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Indigenous people had horses in Wyoming as early as 1640

The skull of a Black Forks horse is shown.
Cassidee Thornhill

Indigenous people were using horses in our region way earlier than previously thought. This comes from new research with contributions from a University of Wyoming (UW) anthropology graduate.

Originally, the narrative was that horses made their way to Wyoming around the 1700s. That’s because researchers thought Indigenous people couldn’t have gotten access to the animals prior to the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico in 1680.

“It's [the narrative] only from the viewpoint of Euro-Americans,” said Cassidee Thornhill, an anthropologist and UW graduate.

Thornhill researched the remains of the Blacks Fork River Horse in southern Wyoming. She found that the horse was just four to five months old. She also submitted radiocarbon dates to find out when the horse had died. It came back as 1640.

“They [horses] were probably being transmitted via Indigenous transmission, non-European transmission earlier than what we thought, adding more agency to Indigenous peoples,” said Thornhill.

Thornhill said this shows evidence that the Comanche people, who are partially from Wyoming, didn’t move south in order to get horses.

“They already had horses before they spread south and they used their equine knowledge and extreme skill with the horse to expand to a large area in the southern plains and create what was ultimately an empire, based off of horses and bison,” said Thornhill.

Thornhill’s research was used in an articlethat was published in the journal Science that showed multiple examples of horses in the region earlier than previously thought.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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