The Bones of 800 Horses

July 20, 2023.Jonah Das.1 Like.0 Comments

In the mid-1850s, out on the high desert plateau of what is now eastern Washington state, the highly mobile horse nations of the Yakama, Spokane, Paulouse and Coeur d’Alene successfully defended their homeland against an invading army for nearly two years. Their ability to evade capture so frustrated US Army Col. George Wright that he lured them together for what they believed would be a treaty negotiation, then ordered the slaughter of their horses. All 800 of them.

It took two days for the soldiers to shoot all those horses, and days for all of them to die. All of this occurred in this stunning meadow along the banks of the Spokane River.

The horror of it beggars the imagination and wrenches the soul.

The Army also destroyed all of the Natives’ lodges and food supplies. Combined with the loss of their horses, the four nations were defeated and marched off to the concentration camp that was to become the Yakama reservation.

The photo below with the pile of gravel is the low spot in the meadow, and so I assume that’s where the great pile of horses’ bones kept working their way through the soft riverside soil, probably for decades.

Our visit was complicated by the absence of any site names or other geo-location indicators of what the historic records calls “Horse Slaughter Camp” on Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Facebook. There is almost no other record of what happened here, aside from the odd memorial pictured below, which was reportedly moved a mile east of Horse Slaughter Camp, probably because of all those bones coming through the soil.

This is an otherwise beautiful and popular Washington State Park, running for nearly 40 miles along the Spokane River. There is no mention of Horse Slaughter Camp in the area or on any of the park’s information sites.

The site is located right here. We hope others will visit, witness what happened here in the name of “winning” the west, and tag the site so that maybe Google, Apple, and Facebook will add this as an historic site.

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