Native American Tribes from U.S. and Canada Revive Horse Heritage with Bareback Races in Oklahoma

Native Americans from all over the United States participate in an Indian relay race over Memorial Day weekend at the Osage County Fairgrounds in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, U.S. May 31, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Native American tribes from the United States and Canada converged on Oklahoma for the Indian Relay Horse Race this weekend, helping to revive horse heritage in the state and symbolizing a return to normal after pandemic restrictions.

The setting in Oklahoma was particularly apt, given the state’s Native American population of nearly 10% and the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling re-affirming that about half the state’s territory falls under American Indian jurisdiction.

Competitors race three different horses bareback around a one-mile track, jumping off one horse and onto another between laps, often in tribal regalia including war bonnets, with the horses painted in traditional style.

Horse relays are one of the most popular pastimes in Native American culture to have survived the U.S. genocide, and horse heritage remains strong with many tribes in the western United States.

But equine traditions have been less durable in Oklahoma, where many Native Americans were resettled in the Trail of Tears of the 1830s, when indigenous people were forced from their lands in the southeast onto specially designated territories further west.

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SOURCE: Reuters

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