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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 1, 2003 - Issue 99


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Standing Rock Reservation Horses Part of Tribe's Teaching

by Gloria Bauske
For the Argus Leader
art Sweetgrass Before Us by Carol Grigg

Sweetgrass Before Us by Carol GriggLeaders of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation hope six new horses will help strengthen Native American culture and values on the reservation that straddles the border of North Dakota and South Dakota.

"They will start using these horses to help children and give the children something meaningful," said Len O'Hara, a representative of Clements Group LC. "We'll parlay that later into riding lessons for natives and non-natives and a breakfast for those who come through the area."

O'Hara introduced two representatives of Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, N.D. - Ron Brown Otter and Bob Gipp - to members of the Thoroughbred Foundation in Lexington, Ky. The foundation enables nonprofit organizations to adopt horses if they meet certain conditions.

"Even though we were introduced to these people through the Sitting Bull College, to get these horses, you have to be 100 percent responsible until they die," Brown Otter said. "You can't sell them; you can't breed them. You have to care for them, and you have to do all the good things for them."

Upon viewing the horses, it was love at first sight.

"I knew right then that I had to come back to convince people to want to get involved, so that's what I did," Brown Otter said.

He and Gipp returned to Kentucky, pulling a horse trailer large enough to hold the animals, after a letter of intent written by the Catholic priest in Rock Creek convinced Kentucky officials that the horses would be provided for.

Brown Otter and Gipp chose six horses from a selection of 15 that were waiting when they arrived.

"We told them we want children's horses and ones that kids can ride, and that's what they had waiting for us," Brown Otter said.

There were plenty of loving hands waiting for the horses when they arrived at the reservation.

"We always go on these rides, like the Chief's Ride sponsored by the Sitting Bull College, to recognize past leaders in May. A lot of children want to ride horses, and they don't have horses," Brown Otter said.

Word of the horses spread quickly, and on the first weekend, five children appeared at the Brown Otter Ranch, where four of the horses are being cared for.

"They had a good time," Brown Otter said. "The horses were comfortable, and they didn't hurt the kids."

The other two horses are being cared for at Gipp's ranch. They have caught the eye of one leader who hopes to share them with his daughter so she can better understand her heritage.

A black and gray gelding whinnies to the other horses in the corral, and the whinny echoes to remind tribal leaders of the importance the creatures play in their culture.

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, president of Sitting Bull College, said he hopes to use the horses in ways that parallel with the culture and learning experiences at the college.

The Clements Group LC of Salt Lake City and other organizations are working to improve economic conditions for Native Americans on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation by improving education, raising funds for a new $40 million campus for Sitting Bull College and building business relationships and opportunities.

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