How the horse became part of the Plains Ojibwe Culture
Many of the Ojibwe who had horses during the early 1800s seem to have been those who spent more time with Cree and Métis friends and relatives. The Pembina band was one such group.
Intermarriage and other contacts exposed the Pembina Ojibwe to the values and skills of these peoples, and mixed-group (Ojibwe, Assiniboine, Cree, and Métis) camps fostered the borrowing and sharing of many cultural elements and values. By 1800, when the Ojibwe were in close association with the Cree and Assiniboine and were acquiring horses from them, horses had assumed a position of importance among these peoples. This was the era of the flowering of plains equestrian cultures. For the Pembina people, horses were not only symbols of individual affluence and prestige, but, because of the burgeoning pemmican trade and the independence and power of mounted bison-hunting peoples, they were also both the means and the symbol of the affluence of these tribes.
Given that the Pembina Ojibwe initially came west at least partly in search of economic gains and a higher standard of living, and that they used certain trade goods as badges of personal social status, it is not surprising that some of them were attracted to the means of wealth. Horses, and the finery and flamboyance associated with them by plains tribes, were such hallmarks.
Reinforcing this admiration of the success of plains peoples was the fact that Cree was frequently used as a trade language by peoples throughout the West, including the Pembina Ojibwe, thus creating the unique form of Ojibwe/Cree language that developed later at Turtle Mountain.
From Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn). 1994. “Ojibwa Of Western Canada, 1780 To 1870.” Manitoba Studies In Native History. St. Paul: MN Historical Society Press.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities