significance of grasslands and grazing. Our unmapped horse history and kinship networks directly link to the plains culture and related events known to have had major ecological and social impacts.

When most people think of North America’s horse and human history we will think of that shared history where horses have been used for muscle power in travel and agriculture. Our community however is looking deeper. As Indigenous Peoples we understood that horses have a lengthy history as large grazing animals that occupied distinctive niches in whatever ecological landscape they entered. They contributed in ways that were different from the other gazers around them, and this specialization could be harnessed and used, along with their muscle power, and social character, to enhance sustainable ecologies and economies. The Sacred Hoop National Indigenous Equestrian Centre wants to map, study, research, support, present and revitalize this essential indigenous perspective.

New models of archaeology are presenting to us additional tools suitable for this work. Emerging “biocultural bio-archaeology” models are opening spaces for us to integrate our unique equine experience, alongside descendant populations, in ways that bring in a more nuanced and relatable understanding of our collective human history. This places us within a more traditionally indigenous understanding of place and nature-based relationships, understood as relevant to national history and climate change adaptations. We suggest these new integrations should include soil samples that focus on equine evidence as well. Such a collaborative model integrating and mapping out our full continental horse story will better capture the ecological and social trails and trials we have all travelled together, identify lessons learned, and place this unique story within the world’s equine history.

It is our hope that by relying on projects that connect biocultural archaeology, ecology, and detailed social history we not only gain valuable knowledge about the physical evidence, but we also gain important insights regarding previous holistic practices that might better informs our future. How does mainstream horse keeping today compare with the methods of the past, and how is that impacting our local environment? How did horse keeping cultures differ and how does that affect our relationships today? We are looking for knowledge beyond the colonial account.

Although we have started small with our primary focus on community outreach projects we intend to continue planting the seed knowing teaching about the system of connections and relationship that we must all respect and care for. We believe that by introducing children and families to these ancient ideas we can be of service to that next generation of horse-partnered land stewards, who we hope will be ready for whatever challenges they will face, with access to a wealth of tools and resources.

Chi Migwetch.