The Navajo Horse Policy Dilemma: Too Many Horses? T’ooahayoo Nihilii?

Authors: Linda Moon Stumpff, PhD

Disciplines: Biology, Environmental Studies, Law, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration

Themes: Cultural Preservation, Environmental Restoration, Indigenous Science, Intergovernmental Relations, Land

Tribes: Navajo

Wild horses have long been a symbol of the West. For Dine people on the Navajo Reservation, horses are at the center of multiple relationships for healing, cultural meanings and practical use. Today, the lines between wild horses and feral horses are blurred in federal policy and in tribal policy as horse populations seem to be growing. The numbers for the Navajo Reservation are unusually high, and tribal leaders have tried several policies. Policy fragmentation, lack of credible numbers, and unknown genetic and physical impacts to herds from removing horses create significant challenges for tribal leaders. Recent attempts to create partnership hold promise, but the way forward remains unclear and new strategies will need to be forged.