The story of the relationship of Native peoples and horses is one of the great sagas of human contact with the animal world. Native peoples have traditionally regarded the animals in our lives as fellow creatures with which a common destiny is shared. When American Indians encountered horses—which some tribes call the Horse Nation—they found an ally, inspiring and useful in times of peace, and intrepid in times of war. Horses transformed Native life and became a central part of many tribal cultures.
By the 1800s, American Indian horsemanship was legendary, and the survival of many Native peoples, especially on the Great Plains, depended on horses. Native peoples paid homage to horses by incorporating them into their cultural and spiritual lives, and by creating art that honored the bravery and grace of the horse.
The glory days of the horse culture were brilliant but brief, lasting just over a century. The bond between American Indians and the Horse Nation, however, has remained strong through the generations.