The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture area. The horse diffused into the Plateau Culture Area from the Southwest following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Shoshone, a Great Basin tribe, introduced the horse to the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Sanpoil, and Flathead.
After learning that the Cayuse had acquired the horse from the Shoshone, the Nez Perce sent a group to trade with the Shoshone in order to acquire their own horses. According to historian Alvin Josephy, in his book Nez Perce Country:
“It is estimated that it took a generation for a people to become fully adjusted to the use of the horse, but in time all Nez Perce became mounted and found the horse a valuable addition to their lives.”
With the acquisition of the horse, the Plateau Indians began to manufacture elaborate and well-decorated horse trappings. These included saddles for men, for women, and for packing. Among the Klickitat, the men used a stuffed pad with wooden stirrups as a saddle. The women’s saddle was made with a high pommel and cantle. For a bridle they used a hair rope which was knotted around the horse’s lower jaw.
A special exhibit, As Grandmother Taught: Women, Tradition and Plateau Art, at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, Washington, featured a display of Plateau horse accoutrements.
Old Photos Featuring Horses
Twice each week Indians 101 explores different American Indian topics. More from this series:
Indians 101: Plateau Indian Trade
Indians 101: Indian Conflicts 150 Years Ago, 1869
Indians 101: Three Plateau Women Artists (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: The Ktunaxa Nation (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Plateau Indians as Cowboys (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: 500 Years Ago, 1519
Indians 101: Murdering a Peaceful Chief, Peopeo Moxmox
Indians 101: The Plateau Indian Longhouse (museum tour)