The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Part 1

“I am a part of everything that I have read.” – Theodore Roosevelt

If you look at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park website, you will see that they state several times and in different ways:

“For several years the National Park Service tried to remove all horses from the park.  In 1970, a change in park policy recognized the horses as part of the historical setting.  New policies were written and enacted to manage the horses as a historic demonstration herd.”

What IS the REAL history of the horses in TRNP? 

Wouldn’t it be GREAT if someone researched that for us?

You will be shocked to learn that someone did!

You may be even more shocked to learn that TRNP PAID this person to do the research! 

A grant funded by The Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association also helped fund this project.

The intent of this study was to help the park with the interpretation and management of the wild horses.  “You have to know the past to understand the present.”, right?  

The 3 years of research was compiled into a 300+ paged paper titled: “The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park”

The author: Castle McLaughlin.

As we have mentioned in previous posts, Robert Utley and Castle McLaughlin are very well recognized authorities when it comes to America’s Western History.  Today, Castle is Curator of North American Ethnology at Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.   At the time she was doing her research about the horses in TRNP, she was employed by the NPS and applied for a grant to research the history of the horses in TRNP.  Later, Castle would partner with Frank & Leo Kuntz and give birth to The Nokota Horse Conservancy.

We had the extreme pleasure of meeting Castle when she was in North Dakota a few years ago speaking about the history of the wild horses in North Dakota.  She is one of those people you wish you could just sit in an endless conversation with!  To date and to the best of our knowledge, she is the only person who has done such extensive research on the history of the wild horses in TRNP. 

When I first heard about Castle’s report, I wanted to read it.  I did a search on the internet and was able to find a book called “The Wild Ones” that was published in 1993 by The Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association.  The book is 40 pages – page 41 gives the following conclusion to sum up the 300 pages, and Castle’s 3 years of research:

                “While they are not indigenous to the area as are other animals in the park, the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are a unique part of the natural and historic scene.  Because of their association with the early American West, their role in local history, their beauty and lively behavior, the horses are a popular visitor attraction that few other National Park Service areas offer.  Also, unlike those protected in many other federally administered areas, the horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park are frequently visible to park visitors. 

                Although the wild horses were once fairly common throughout the West and were present in the Little Missouri Badlands during and after the open range ranching era, the horses in the park are believed to be the last such herd in the state of North Dakota.  We hope that the information provided in this booklet will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the horses, and will enhance the experience of those visiting the park.”

300 pages reduced to 40.

This book just made me want to read the full report.  After several unsuccessful internet searches, I sent a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.   Surely, they had a copy of Castle’s report.

Imagine spending 3 years writing a 300-page report and not only was any of the historical data you found and so neatly laid out in this report utilized, but I learned that Castle’s report was not part of the digital files of TRNP OR the National Park Service! 

I am happy to report that after years of sitting in a file box, or wherever the hard copy of this report was, it is now available in digital format.  The entire 300-page report is available in the library section of this website for anyone to download for FREE.

I PROMISE that there are many people and organizations who claim to be keeping historical records of this unique herd of horses that have NEVER read this report in its entirety.  The report simply has not been easily available for anyone to read. 

I tried to think of how to “properly” recap Castle’s 300 pages of research into a few posts.  As I am reading and making notes and highlighting the MOST important points, I finally got to a point where I felt like if I continued like this, I would literally highlight the whole paper.

So how do we get this critically important information out without overwhelming everyone?

I decided that I would write new blog posts while we all read through smaller, bite sized pages from Castle’s report. 

You are also free to download and read the entire report yourself.  Castle’s report is the first document listed in the library section of our website.

I am starting the sharing at Chapter 1, skipping over the introduction section.  That section is important but can also be easily read and does not require any discussion. 

Let’s get started, shall we?

We have posted the first pages from Chapter 1 and will talk about them in our next blog post.  Feel free to share your thoughts!

We think you will enjoy this whether you enjoy the history shared with regards to the horses or even just the rich history of the area and the establishment of TRNP that she unearths in her paper. 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: