A Song for the Horse Nation title bar

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) draws upon its extraordinary collections to present A Song for the Horse Nation, an epic story of the horse’s influence on American Indian tribes from the 1600s to the current era.

Drawing upon a treasure-trove of stunning historical objects (including ledger drawings, hoof ornaments, beaded bags, hide robes, paintings, and other objects) and new pieces by contemporary Native artists, the exhibition reveals how horses shaped the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual foundations of American Indian life, particularly on the Great Plains.

The story of American Indians and horses is one of the great sagas of human contact with the animal kingdom.  The foundation of this extraordinary relationship was laid in 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought the first horses to the Western Hemisphere. As Spaniards surged westward from the Caribbean and northwards from Mexico, American Indians caught their first glimpse of the horse, and soon adopted it into their world.

By the 1800s, Native American horsemanship was legendary in American culture at large, celebrated in paintings, photographs, Wild West shows, and later in movies and television programs. Today, the image of the mounted Native warrior remains fixed in the American imagination.

Siksika (Blackfoot) horse head covering, ca. 1845. National Museum of the American Indian, 18/8880.The exhibition text is drawn from historical events as well as traditional and contemporary stories, songs, and poetry.  Archival photographs, lithographs, maps, books, magazines, newspapers, and advertisements for Wild West shows enrich the gallery experience. Audio-visual presentations of contemporary Native American horsemen, breeders, rodeos, powwows, horse races, and other events bring the story up to the present, reminding visitors that the horse, though no longer ubiquitous, is still venerated in Indian Country today.

The exhibition is an outgrowth of the NMAI publication A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures, edited by George P. Horse Capture and Emil Her Many Horses (2006).

Quote from Herman Viola

Exhibition specifications


Approximately 100 historical and contemporary objects, 50 photographs and illustrations, cases and vitrines, A-V equipment and cabinetry, text and graphic panels, labels


Companion book, brochures, educational and promotional resources, speaker list, exhibition website

Participation Fee $175,000, includes pro-rated shipping

5,000 square feet, est.

Crates To be determined
Weight To be determined
Category Art
Security High

Pro-rated, SITES-designated carrier

SITES Contacts Katherine Krile, 202.633.3108 (Content)
Minnie Russell, 202.633.3160 (Scheduling)
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Related publications

A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures, edited by George P. Horse Capture and Emil Her Many Horses, 2006.

This informative volume gathers poems, photographs and brief contemporary essays alongside pieces from the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian to memorialize the relationship between Native Americans and their horses.


A Song for a Horse Nation book jacket
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Press release

None listed at this time. Please check back later.

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Exhibition Specifications

Collection Images

Exhibition Prospectus

Related Publications

Exhibition Website

If you like this exhibition, you might also like:

Native Words, Native Warriors

IndiVisible: African-Native Lives in the Americas

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More Exhibitions from SITES


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