Milwaukee kids learn Native American history while meeting rare Ojibwe ponies

NOW: Milwaukee kids learn Native American history while meeting rare Ojibwe ponies


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Local Milwaukee kids got up-close and personal with rare Ojibwe ponies Monday at MKE Urban Stables.

Organizers with Repairing Together say it was an opportunity for kids to develop cultural understanding and friendship.

"Our elders say they have always been here with us, and they were so plentiful they used to run like deer," said Em Loerzel, descendant of The White Earth Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota and Founder of nonprofit Humble Horse.

She says when she was in her early 20s, Mark Denning of Repairing Together told her stories of the Ojibwe ponies that he was told by his elders.

Loerzel says the ponies, native to the US, had a symbiotic relationship with the Ojibwe people, but then European colonialist powers moved in.

"Between the United States and Canada there was almost a wholesale eradication of them," said Repairing Together instructor Mark Denning.

Four Ojibwe ponies were left in the 60s, but now, people like Em Loerzel, with her nonprofit Humble Horse, are trying to change that.

"When I met [these ponies] I cried, because it was that meaningful, because these stories for me only existed as a child and now it's real," said Denning.

There's now 180 of these horses, only 20 are in the United States.

"We consider these horses our relatives," said Loerzel.

Leah Witt, head trainer with Humble Horse, says they're working to responsibly breed these stocky, hairy, powerful and gentle animals.

"Original and as whole in their Ojibwe poniness as we possibly can," said Witt.

Their goal is also to educate kids, like the ones who came out Monday to MKE Urban Stable, on their history.

Students from Indian Community School and Milwaukee Jewish Day School got one-on-one with the horses.

"I just put my head up against him and he was so solid and so soft," said Indian Community School student Nicholas Hoyt.

Loerzel says these ponies are now breed ambassadors, telling their story.

"In turn, kind of our own history, and we're also teaching non-indigenous people history and context so they can be good allies," said Loerzel.

"Unfortunately, a story as native people, that we share with these horses," said Denning.

Denning says that's the mission of Repairing Together, bringing kids from different backgrounds together to form stronger understanding and friendship.

"Someone can be a friend without qualification," said Denning talking about the kids' experiences with the horses. "And hopefully they can carry that feeling to the relationships that they have."

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