Navajo elders voice opposition to horse slaughter

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Free-ranging horses from the Onaqui Herd, near Dugway, Utah.
Free-ranging horses from the Onaqui Herd, near Dugway, Utah. © BLM/Utah

Elders and medicine people of the Navajo Nation have voiced their opposition to horse slaughter, saying the animals must be honored for their sacred role in Navajo cultural traditions.

The Nohooká Diné, Elders and Medicine People of the Diné, unanimously approved a resolution opposing any action that leads to the slaughter of horses.

The horse is sacred to the Diné and is a central part of the nation’s culture and tradition.

The resolution states in part: “The Great Horse Nation is a part of the Great Covenant, as a supernatural being, it possesses incredible power, it is inextricably tied to our spiritual way of life and our cultural traditions, when our children are born our families look to the horse spirit to see what they have delivered to us.If we fail to honor the place of the horse in our spiritual way of life and in our cultural traditions, then we jeopardize the very cycle that renews the life of our people.

“The horse must be given respect and honored for their sacred place within the Creation, as they possess the same fundamental right to Life as we, Five Finger Ones, do.”

This past week, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation administration affirmed this position.

During an interview on the radio program, Native American Calling, on September 12, communication director Erny Zah said: “Slaughtering is not a solution … As the Navajo Nation we are against slaughtering of these horses.”

Leland Grass, of the Diné for Wild Horses, said: “This statement from the Navajo Nation administration is more aligned with who we are as Diné people.

“We urge the Navajo Nation to formally adopt a moratorium on horse slaughtering and to only legally contract with horse buyers that agree not to sell horses for slaughter or not to slaughter the horses themselves.”

The people of the Navajo Nation were encouraged by Zah’s statement, Grass said, adding that there had been concern over past comments that have been made by Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.

He once voiced concern that the horses were causing environmental damage. These claims appear to have been based on misinformation.

Grass said he was encouraged to see a shift toward conscious resource management.

The amount of money currently being spent to round up wild horses for slaughter was capable of feeding and watering those animals for years, he said.

Grass believes that the Navajo Nation “could use these animals to teach our children, we can care for them, we can sell them to people and organizations that don’t want to torture them”.

The Nohooká Diné resolution urges the Navajo Nation to be mindful of the foundations of their cultural and spiritual way of life.

It concludes by stating: “The Nohooká Diné strongly urges Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, The Navajo Nation Council, The Navajo Nation Judicial Branch, US Department of Interior and US Department of Agriculture to stop the desecration and destruction of the Diné Way of Life and Spiritual Foundation by recklessly promoting and supporting the round-up and mass execution of our spiritual relative the Horse.

“We are sending the resolution to all legislators in Washington DC to show our support for the horse and to urge them to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, currently pending before Congress,” said Grass.

“While it is important for protecting the horse within the Navajo Nation, a national bill is critical to ensure there is no incentive for horses to be taken from our lands or elsewhere in the United States for slaughter.”

 

14 thoughts on “Navajo elders voice opposition to horse slaughter

  • September 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm
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    May the Voices of Elders be heard to stop the torture and slaughtering of our beloved horses… Let it be so, and so it is!

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  • September 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm
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    Prosperity is what everyone wants to accomplish. Slaughtering the horses is inhumane, it is common sense that our United States Government knows this.., but question whether our Government will succeed in setting the Navajo Nation up for failure.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 12:30 am
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    No surprise, no one listens to the wisdom of the elders regardless of their heritage anymore.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 2:15 am
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    The Navajo Elders have wisely spoken with truth and their knowledge. Let their goodness prevail to save all of the horses.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 2:34 am
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    Thank God, horses should be sacred to us all…. There are indeed ALL kinds of avenue’s to take instead of slaughter which really accomplishes nothing but torture of our horses and a monetary gain for a few unscrupulous individual’s….. WE ALL are stewards if you will of these Majestic Animal’s, let us all start respecting and honoring them as they should be….. Please let’s keep calling your Senators let our voices be heard to get the Safe Act on the floor for a vote…..

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  • September 18, 2013 at 3:03 am
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    As it should be. Native Americans should step up for the horses, not help to send them to slaughter. This resolution should be supported by all Native American tribes.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 3:43 am
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    If they don’t get the population of feral horses down to a manageable number they are sure to fail because they mostly live off the land.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 4:42 am
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    I think the Navajo Nation should keep all the horses they and their land can support. Beyond that, others should be free to do what they want with their horses. I’ve seen what happens when people who cared for horses and fall on hard times and can no longer care for them, can’t feed them etc I don’t think the elders of the Navajo Nation want the horses to suffer. And I personally think when horses are down because they no longer have the strengh to stand, need to be put down then and there. It may make the vets feel good,to save such horses, but the horses suffer more being saved.

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    • September 18, 2013 at 10:11 am
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      TYhe only people who keep repeating this sad state of stewardship over horses, those who allow their horses to starve because they spend their money elsewhere, those who ignore the injuries to their horses are those who want to kill tbem for meat and profit. Those are the very people who should NOT be owning horses.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 6:31 am
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    Very good news! God Bless the Navajo people!

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  • September 18, 2013 at 7:07 am
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    I’ve started advocating for this since the spring as this issue grows increasingly charged. Birth control NOT slaughter is the answer. These animals have salt licks. Contraception could be administered to the herd orally through the salt licks, or they could be darted. This would cut down the number of foals being born and allow for old-age and nature to cull the herds in three out of five years. It’s less stressful for the animals and would undoubtedly be a heck of a lot cheaper.

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    • September 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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      Forget that because other livestock and wildlife will go to the salt licks to.

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  • September 18, 2013 at 10:27 am
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    The Elders have spoken and their wisdom is very clear and concise. This is atrocity upon the horses in America, we had a momentary loss from the economic downturn and not from the closing of one tiny plant in the USA. These people have seen and recognized this and have sworn to take the responsibility for their animals. These animals have helped people daily and I want to point out that when I was younger I wrote a poem entitled ” A grey Pony Mare”. An older wild pony whose color saved it from slaughter assisted a friends daughter in learning how to rise from her wheelchair after a serious car accident and learn to walk and ride again. The two felt so isolated, unwanted, depressed, and alone with everyone around them, they were hurting but they found each other, it started with a knicker for a treat, and turned into her walking to find the horse in the rain when a fence was broken. To our shock she has walked and rode horses to this day. The old grey mare was buried under their favorite apple tree, outside the girls window she was a happy 38 yrs old. The girl is now a woman and recently said to me-Dear God, who have their killed with slaughter? What if they had killed ol’ grey? I would have died in my wheelchair, now my kids just take the old wheelchair for a driveway ride. But without ol’ grey, I would not have survived. These men who chose to save these horses know the same thing. Horses are healing-we can’t kill them this way. (Just a note-grey was neither broke, nor friendly, she was limping, fat, and unkept, she was not in any way perfect or importantly bred, she lacked every positive thing for a mare to have, but when this little girl touched her, came to her knickers in that wheelchair, she became the MOST beautiful pony on the planet. Dad said there was none better than the least of these, she’s completely perfect!)

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  • September 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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    I’d recently written a very strongly worded letter to many of my Native American Indian friends. Stating my disappointment that any Indian would aide orgs. such as the BLM in rounding up, and ultimately killing any of our wild horses and burros. It’s ludicrous that anyone of Indian heritage would even consider doing such a thing. Thank you to the Navajo who would not allow this to happen in their lands!

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