The adoption of the Ojibwe to Horse Culture was not immediate
The adoption of horses by the Ojibwe – a traditionally pedestrian and canoe-using people – as they ventured west into the fringes of the prairies was not an immediate thing. Although horses were an efficient means of transportation, during their initial move westward the Ojibwe continued to live along the wooded shores of the rivers and lakes of the region for most of the year, using their canoes to move across the landscape. Even when birchbark was hard to find in the poplar-rich region west of the Red River, skin canoes were substituted in many cases.
It was noted by traders that the Ojibwe were hunting bison without the aid of horses well before 1800, and that they remained horse-poor for several decades. This resistance to adopting the horse was helped by the fact that buffalo were very plentiful and often could be hunted on foot. However, as time wore on and the Métis started to hunt buffalo in larger groups using horses to chase the herds, the hunting of them on foot became harder to do.
Surprisingly, the Ojibwe living along the Red and Assiniboine rivers had horses about a decade earlier than those bands living west of the Assiniboine. One reason for this was that the Ojibwe on the Red River were often in conflict with the Sioux, who were mounted, and that the Ojibwe were finding it difficult to properly fight against a mounted enemy who could avoid direct confrontation and cut off their retreats using their speedy mounts.
Another factor in the adoption of the horse was the closer social contact that was happening between the Ojibwe and their Cree and Métis friends and relatives. Intermarriage and other contacts exposed the Ojibwe to the values and skills of their equestrian allies, and mixed-group camps fostered the borrowing of many cultural elements and values. By about 1800, more and more Ojibwe were working in concert with the Cree and Assiniboine and were acquiring horses from them.
It was during this time that there was a general flowering of plains equestrian culture. Horses became a symbol of individual wealth and allowed those who owned them to participate in the burgeoning pemmican trade to a greater extent. With the new ability to gain wealth and prestige, horses were adopted on the Ojibwes' terms, to suit their own needs and agendas, and integrated into their own value system.
Read more at Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn), The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 1780 to 1870. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1994
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities