June 04, 2008

"Bringing Back the Horses"

Horse program aimed at helping at-risk Indian youthHorses are part of a new court diversion program aimed at building trust, responsibility and self-esteem in at-risk American Indian youth.

The program, started last fall by the Spirit Lake juvenile court system, is called Shunka Wakan Ah-Ku, or "Bringing Back the Horses."

"A lot of kids out there don't have any identity," said Darla Thiele, an intake officer with the juvenile court. "But as Native people, one of our greatest identities was as a horse culture.

"We wouldn't have survived without the horse. We relied on them to hunt for food. If you wanted to marry, you brought horses."
And:About two dozen boys and girls have been court-ordered into the program after a variety of missteps brought them into the tribe's juvenile justice system, Thiele said. Each six-week quarter, four or five teens spend two nights a week with area ranchers who volunteered their land, experience and horses.

"Most of these kids have never been within a city block of a horse," said Neil Whitmer, a rancher who works in the program.

"You talk to people my age on the reservation, and they all knew horses," Whitmer said. "Sadly, this has been lost in the last generation or two. So, we teach them from the ground up, from the anatomy of a horse to handling a saddle and bridle. By the fifth week, we want them on the horse's back, riding.

"A lot of them are scared at first, but it's a good step to helping them overcome other problems."
Comment:  This sounds similar to the horse program Adam Beach is planning.

No comments: