Horses massacred by U.S. Army in 1858 to break spirit of Washington territory tribes now commemorated in mural
Cross-posted from Aljazeera America
By KEVIN TAYLOR
Link to full article »
SPOKANE, Wash. — In 1858, when Col. George Wright ordered U.S. Army soldiers to massacre 900 horses they took from the Native American tribes of Washington Territory, the grisly job took only two days.
“This work of slaughter has been going on since 10 o’clock a.m. yesterday and will not be completed before this evening,” he wrote in a report to the secretary of war about his punitive campaign to defeat the combined forces of several Plateau Culture tribes.
“A blow has been struck which they will never forget,” he continued.
On that count, Wright was correct. But how the horses were remembered 157 years later might have surprised him.
It took artist Ryan Feddersen, an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, nine days under a relentless sun — temperatures in Spokane last month were 20 to 30 degrees above normal — to move inch by inch on a sizzling concrete plaza, using blue and green chalk to color a background for a mural that would become known as “900 Horses,” filling the downtown plaza with a flowing river of brightly colored ponies painted by hundreds of hands.
Feddersen, who grew up off the reservation and now lives in Seattle, did not hear of Wright’s horse slaughter until she was brainstorming for a theme for the public art piece, sponsored by Spokane Arts, with her historian husband, Brock Johnson.
The facts are grim. Wright torched storehouses full of food set aside by the tribes for the coming winter, had 16 surrendering Native warriors summarily hanged and then had the captured 700 to 1,000 horses (estimates vary) shot to death. A pioneer group erected a monument at what became known as Horse Slaughter Camp in 1946. Feddersen wanted something different to mark the events.
“Monuments are symbols of power. They celebrate and reinforce the primacy of a political or historical viewpoint,” she said.
By making a memorial, “we create a focus for our remembrance to honor the deceased. This event is so important to remember, not just to recognize the history of place but as a lens through which to view violence and warfare.” Continue reading »