The Arrival of the Horse - Plateau Native Americans in Olden Times for Kids Illustration

The Arrival of the Horse - Plateau Native Americans in Olden Times

For Kids

In the early 1700s, Native Americans from the south arrived on the Plateau. They traded horses for furs. That was the first time the people of the Plateau had ever seen a horse.  They loved a challenge and they loved games of skill. They quickly became magnificent riders and breeders.

Trade: The arrival of horses on the Plateau made travel and trade much easier. The people were not limited to travel on foot or travel by canoes on rivers or streams to get around. That caused a shift in culture.

Expansion: Up until the arrival of the horse, vast areas of the Plateau were largely uninhabited.  Various tribes claimed vast amounts of land as “theirs”.  These areas were mostly unexplored. A tribe might claim all land to the ridge of the next mountain. But they had never actually reached the ridge of the next mountain since they were limited to travel on foot or by canoe. With the arrival of the horse, these areas could be explored. Tribes started to claim land that had historically "belonged" to other tribes. Not that it mattered at first. In the past, who claimed what was mostly immaterial because the people of the Plateau had always shared. But the concept of sharing was changing as well.

Sharing: For thousands of years, the clever, creative, generous people of the Plateau had worked in cooperation with each other. Some families owned fish stations, but the owners had always shared the catch. When a family or a tribe left a pit house to move somewhere else, they left food and blankets stored safely behind, so that the people who used the pit house next would have food to eat and a blanket to use to stay warm, while they got settled. But times were changing, and that change started with the arrival of the horse. The people of the Plateau needed goods to trade for horses because each brave wanted a horse of his own. No brave wanted another tribe borrowing or using their horse. After thousands of years of sharing as a way of life, the people of the Plateau were no longer willing to share. That was a huge shift in culture.

Warfare: Once horses arrived in the Plateau region, warfare changed dramatically. Warriors could travel more territory. Herds of horses belonging to opposing tribes on the Plateau were common targets of raids, and the horses were usually not returned when peace was achieved. That was new.

Hunting: Hunters, on horseback, began hunting beyond the Plateau. They hunted buffalo on the plains. That caused all kinds of trouble. The Plains Native Americans considered this an act of war.

For thousands of years, life on the Plateau had continued in much the same manner. With the arrival of the horse, life on the Plateau changed forever.

Transportation and Trade

Warfare before the arrival of the horse

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Return to the People of the Plateau for Kids (main index)

Geography and Map of the Plateau Indian Tribes

Native American Games & Activities

Native American Stories, Myths and Legends