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home : features : latest news August 1, 2014


10/29/2013 10:41:00 AM
Shelly agrees to stop horse round up on Navajo Reservation
Horse roundups to continue until Memorandum of Understanding is finalized between administration and horse advocates
Horses wait in a cement culvert along Highway 160 for a Navajo Nation agriculture horse trailer after a roundup near Kayenta. Submitted photo
Horses wait in a cement culvert along Highway 160 for a Navajo Nation agriculture horse trailer after a roundup near Kayenta. Submitted photo
A foal near Chilchinbeto, Ariz. stands alone after a Oct. 25 horse roundup. Submitted photo
A foal near Chilchinbeto, Ariz. stands alone after a Oct. 25 horse roundup. Submitted photo
Katherine Locke
Reporter

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson reached an agreement in principle about two weeks ago in which the Navajo Nation would suspend horse roundups and halt the sale of Navajo horses to horse processing plants.

Elders, medicine men and traditional people who had been calling for Shelly to stop the roundup, sale and slaughter of horses because of the importance of horses to the Diné culture, spirituality and society welcomed the announcement.

According to Leland Grass of the Nohooka' Diné, "horses are not only a symbol of the Diné people, 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."

The Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture (NNDA) initiated the feral horse round up after Shelly signed legislation in July.

The department decided the action was necessary after many tribal ranch meetings, grazing meetings, the annual agriculture conference and local presentations. Representatives in these meetings expressed concern that continuous drought conditions, extreme temperatures and high winds combined to cause forage degradation, erosion and loss of topsoil.

Erny Zah, director of communications for the president's office, said the horse round ups were the result of land management issues that came directly from the local communities to the administration or to the NNDA. He made a distinction that a feral horse is not a wild horse but an abandoned horse that is not able to be self-sufficient in the wild and, therefore, hurts local ranchers' and farmers' livelihoods.

Feral horses competing with domesticated horses for food, water and natural foliage on the reservation led local communities to ask for help with rounding up the horses, he said.

Shelly said the Navajo Nation is using a variety of methods to manage the horse population.

"This approach to manage our resources has included the use of horse roundups and other humane methods with our goal being strengthening our balance between livestock and the land," he said.

While these same elders and traditional leaders approved of the announcement between Shelly and Richardson, many were concerned that it took outside intervention to get Shelly to reverse course.

On Sept. 28, the Diné Hataali Association passed a resolution to halt completely the horse roundups.

The Nohooka' Diné people resolution was established to stop the NNDA from any more roundups.

In their resolution they cite the "cruel" way Shelly's administration has handled the horse roundups.

Grass said some chapter houses, after hearing about how the roundups have been handled, have passed resolutions using the Nohooka' resolution to stop the roundups because of reports that domesticated horses are being caught up in the roundups. One report said that during the roundup, many horses were bleeding from running into fences and that the NNDA crews used motorized vehicles to run down the horses to exhaustion. They also said that some mares had been hauled off without their foals.

Zah acknowledged that wild horses, domesticated horses and feral horses are all sometimes caught during the roundups.

According to Grass, the elders and medicine people also expressed concern that this attempt at livestock reduction would soon extend to cattle, sheep and other livestock. The traditional leaders from Nohooká Dine', the DinéHataalii Association and the Elders and Medicine People of the Diné want to be included as a party to discussions in how the livestock reduction issue, in its entirety, should be addressed going forward.

Shelly seemed open to other solutions offered by interested groups like the one Richardson represents.

"I am interested in long-term humane solutions to manage our horse populations," Shelly said. "I have always advocated for strong long-term solutions and partnerships. Our land is precious to the Navajo people as are all the horses on the Navajo Nation. Horses are sacred animals to us."

Richardson represents the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife, which he founded with actor, director and conservationist Robert Redford. The foundation is working to stop the slaughter of horses, including actively fighting efforts to reopen horse slaughterhouses in the United States. The foundation is committed to finding humane alternatives to horse slaughter to deal with the nation's wild horse population and is working with advocacy groups such as Return to Freedom, headed by world-renowned horse advocate Neda DeMayo.

"We have met with Governor Richardson and we have come to an agreement to find long term solutions to manage our feral horse issue on the Navajo Nation," Shelly said. "We will suspend horse round ups and forfeit support for horse slaughtering and horse slaughtering facilities."

The two leaders agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that would suspend horse roundups on the Navajo Nation while the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife and other horse advocacy groups, including Animal Protection of New Mexico, work with the Navajo Nation to develop and implement alternative policies to manage feral horse populations. Possible solutions that will be explored include equine birth control, adoption, land management and public education.

"I commend President Shelly for calling for an immediate end to horse roundups and for making it clear that moving forward the Navajo Nation will not support horse slaughter or the return of horse slaughter facilities," Richardson said. "This is exactly the outcome horse advocates, such as myself, had hoped for."

Shelly added that the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources and the NNDA will cooperate with Richardson and the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife.

The agreement has not been signed yet.

"We're still negotiating the final draft of the agreement," said Zah.

Zah added that until the final agreement has been signed the roundups will continue.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014
Article comment by: Louise Atcitty

I was born and raised with livestock all my life, I loved my Horse-Candi & Bennett her 1.5 month old foal when captured 9/20/13. I strongly disagree with the Round Up of my horse/foal, my heart is broken, tears on my face and everyday I look towards the east and pray to my heavenly father to bring my horses back. My horses were taken from my from my grazing area this is call trespassing and stealing. How do I regain my horses? Help!!

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Article comment by: Sandra Bryan

Shelly did not stop the roundups. The wild horse roundups in Tuba City are scheduled for Nov. 14, and 15. 2013. The first day is at Rare Metals and the following day is at Preston Mesa area. Grass said the Grazing Official’s name is Angela Begay 928-283-3287, and the Chapter House number is 928-283-3284.

Leland Grass, Dine’, said, “Tuba City Chapter House is opening the doors to The Cruelty Group, Navajo Nation Agriculture and Navajo Nation Resource Enforcement.”

“Over the last three months many of the Dine’ peoples horses have been taken from their corrals and also off their grazing areas and land use areas. Not only did the people get hurt, but also the foals were left behind. The mothers in the roundup were taken off the reservation for auction, and were sold, even to kill buyers who transport the horses down to Aquila Martinez, Vanderwagon, New Mexico, then on to Las Lunas, New Mexico, and off to the border of Texas and Mexico for sale to kill buyers. Then the horses are sent to Mexico for slaughter for meat.”

Grass urged protectors of wild horses and defenders of sacred Dine’ traditions to call the Tuba City Chapter House and tell them to send the Navajo Nation Agriculture back home.

“Get the word out for horse owners and sacred horses,” Grass said.


Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Article comment by: Susan Humphrey

I have been reading with interest the controversy surrounding the Navajo Nation and its feral horse problem. I hope that whatever decision you decide to make, it will be in the best interest of the Navajo People, and not due to pressure from outsiders. It doesn't make sense to me to outlaw horse processing when we have hungry people. Perhaps it would be possible to have a mobile processing unit on your reservation. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Article comment by: susan davey

please, please leave these gentle souls alone. they have been our symbal of freedom. they have ushered us side by side for centuries. they are more important than an eagle. they are our soulmates, guardians of the land. they are GODS gift to us.

Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013
Article comment by: heather gray

It saddens me deeply to see this happening on dineland :( we need to protect our sacred dine horses from slaughter.

Posted: Friday, November 1, 2013
Article comment by: Diana Kline

Courtesy of Janna Lukens:

** Horse Slaughter is NOT "Humane" **

"Horse slaughter is INHUMANE. Former Chief USDA Inspector Dr. Lester Friedlander, BA DVM, told Congress in 2006: “The captive bolt used to slaughter horses is simply not effective. These animals regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck, they are fully aware they are being vivisected.”

Once the horse is shot with the captive bolt or slug, they are hung upside down by their hooves and cut open to bleed out, most of the time awakening during this process. Their screams of pain and fear are heard for miles.

The cost to the American taxpayer is approximately $400k per facility per year. These monies could be put to more humane options, such as hay banks for the needy, gelding clinics, euthanasia clinics, breeding regulations, and rehoming efforts, just to name a few."


Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Arleen Rooney

The best way to control herd management is to geld a good percentage of the stud colts and use the proven birth control for the mares.

Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Article comment by: Terri Russell

I Love The Elders And The Dine For Seeing And Telling The Truth. I Respect Ben Shelly For Taking A Stand Against Horse Slaughter And For Admitting That He Was Misinformed. Thank You Gentle People.

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: Sabrina Guthrie

Just more lies from those that want to get rid of the wild horses despite all the scientific proof that they are NOT overpopulating . I think these people should be held accountable no matter what official position they hold , because if this was just an ordinary citizen they would be jailed or fined or both . Multiply that by the number of animals that have been tortured in roundups and sale barns and shipping and slaughter houses ,where they should never have gone !

Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Article comment by: cynthia porter

Thank you for restoring my faith and ideals of the love of the horse and its relationship to tradition, to our lives historically and spiritually. This has been a hard journey for the horses and it takes strength to see mistakes, correct them and not repeat it. If only the other tribes would see the logical solution, be stronger and do whats right!



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