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Shiprock Navajos go own way on feral horses

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Chapter ends support for roundups held by Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON – When it comes to dealing with the problem of feral horses, the Navajo Nation’s Shiprock Chapter is going its own way.

In a 33-0 vote, chapter members rescinded a July 28 resolution that placed the chapter on the list for feral horse roundups being conducted by the Navajo Nation Agriculture Department this week.

The chapter will develop its own solution.

The resolution said a local program would be “more successful and done more humanely” than the process under way the Navajo Agriculture Department.

About 50 people attended the meeting Monday evening, where chapter president Duane “Chili” Yazzie reiterated concerns about the roundups on the Navajo Nation. Concerns include sales to slaughterhouses, use of all-terrain vehicles to round up horses and abandoned colts.

Another issue is that the elderly have talked about the importance of horses to Navajo culture and stories, he said. In those stories, he learned that a horse’s mane represents water and rain while arrowheads can be found underneath its hooves.

“We’ve had elders in here saying, ‘This is not the way to do it,’” he said about the roundups.

For chapter member Wilbur Sells, the condition of the land is reason enough to conduct the roundups. But he said owners need to be held accountable for their animals.

“People need to realize that they need to take on responsibility for their ownership for the horses,” Sells said.

Beverly Maxwell, who heads the chapter’s feral horse roundup subcommittee, said the panel closely examined the roundups and concluded it was not the route to take. Also, she said, chapter residents know the land and can develop a more effective plan.

Robert Hayes, the chapter’s grazing official, presented some alternatives, including adoption and hosting an “Extreme Mustang Makeover” event that focuses on horse rehabilitation. Rather than selling the horses for meat, Hayes said, rehabilitation can showcase the skills of the feral horses.

“The mustangs that we have are dependable; they have endurance,” he said.

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