Monthly Archives: March 2017

From Whence Cometh The Famed Indian Paint Horse?

I was lucky enough to be born at a time when the classic westerns era of literature and movies was in full swing. Not a Saturday went by when theaters across the country weren’t showing the likes of Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and, of course, The Lone Ranger. Eventually, the western moved from the big screen to the new, little screen, the television set. Even then, the one truism continued…The cowboy hero always rode a solid colored horse. In fact, I can only think of two stars of the western genre who rode paints; Little Joe Cartwright of Bonanza, and the Cisco Kid. Indians primarily rode Paints.

What does any of this have to do with Native American Culture? Because, mostly, it’s true. Indians did prefer pintos, and they were, for the most part, the only ones who did. That brings up two interesting questions. Why? And where did they get them? The answer to the first question is easy. They liked them and preferred them to solid color horses. The second question is much harder. Frank Gilbert Roe, the author of The Indian and the Horse, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955, devotes three chapters to the issue of coloration of horses introduced to the Americas by the Spanish in the early 16th century.

Of the sixteen horses brought to Mexico by Cortes in 1519, only one was a pinto, and he was not one lost by the expedition. In fact, according to Roe, Spaniards cared little for horses colored in such a way. Of all the horses brought into the “New World,” by the Spanish, the one with Cortes is the only recorded Pinto. At the time of the Spanish invasion of the Americas, the Spaniards were considered the finest breeders of horses in Europe. Their horses were a cross between the fast and powerful horses of the Iberian Peninsula and the Arab/African stock ridden by their Moorish conquerors. Moors and Arabs, by the way, also held paints in contempt.

So, if the animals brought to the Americas were a product of hundreds of years of de-selecting Paints, how did they come to flourish on the plains of North America? In all honesty, no one knows. To expand the mystery, try to explain why paint horses abound in North America, but not in South America. Again, According to Mr. Roe, they came from the same basic stock, but no paint horses appeared on the Pampas.

Some geneticists say that the phenomenon is a result of a mutation from the inbreeding of the wild horse herds, but that spawns two other questions: Why North and not South America? And aren’t all pure breeds a product of inbreeding?  If inbreeding mutations resulted in pintos, they would have blossomed in every breed.

Finally, how were the Nez Perce able to further hone their stock to produce the Appaloosa pattern? A feat that even as accomplished a horse society as the Comanche were not able to reproduce when they captured Appaloosas during raids.

How did Indians, who first were introduced to horses in the early to mid-18th century develop the skill to produce pinto horses in such a short time? The Comanche were known to have thousands of pintos in their herds by the mid-19th century. Mr. Roe says the answer might never be known unless we are willing to impart a far greater knowledge of genetic training to Plains Indians than we ever believed possible.

Goings on of Native American Interest This Week, 3/20.2017

Last week, I commented on the failure of the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA. How it has degraded into a system where a state like South Dakota has been able to legally kidnap some seven hundred Native children per year and place them in White foster care facilities or adopt them out to white families without regard for Native tradition, history or culture. Today, however, I can speak of success. “Indian Country Today Media Network” reported that the Federal District Court for Arizona dismissed a class action suit filed in 2015 claiming that “The Law,” was unconstitutional because Indian children were given “separate and unequal treatment based on their race.”

Goldwater Institute challenge

For complete details, see the link above, but this case is the sixth attempt to overturn the Indian Child Welfare Act since 2013. Failed cases have been filed in South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. When challenged, the courts have consistently upheld the law, but no one is filing against states who blatantly defy the law because individual tribal citizens don’t have the wherewithal to do battle.


In another exciting event that occurred this week, on the 400th anniversary of the burial of Pocahontas, Virginia Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner reintroduced a bill that would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. If enacted, the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond would be added to the list of 566 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes recognized by the federal government. “Recognition,” says the sponsors, “would right a long-standing wrong.” See the link below for details.

Fed Recognition for Six Va. Tribes

Because of a gap in record keeping that was the result of a state law called the “Racial Integrity Act.” of 1924. The law required all births in the state to be categorized as either “white,” or “colored,” and the law was strictly enforced for thirty-five years by the state’s registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statics, Walter Plecker. There was no option for Native American, and anyone born with “even a drop of non-white blood,” had to be classified as colored. This historical, systematic, deception resulted in the destruction of a centuries-long record of the existence of the Virginia tribes, which are required to prove their Indian status. One insatiable racist with the necessary power, committed what historians call “paper Genocide.”

Until next time, stay well.

THE FAILURE OF ICWA (Legalized Kidnapping)

What would you do, as a grandparent, if you got a phone call from the Department of Social Services (D.S.S.) that announced to you that your son or daughter will be arrested tomorrow on drug charges? Oh, by the way, you have no money for an attorney. Probably, you would wait with your child the next day for the police to arrive and maybe get a look at an arrest warrant. So, you wait, and no police show up, but a D.S.S. car arrives and they inform everyone that because of the pending narcotics violation, they are taking your grandchildren. Protest all you want, but they take the kids, and the police never arrive.

It’s a bad dream, right? You wake up and all is normal. Except it is not. According to an NPR 2011 investigation, in one state, South Dakota, it happens approximately 700 times a year to Native American families. Believe it or not, it used to happen much more often, but in 1978, Congress passed The Indian Child Welfare Act to put an end to just such practices.

The ICWA recognizes the need to keep Native children with their extended families or tribes even in extreme cases of poverty, drug or alcohol abuse so that they will not be separated from their history, language, or culture. In fact, the law demands that every juvenile, foster, or placement case must first verify whether or not the child is Native. If the answer is yes, ICWA rules take precedent. Before a trial is set, the parent or parents must be notified by a letter indicating where and when the trial will take place. A duplicate letter must be sent to the tribe so that it can send a representative, and finally, an expert witness must be called to testify regarding the fitness of the family. This is a very specific procedure to insure the child’s and family’s best interest.

What could possibly go wrong? The whole foster care system is incentivized by the same Federal Government that wrote the law. For its 700 Native Children annually, South Dakota receives nearly $100 million dollars. From that money, they have to pay foster families to care for the children, and they receive $4,000.00 per child. Unless, of course, the child happens to be a “Special Needs” child. In that case, they receive $12,000.00 per child. By the way, in South Dakota, all Native children are designated as “Special Needs.”

Forget expert witnesses, forget letters to parents or tribes, forget best interest of the child, every single child is placed in white run foster homes or adopted out to white families. The disproportionality of Native children versus non-Native children put through the system, as shown by the map below, taken from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Courts Judges, is staggering. Green states are considered good because they only average twice as many, whereas red states average more than four times the non-Native rate.

One hundred and forty years ago, Richard Pratt came up with a system designed to “Kill the Indian and Save the Man.” The result was the Indian School system symbolized by The Carlyle School in Pennsylvania. It was designed to take Native children away from their families, destroy their culture and language, and turn them into nearly white folks. It did great damage, but it didn’t destroy the Native cultures; now we have come up with a better plan. It not only works, it is also highly profitable.

For any chance to solve the problem, we have to de-incentivize immediately the removal of Native children. That requires the concerted effort of three Cabinet Offices; Justice, Interior, and Health and Human Services. Under the current administration, I see no movement by any of these departments to even show an interest in the problem.

We have many things in America that need fixing, but isn’t it time to stop the exploitation of Native children and their families, and stop the Kidnapping?

The map below shows the current rates of Native American disproportionality in the U.S. (2011). Green indicates a disproportionality index of 1.3 to 2.0, yellow indicates 2.1 to 3.0, orange indicates 3.1 to 4.0, and red equals 4.0 or higher

Source:  National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

NPR Investigation

The above link will take you to the 2011 NPR investigation as told on “All Things Considered.” It is slightly more than twenty minutes long, and it is very depressing.

Breathing In Fresh (Blog) Air


Time to start anew. With a new book on the market and others in the pipeline, it’s time to update and activate my blog. Going forward, I will continue to write about American Indian History and Culture, but I will add topics related to my books and characters. My intent is to print something new every day that will be related to a theme. The theme will be announced in the next few days and will be designed to inspire greater interest in the lives of Indigenous people historically and today.

My intent is to print something new every day that will be related to a theme. The theme will be announced in the next few days and will be designed to inspire greater interest in the lives of Indigenous people historically and today.

As always, your comments will be appreciated, and I look forward to reading your comments.