|July 4, 2013
Stevens' Camp educates kids in tribal horse culture
By Alyssa Nenemay
Stephen Hunt (right) was one of three instructors that were contracted to teach the campers about horse culture. Hunt guided the children on supervised bareback horse rides. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
ST. IGNATIUS — Tikes rode horses bareback as they were lead around a pin. Children of all ages played a traditional game of double ball while the adults cleaned up the night’s feast. A round of stick game was started amidst a row of teepees as teenagers visited near the fire pit. It was a relaxing night for all as the third annual “Horse Camp” wound down.
Serving over 160 children in span of two weeks, Horse Camp was founded by CS&KT members Willie and Patty Stevens in order to expose the community’s youth to healthy summer activities including tribal horse culture. “Last year was spent teaching the kids how to ride and this year they already knew what to do so I think we’ve had an impact,” said Patty.
Georgy Coffee shows off a dream catcher she learned to make at the camp. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
Horses have played a significant role in tribal history throughout the United States since its Spanish introduction. Introduced by the Shoshone nation, the animal made its first appearance on the Flathead Reservation between 1700 and 1730. Local tribes became known for their unique horse culture and according to historical accounts were often targets for horse raids.
Willie and Patty own an 11-horse herd and have worked to learn more about caretaking and riding. The couple contracted experts to teach the campers about horse culture. This year’s instructors included Stephen Hunt, Zanen Pitts, and George Madman.
Hunter and his spouse Chelsea Brave Rock have donated their services to many of Willie and Patty’s events. Hunter is an adamant horseman and said it plays a significant role in child development:
One of the camp’s goals is to expose the community youth to traditional activities. Children of all ages had an opportunity to play “double ball,” which is a traditional Native game. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
“The horse creates a place of peace of which some call or some have named the ‘sacred center.’ If the youth find that connection and it makes a difference in their lives, we will have stronger and healthier future generations. The horse may not fix everything but it may be a missing piece to a stronger generation,” he said.
Unlike other summer programs, Horse Camp was established on a grass roots level. Willie and Patty have arranged to open their homes seasonally to promote traditional activities throughout the year. Horse Camp is the summer component to a growing series of camps the couple has participated in. During the winter the couple has helped organize a coyote story telling event as well as a hunting camp that takes place in the fall.
Willie and Patty Stevens open their home seasonally to host a series of camps for the community’s youth. The couple set up teepees in their front yard for older children to camp and often discuss the day’s events fireside. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)
Word of Horse Camp’s success is spreading as the couple received a huge response of support from businesses, individuals and organizations that provided an array of donations in the form of food, money, and even port –o–potties. Donors included the Tobacco Prevention program, the Diabetes Program, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
“Horse Culture is a vital part in our younger generations’ future. The horse has been given to us as a powerful teaching tool. It allows our elders to show our young people how to read and respect this magnificent creature. This camp was amazing Willy and Patty did such a great job that no doubt they have a vision for what they are doing. It’s like they were foreordained to do these camps,” said Pitts.