The Goshute Indians lived in the southwestern deserts of what is now Utah and Arizona for many hundreds of years. Subsisting on roots (hence the name Digger Indians), seeds and small game, they were a part of the ecosystem. Their populations ebbed and flowed with environmental forces.
The Comanche Indians lived further north and east of the Goshutes. They subsisted on small game or bison they killed by herding them off cliffs. Before the horse was introduced to them, they struggled to catch enough food to thrive.
The Spanish had colonized the Southwest several decades when in New Mexico, the Pueblo Indians revolted in the year 1680. The Spanish had been very careful to contain the use of horses in order to keep the indigenous population under control. The revolt caused the Spanish to abandon horses by the hundreds.
The two tribes handled the introduction of this new tool very differently. When the Goshutes first saw horses, they saw food. They ate any horses that they came in contact with.
They saw the horse as a tool that could significantly improve their life. They understood that from the back of a horse, bison were significantly easier to hunt. They became more nomadic – following the bison herds, and growing in power.
Neither tribe was smarter than the other; both had similar lifestyle before the horse. The difference is how they used the new technology. One became the symbol that we now think of whenever we imagine the American Indian; the other became known as “the Digger Indians” subjects of slave trade between other tribes and the Spanish.
Are you eating your horse or leveraging it to bring you a better life?