North Dakota State Senator Erberle introduced SCR 4011 to the North Dakota Senate. He cited that the historical significance of the Nokota horse, especially since this breed of horse has already been recognized as the honorary equine of the state of North Dakota, justified the introduction of this resolution to the ND State Senate. He also felt that honoring the historical significance of the Nokota horse went well with the state’s tourism slogan “Legendary”, adding that a “legendary park experience” could increase tourism for our state. He called for Theodore Roosevelt National Park to manage the traits of the Nokota breed. He added: “I think the park service and the Dept. of the Interior need to be made aware of our wishes here in N.D. and that is a part of our N.D. experience.”
Frank Kuntz spoke next as Executive Vice-President of the Nokota Horse Conservancy. By 2013, Frank had already spent 30 years trying to preserve this breed. Frank gave a brief history of the horses in the area, starting with the governments policy to eliminate the horses that belonged to the Native American people in the mid 1800’s. He took the committee through the management of different superintendents in TRNP and spoke of the parks past policy to totally eliminate the horses in their park. He talked about the public outcry that led the park to decide to keep the horses as a “demonstration herd”. At the same time, they decided to change the appearance of the horses by taking out dominant studs and mares and introducing domestic stallions. Frank disagreed with the NPS that genetic proof was needed to prove that the Nokota horse originated from this area. Frank argued that there was enough historical research that has proven the historical significance of the Nokota horse, including the research done by Dr. Castle McLaughlin, and stated that the park was choosing to ignore the historical evidence.
Frank ended his testimony by stating:
“Please vote YES on Resolution 4011. We need a National Park that follows its own laws regardless of the costs, hard work and numerous mistakes made. These horses have an important, interesting and colorful history. They deserve the right to be recognized for what they are.”
Frank also handed out a newsletter entitled “Thunderbear #280: “Now Just A Darn Minute!” which included interviews on the historical significance of the Nokota horses with Dr. Castle McLaughlin and Robert Utley, who the interviewer noted were “two of the premier experts on Western Americana in the United States”. This document can be found in its entirety in the library section of our website.
A letter was presented as testimony at the hearing from Janelle Ferderer from Linton, ND in support of SCR 4011. She noted that on of the most “awe inspiring” experiences she ever had was watching the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. She spoke about the significance of the Nokota breed and their relationship to the state of North Dakota. She added: “Our national parks have a responsibility to preserve history, not destroy it.”
Leo Kuntz spoke next as the President of the Nokota Horse Conservancy. Leo passed out handouts showing the horses in the area competing in a horse race in Dickinson between 1882-1900. The photo shows the winning horse with features that resemble those of the Nokota horse that was named “Croppie” or “Croppy”. He also presented the committee with another handout from the Marmarth Messenger originally printed in 1938 that told the story of the photo he handed out of “Croppy”. Croppy’s dam belonged to a Sioux Indian Warrior who fought at Little Big Horn. Croppy was bought by the Marquis de Mores and eventually ended up on HT Huidekoper’s ranch. The article tells the story of the race and what a unique and incredible horse “Croppy” was.
Leo also noted that many of the early writings of the horses from the area that is now Theodore Roosevelt National Park refer to the horses as being “bald-faced horses”, the exact horses targeted by TRNP as seen on another handout showing the cull list TRNP used in 1994. Leo also stated that the University of Kentucky did an analysis of the blood type of the Nokota horses. The results indicated that the ancestry of these horses leaned toward Icelandic horses and the Norwegian Fjord.
Leo shared another handout with the committee that documented the lineage of the horses to the area, as well as quotes from local ranchers that speak of the type of horse found in the area that is now Theodore Roosevelt National Park between the late 1800’s to the early-mid 1900’s.
Once again, the transcripts from this senate hearing can be found in its entirety in the library section of our website.