Horses have been an important part of North American Indigenous cultures for a very long time. But the histories written by European colonists and the oral traditions of Indigenous peoples haven’t agreed on just how long.

To learn more about how far back the human-horse story stretches in the American West, University of Colorado Boulder archaeozoologist William Taylor joined forces with Lakota scientist Yvette Running Horse Collin, a postdoctoral genomics researcher at a French university. With their multidisciplinary team, they turned to the old bones of horses in museum collections.

Using the tools of archaeology – osteological, genomic, isotopic, radiocarbon and paleopathological analysis – they found evidence that revises the dominant account of horses in the Rockies and Great Plains and supports the narratives told by tribal historians and elders.

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Maggie Villiger

Senior Science + Technology Editor

Horses are an active part of life for the Lakota and many other Plains nations today. Jacquelyn Córdova/Northern Vision Productions

Archaeology and genomics together with Indigenous knowledge revise the human-horse story in the American West

William Taylor, University of Colorado Boulder; Yvette Running Horse Collin, Université de Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier

European colonists chronicled their version of how Indigenous peoples lived with horses. New collaborative research adds scientific detail to Indigenous narratives that tell a different story.

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