San Felipe Horses

I was quite sorry to hear that San Felipe Pueblo was no longer interested in keeping the horse herds that have roamed the area for centuries. The lineage of Medicine Horses among Spanish Mustangs traces back to a stallion named Santo Domingo because that pueblo is where the Brislawn brothers found and bought him. That horse was the inspiration for Marguerite Henry’s book San Domingo.

For many years the church at the nearby Santo Domingo Pueblo here in Northern New Mexico had Medicine Horses painted on it. Sadly, the painted horses are now Appaloosas and I had feared that the Medicine Horses were gone from the land. But this little filly from the Placitas Horses website proves my fears were wrong:

Milagro Placitas Filly

Medicine Paint Filly

Many years back my Medicine Horse stallion, Apache, brought me the story of his lineage through Martin Prechtel, whose mother was a school teacher at Santo Domingo Pueblo. I had put up a poster of my Medicine Paint Apache at the feed-store and Martin came by to see the horses when he saw it. He knew about the horses because he had grown up hearing stories from the elders in the pueblo.

As I remember the tale, the Santo Domingo say that when Jesus ( the Spaniards) first showed up he was friendly and traded all sorts of goods with them. For many years it was a good relationship. He had new plants to share including wheat, grapes, peaches, and apples. He shared his animals, including chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, and of course horses. He shared what he knew about weaving both wool and cotton, and working metal, and making leather. He married their daughters and established his village on the other side of the river. And he shared his ceremonies and spiritual practices.

Then more of Jesus’ people came and they became very unpleasant and demanding. So the pueblos all got together and decided to chase him and his friends back down the direction they had come from.Eventually Jesus returned, but was much more subdued. Historians call this episode the Pueblo Indian Revolt and the Peaceful Reconquest, but they rarely tell it from the Pueblo point of view.

The Pueblos made sure Jesus knew his place when he was allowed to return. While he was allowed to restore his homes and his churches, the Santo Domingo’s kept his horses for themselves. Since the Spanish bereaucracy had lengthy and strict rules regarding who could own and ride horses, keeping their horses was and is a profoundly revolutionary act.

The herds of horses running Pueblo lands are spoils of war, a living sign of the Pueblo people’s resiliency and self-determination. Getting rid of the horses is a tragic move that indicates how much of their history the current generation has lost and how thoroughly those in charge of Pueblo lands have assimilated the worst of their conqueror’s point of view.

Remembering that San Felipe is  the Spanish version of Saint Phillip might help those who wish to assimilate the best of the cultures that have taken roots in the Southwest. The Greek root of the name is phil meaning love and hippe, meaning horses, which an appropriate name for the patron saint of horses.

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