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3 “Skilful Jockies” and “Good Sadlers” Native Americans and Horses in the Southeastern Borderlands tyler boUlware In the first decade of the eighteenth century, the English adventurer John Lawson traveled throughout the Carolina hinterlands. Having encountered diverse Native Americans from the coastal plains to the Piedmont, Lawson later published his findings about the region and its peoples in A New Voyage to Carolina. The manuscript, long a mainstay of historical and anthropological literature devoted to southeastern Indians, includes a passage that has attracted the attention of those interested in Indian horse ownership: They are of a quite contrary Disposition to Horses; some of their Kings have gotten, by great chance, a Jade, stolen by some neighbouring Indian, and transported farther into the Country, and sold; or bought sometimes of a Christian, that trades amongst them. These Creatures they continually cram, and feed with Maiz, and what the Horse will eat, till he is as fat as a Hog; never making any farther use of him than to fetch a Deer home, that is killed somewhere near the Indian’s Plantation. Though overtly Eurocentric and concise, the account nonetheless reveals a wealth of information about southeastern Indians and their horses.1 First, most villagers did not possess substantial horse populations at the start of the eighteenth century. Native peoples near the Atlantic in + Native Americans and Horses in the Southeastern Borderlands · 69 particular lacked ready access to the animals. Spanish conquistadors and early Spanish missions in Florida provided few opportunities for villagers to acquire horses, as did the young but growing English settlements in Carolina and Virginia. The situation changed markedly, however, with developments in the West. Those tribes nearest to New Spain in the American Southwest and Mexico adopted horses relatively early. Choctaw and Chickasaw migrants then carried the progeny of these Spanish barbs and jennets to the Lower Mississippi Valley, from which the horses increasingly made their way into Creek, Cherokee, and other southeastern Indian communities. Horse populations continued to increase with the acquisition of English horses from the southern colonies. By 1730, horses had become commonplace among southeastern Indians.2 As horse ownership widened considerably during the second half of the eighteenth century, villagers adapted the animals to their hunting and trading economies. Lawson ’s passage alludes to this second feature of southeastern Indians and their horses, though he belittled Carolina Indians for making no “farther use” of them “than to fetch a Deer home.” Lawson, in fact, could not have envisioned how important those animals became to the village economies of indigenous peoples throughout the early South.A multitude of ways existed in which horses allowed Native men and women to exploit woodland resources, particularly in the carriage of bulky items, such as meat, skins, bear oil, firewood, and crops. Horses additionally emerged as a vital component of the European trade, not only as conveyors of skins and goods but also as precious commodities in their own right. Southeastern Indians sold horses to complement the trade in deerskins,an exchange that took on added significance as the region’s deer population dwindled near the turn of the century. Lawson recognized the presence of both legal and illegal markets for horses as early as 1709. This trade in horses would later become part of a vast network of exchange that stretched to all corners of the early South. These markets brought together diverse peoples with similar economic agendas, but they also exacerbated tensions and fueled border wars. During these conflicts, Native peoples adapted horses to traditional methods of woodland warfare . By the end of the century, warriors had added new tactics that included large mounted expeditions against the enemy. The purpose of this essay is twofold. First, as the above discussion 70 · Tyler Boulware suggests, it serves as a broad introduction and assessment of the roles horses played in the economies and societies of eighteenth-century southeastern Indians,an issue few scholars study at length.JamesTaylor Carson’s essay on Choctaw Indians and horses serves as an excellent starting point, though he limits his article to a single tribe and primarily deals with the post-Revolutionary era. Larger monographs on southeastern Indians may or may not call attention to the importance of horses to indigenous lifeways . Certainly, the stereotypical image of Plains Indians has skewed our understanding of Native peoples and horsemanship beyond the American West. Popular images of American Indians present a dichotomous picture of horse-riding Plains Indians and foot-traveling Woodlands peoples—a view most...


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