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I like to stay away from that romanticizing, because what happens -- even Indians have a tendency to romanticize themselves. And they do that to such a point that they become almost godly. And the trap to that is, if someone becomes almost so godly and spiritual that he's not even of this earth, then it's not hard to get rid of him. Because really, he's sort of a ghost. And many people forget, and the Indian forgets, at times, they were human beings. Very much human beings, that had pain, cried, fears, the whole thing. And people like to pull that away, because then it gives that stereotype Indian that we like to look at -- "Oh, my God, my heart's palpitating because, look at this wonderful, great warrior, noble savage." Drives me up the wall.
But, all of a sudden, all of this traveling, and movement, was done in a precise order, for survival purposes. But then you put the horse in that, and all of a sudden everything changes. Not only can you move faster, and you can cover more room, but you can move faster to get into more conflict. Because as the horse develops, the area . . . Like we always say, we had the horse before the Blackfoot, but the Blackfoot, who were already making good contact with traders, usually Hudson Bay Company, because they didn't care for the American traders, they had the gun. I don't care how fast your horse is, you can't outrun that rifle. So horses become a pretty good attraction for enemies that you may not have had before. They can chase you, and you can outrun them. It depends on who has the good horses.
The Salish were always noted for having very good horses. It became part of their life. But the horse was not a small thing in this society. The horse was a massive change. And when I say massive change . . . They developed a whole culture around the horse. Even for medicines, and for the spirit of the animal, and for the decorations the animal used. The whole thing was all developed on that one creature, and it also became pretty much an economic stability. How many horses, you know. Who has . . . So they used it.
When Lewis and Clark . . . and that contact was made in '05 . . . That tribal history was already in a massive change. They had the horses. That's what people were looking for, were the horses. Even Clark, Lewis and Clark. But they were still following that same life cycle, the tribes were, the Salish. And so they could move freely up and down these valleys. It would speed everything up. And when you speed everything up what usually happens is not only do you live a little bit better because you can get things quicker, faster, and get to them. You die a little bit better, too. Because your enemies can get to you quicker. And away from you. And when you're on foot, and you're a war party, a small war party, you don't want to go running across a couple of mountain ranges to try to knock somebody off, because you've got in mind, "I've gotta run home, now." And if the people you're attacking are smart, they're gonna dog you all the way home, if you ever get home. But the horse! That's the difference!
So it would be a great animal. But if you look at a comparison, jump forward in the future, if anything's impacted us more than the horse, it would be not a creature, or a critter. In the modern times it would be education. And I'll talk about that. Those are the magic changes. And the horse was sort of a natural thing, because of the nature of how the people were living. But education became a necessity also, because of how the people were living. And not just education for the sake of education, but what kind of education?
--Ron Therriault, 02/2002