‘All of this Belongs to Us’: Land, Horses, and Indigenous Resistance on the Yakama Indian Reservation, 1900-1950
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In the early 1900s, the Yakima Indian Agency welcomed non-Native ranching operations onto Yakama tribal lands, taxing rangelands, and resulting in widespread overgrazing. By the 1920s, agency concern for the welfare of ranchers facilitated a need to gain access to tribal grazing lands sustaining Yakama horses. As a result, agency officials launched systematic assaults on Yakama horse herds, citing horses as culprits of overgrazing and land degradation. However, Yakamas showed little interest in removing their horses, and instead actively opposed settler encroachment on tribal grazing lands. Through analyzing archival sources, conducting interviews, and reviewing scholarly sources, I argue that Yakamas and settlers used horses as a terrain of struggle, whereby they asserted competing claims to Indigenous lands and resources. Examining horses as a tool of resistance provides a useful lens for understanding forms of Native opposition to colonial hegemony, while interrogating problematic tropes settlers utilized to justify divesting Native communities.