The Europeans Closely Guarded Horse Technology w/S.C. Gwynne | Joe Rogan

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S.C. Gwynne

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S. C. Gwynne is an American nonfiction writer. He is the author of the prize-winning "Empire of the Summer Moon" and his latest book "Hymns of the Republic" is now available.

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Native Americans

Episodes & clips about the indigenous people of the Americas.

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Did you know that horses originally evolved here in North America? No. And then they went extinct here, but then they reintroduced them. Really? The Europeans did, yeah. There's a guy named Dan Flores. He's got a bunch of great books, and one of them is called Coyote America. He's got another one. What is his other book about the various large land animals that went extinct here in North America, but the wolf and a lot of the other ones, what is it? Conserengete. That's it. The natural west also. Yeah. Oh, yeah. He's fantastic. And essentially, they all went extinct, all the horses went extinct here, and then they were reintroduced by Europeans. But they had originally evolved here in North America. And flourished here. And I didn't know. Yeah. So there's no, but there's no evidence that any of the native people here really used them until Europeans came, whether it was Cortez or whoever, Cortez with the Aztecs or whoever else came across. Horses is so much a part of the story. So they come up with the Spanish. The Spanish are acutely aware of what is going to happen if the horse technology gets out, and they take great pains to not let it get out. They don't want to teach the Indians in Mexico or the Indians in North America how to use them. And inevitably, the technology does get out. And then there's a few moments. There's a great moment in time in 1680 in Santa Fe when there's a great Pueblo Revolt, and they kick the Spanish out, and like tens of thousands of horses get out. It's the great horse dispersal. And these are the horses that come into the hands of these plains tribes. So in the 1600s, their power and their dominance started to assert itself? Begins. Yes. And then they figured out how to have all these horses and how valuable that was, or some of the other tribes just hadn't kind of caught on. No one knows, and it's interesting, no one knows that because it was only seen in flashes by the Spanish through their kind of northern outpost. No one exactly knows what it was in the heart and soul of a Comanche that could do that better than anybody else. And in fact, Comanches, by all descriptions of the time, were not pre-horses, any way, graceful people. They were kind of short and kind of bow-legged, and they weren't especially graceful. And they didn't look like perhaps you would have think of the northern Sioux Indians or the Nican, the nickel. I mean, that kind of tall and with the bone structure, that wasn't the Comanches. And then they got on a horse, and then everything changed. Even though the Apaches were the first ones to actually get that technology from the Spanish, and they raised havoc with it. But the tribe that got it the best and the most were the Comanches. They were the tribe that actually ended up supplying horses to a lot of the northern plains tribes that we just talked about. And what they did was, once they had this incredible mastery of the horse and this ability to hunt like they never had and fight like they never had, they did what you would, I just expect the great new power in the plains. And the plains are a big place, by the way. The great new power in the plains is going to challenge for the greatest food source out in mid-America, and that was the buffalo herds. And they were in the southern plains. So the Comanches, over a period of 150 years of sustained combat, moved south from the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, essentially into this 250,000 square mile empire. Think of kind of headquartered in the Texas Panhandle, which is where the buffalo were. And this tribe, they were known for being buffalo hunters, and they were also known, they weren't really like making artwork or doing a lot of the things that we sort of associate with other Native American tribes. They were mostly just hunting and raiding. And the things that we all would associate with Native Americans, you know, this wonderful abilities in dance and music, complex religion and complex religious social structures to go along with it, and all these different things, music and dance and all these things. The Comanches, by the time that the kind of Anglo-Europeans run into them, they are a stripped down culture that looks more like Sparta. And one of the reasons they are is because they've been fighting this long war, primarily against the Apaches, but against other tribes, over decades. And during that time, as they became ascendant militarily, they became less interested in those things. They became interested in war conveyed status, right? War conveyed numbers of ponies and status and the thing. And so, yes, they were a stripped down war culture. I guess to whatever extent we know or something about Sparta, it would remind you of Sparta. That's what's so interesting about it is it's such a unique tribe, just a very unique branch of Native Americans that was specifically like this. They made war and they conquered. And when you think about what they got themselves, finally, it's about, I said 250,000 square miles, this probably doesn't mean anything, but think of West Texas, Western Oklahoma, Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado and Eastern New Mexico, gigantic chunks of that. That was theirs. And when you think also of the numbers of them that were there when, say, the Anglo-Europeans and the Americans came through in the 1830s, there was probably 25 or 30,000 of them out there, of which 5 or 6,000 warriors. Now, I don't know what 5 or 6,000 suggests to you, but it suggests to me like the third baseline at Yankee Stadium or something. It's not very many people occupying this gigantic area that became, as I was saying earlier, determinant of everything that happened around it. And I think that's it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.