Legends of Our Times
Native Ranching and Rodeo Life on the Plains and Plateau

Throughout the ages, Northern Plains and Plateau peoples have had a special relationship with the horse, dog and buffalo. This relationship enabled them to adapt to ranching and rodeo life. Today, the pride and spirit of the "Horse People" live on. Legends of Our Times Advisory Committee

For thousands of years, the Native people of North America have had a close relationship with the natural and supernatural beings who occupy the sky, earth and underworld. These beings shared their knowledge with humans, teaching them a means of subsistence, the importance of respecting themselves and the spirit world, and the ceremonies required to sustain themselves and future generations.

The buffalo, deer, coyote, dog and horse are among those beings. They have played a significant role in the daily life and history of the Plains and Plateau peoples. The accounts of their relationships with humans are transmitted from one generation to another through songs, dances, ceremonies and stories. These are the "legends of our times" that link the people to their past and give meaning to the present.

The relationship between Native people and these special beings was altered forever by the rapid occupation of the North American West. The disappearance of the vast buffalo herds and the confinement of Native people to reservations and reserve lands destroyed the traditional way of life. Native buffalo hunters and horsemen had no choice but to adapt. Using their skills and knowledge of horses, they became ranchers and cowboys, and found employment in the motion picture industry, and as entertainers in Wild West shows and rodeos.

Despite the hardship, Plains and Plateau peoples survived the devastating period of dislocation and epidemics. Their stories of perseverance are also the legends of our times. Today, they proudly continue a long tradition of "cowboying" and maintain - artisans, poets and artists, they enrich North America's economic and cultural life. As performers and athletes, they entertain millions.