Horses, the Ute Tribe believes, were created by Mother Earth and are sacred. That’s why Lara Arrowchis-Ivie was thrilled to help The Natural History Museum of Utah bring to life a Ute-specific piece of a new special exhibition called The Horse.
The traveling exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, along with an additional exhibit examining the Ute-horse connection, opened to the public Monday and runs through Jan. 4.
The Natural History Museum of Utah’s new exhibition, The Horse, runs through Jan. 4. The museum is at 301 Wakara Way in Salt Lake City, and is open seven days a week at 10 a.m. It closes at 5 p.m. every day but Wednesday, when it is open until 9 p.m. Special events include From the Horses Mouth, a presentation by horse experts and craftsmen, Saturday and Sunday at noon and 2 p.m. in the Canyon portion of the museum. A Cowboy Festival and BBQ is set for Sept. 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the museum terrace. The weekend will be filled with western entertainment, including cowboy poets, trick ropers, bluegrass and country music and barbecue cuisine.
"The Horse is the largest, most artifact-rich special exhibition the museum has hosted to date," exhibit developer Lisa Thompson said. "It arrived in eight semi trucks, packed with cultural artifacts from all around the world — diorama, fossils, digital interactives."
Some items were too valuable for regular shipping. A special courier delivered German medieval horse armor, used to transform the animal into a tank-like weapon in the late 1400s.
"It [the exhibit] examines the evolution and domestication of the horse, explores the enduring bond between humans and horses and it considers the many roles horses have played in Utah and the West," Sarah George, director of the The Natural History Museum of Utah, said during a Monday press conference.
Other artifacts include a restored Wells Fargo stagecoach, a Samarai saddle, a horse gas mask used during and after WWI and a diorama depicting the evolution of the horse. Visitors can explore horse anatomy — including their fields of vision — on an interactive screen.
The New York museum, "has long been recognized for creating beautiful, intelligent and highly engaging traveling exhibits," George said. "We’re delighted to bring such an important and relevant story to our community.
Arrowchis-Ivie, a ranch owner and barrel racer, sat on an Ute Tribe advisory committee to help the museum develop the part of the exhibition dealing with Ute history.
Thompson said horses originated and evolved in North America, went extinct after the ice age and were reintroduced to the West when Spanish explorers brought them to Mexico in the sixteenth century.
"It was the Ute people of Colorado and Utah that were the first North American tribes to acquire horses from the Spanish and begin to pioneer an American Indian horse culture," Thompson said.
At that point, the Ute Tribe began introducing horses to other tribes east and west of the Rocky Mountains and into the southern plains, she said.
The Comanche acquired horses from the Spaniards as well, but Thompson was persuaded through research that the Utes were the first.
Arrowchis-Ivie said horses transformed the Utes. The Utes became fierce warriors on horseback, and improved their hunting strategies and were able to trade beads and hides more widely.
Part of the additional exhibit is an enormous photo mural depicting a line of Ute warriors standing in front of the historic ZCMI building on Salt Lake City’s Main Street in 1869, Thompson said. "We love this image for the surprising juxtaposition it presents as well as the fact that is it so iconic in Utah."
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