“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Hello and Happy Presidents Day to everyone!
Today we wanted to talk about “Castle”.
As in Dr. Castle McLaughlin, Ph.D. Castle is someone I consider a friend. She is also a long-time friend of Frank Kuntz. So, when Frank talks about her to us, he doesn’t say Dr. Castle McLaughlin. When I talk to her, I simply say “Castle”. Bad habits have been formed and we owe Dr. Castle McLaughlin an apology.
I realized this recently while listening to testimony at the North Dakota State Capitol. Someone referenced Castle and said something to the effect of, “This lady Castle…”
I thought it would be a good day to talk about “This lady, Castle”….
This lady Castle is a graduate of Columbia University in New York City. She worked as an interpretive ranger at the Knife River Indian Villages in Stanton, ND, which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. She worked with Frank and Leo Kuntz to create The Nokota Horse Conservancy. And then she went onto spend 25 years as curator of Harvard’s Peabody Museum.
WOW! THAT lady Castle is pretty amazing! That is really just the cliff notes version of all that this AMAZING woman has done. Google can give you her full story 😉
But we aren’t done yet!
Castle crossed our path through Frank Kuntz. It was through Frank that we learned that Castle had done research on – “The History and Status of the Wild Horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park”. When we say that she “did research” we mean that she NOT ONLY researched the origins of the wild horses in the area now known as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Southwestern North Dakota, she also wrote over 300 pages that documented her findings.
We sent a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to the park asking for this document years ago. At the time, Castle’s original report was just sitting in the TRNP offices. Because of the request of CHWHA, the report is now digitized and available for everyone to download and read at their leisure in the library section of our website: https://chwha.org/library/.
The research was funded in part by a grant awarded by the Theodore Roosevelt Nature and History Association in 1987. Her study was “designed to aid in the interpretation and management of the horses by THRO staff.”
Within this 300+ page document, Castle shares documents she was able to view and report on, as she had access to ALL of the records in possession of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. She not only worked with the State Historical Society, she worked with Tom Tescher and Leo Kuntz, two iconic men who are no longer with us to share their knowledge. She also spoke with area ranchers, former TRNP superintendents and countless other people who are also no longer here to share their stories.
Wrapped within her research are the conversations that none of us can ever have with important people who are long gone. The conversations and stories they shared with her were preserved within the 300+ pages of her document.
It is always annoying to me when people say that the horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park “PRESUMABLY” came from Sitting Bull.
Her report is now available for everyone to read. There is no more presuming.
From her report:
“In 1883 de Mores purchased 250 Sioux horses that had been confiscated from Sitting Bull and his sub-schiefs when they surrendered at Fort Buford in 1881 from the post traders, Leighton, Jordan, and Heddrick (Crawford, 1931: 492; Donie, 1952: 90; Gopen, 1979: 21; Huidekoper, 1955: 64).”
“In the summer of 1884, 60 of De Mores’ Sioux mares (presumably those advertised for sale) were purchased by A.C. Huidekoper, scion of a wealthy Pennsylvania Dutch family and the earliest large-scale rancher in North Dakota.”
For those of you who are familiar with the town of Medora, you know that the De Mores’ home is located directly across from the park.
Of course, the park introduced new blood, Frank & Leo Kuntz bought up as many of the unique “Nokota” horses, etc., etc. – that is not the story being told today.
We have also added a copy of her article: “Badlands Broomtails The Cultural History of Wild Horses in Western North Dakota” to the library section of our website https://chwha.org/library/. We do think you will find the history she shares very interesting.
“That lady, Castle” captured moments in the history of the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park that would be lost forever without her work.
THANK YOU somehow doesn’t seem like a strong enough sentiment to give that lady for the work she has done. Work that has now been cited numerous times as part of the historical data needed for all of our comment letters to the park. Historical data that would have been lost if that lady didn’t find her way to North Dakota and fall in love with those wild horses!
THANK YOU, Dr. Castle McLaughlin. We appreciate the work you did to help capture the history of the wild horses in Southwestern North Dakota. On a personal note, I am honored that our paths have crossed and that we are able to fight for these horses together. Your insights and knowledge are invaluable. I can’t help but think back to what it was like when you were doing this research. Did you ever think your work would become so important the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park?
Thank you again, Dr. McLaughlin. I will try to do a better job to make sure that our website gives you the respect you have rightfully earned.
Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates is committed to advocating for a wild horse management plan and protection for these unique wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home! We are fighting for a management plan that is guided by science especially when it comes to decisions regarding the removal of horses and the administration of birth control. Many other wild horse management plans have proven to be successful with their science-based plans. We are asking for the same for this amazing group of wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.