A Northern Cheyenne Indian Chief from Montana came to Central Park on Thursday, Oct. 28, with a message: Carriage horses belong in New York City.
Banning horse-drawn carriage rides, which predominantly occur in the 843-acre park, would deny city residents and visitors from around the world an important and spiritual link to nature, Chief Phillip Whiteman (Yellow Bird) said.
“The horse is a connection to Mother Earth,” Chief Phillip said. “If you remove this beautiful icon from this city, it’s going to have an impact around the world.”
The chief’s wife, Lynette Two Bulls, said her husband and children take carriage rides whenever they visit.
“We connect to the spirit of the horse, and the horse does have a spirit,” she said. “So, when we take a carriage ride in Central Park, in a city built of concrete, it reconnects us to Mother Earth. It also connects us to our own self, our own humanity. And that’s what we need today: more humanity.”
Peace Conference Connection
Chief Phillip is a sixth-generation Cheyenne chief and a renowned horseman. He consulted with Christian Bale in the making of the film “Hostiles” on Cheyenne culture and language. The chief and Two Bulls are president and executive director of a non-profit in Montana dedicated to providing youth programs and preserving Indigenous Peoples’ cultures, traditions, and language.
At an international peace conference years ago, they forged a friendship with one of the Central Park carriage horse drivers. The driver introduced the duo to the historic horse-carriage trade in NYC and to other drivers, who are now represented by Transport Workers Union Local 100. They have visited the city several times.
An animal rights organization, NYCLASS, has unsuccessfully advocated for a horse-carriage ban for years. The group claims carriage rides amount to “cruel and barbaric” treatment of the horses.
TWU Local 100 counters that the carriage horses are strong animals that weigh 1,500 pounds. Equine veterinarians say putting horses in a field to stand around idle all day would be detrimental to their health, the union has said.
The animal rights activists need to be educated, the Chief said.
“The highest form of ignorance is to judge something that you ... know nothing of,” he said. “Today common sense has become uncommon practice.”