June is recognized as National Indigenous History Month as a time to celebrate the history, heritage and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. In an effort to learn more about local indigenous history and culture Tourism Atikokan visited Seine River First Nation to visit Grey Raven Ranch and the Ojibwe Horses that live there.
While many have never heard of them, the Ojibwe Horse has existed for many years with Elders and Knowledge Keepers putting them in North America before colonial contact. Once existing in the thousands there are now less than 200 of these ponies remaining in the world. The Ojibwe Horse is sometimes known as the Lac La Croix Indigenous Pony because they were last found in the wild at Lac La Croix First Nation.
The Ojibwe Horse is officially a pony because of its small stature but are built similarly to horses. Traditionally they were used to help trappers run their lines and to transport supplies, particularly in the winter months across frozen water bodies, which allowed them to develop unique traits such as hairy ears and an extra nose flap to protect from the cold weather. Today, they are used for tourism, education, and therapy across Central and western Canada and the northern United States.
Grey Raven Ranch is dedicated to the preservation of the Ojibwe Horse and its heritage through educational programming for reserve members, youth, and public events. Youth volunteers regularly assist with the care and maintenance of these ponies and have the opportunity to assist behind the scenes to practice their business and administrative skills. Through this work, the volunteers receive the benefits of working with animals such as patience, confidence, increased social skills, and as Grey Raven Ranch owner Darcy Whitecrow puts it “they show you what kind of person you are”. The Ojibwe Horses are an incredibly intelligent breed and are very sensitive to how people act around them, the more comfortable you are with them the more comfortable they are with you.
Photo: Darcy Whitecrow, owner of Grey Raven Ranch, and one of his Ojibwe Horses.
During our visit Darcy recalled his efforts to bring the ponies back to Seine River and how some community members recalled the ponies from their childhood with some worrying that the dream of having them back would never become a reality. In 2014 the ponies returned to their traditional home after more than 50 years and ever since they have been a source of pride for the community.
Grey Raven Ranch hopes to return to normal with their programming shortly as Covid restrictions lift and they anticipate being able to bring the ponies to Quetico Provincial Park for their usual Labour Day weekend visit. In the meantime, please consider donating to help save these beautiful animals.
Grey Raven Ranch is a registered non-profit in Canada and appreciates all donations. Visit their website below to donate today.
Atikokan is on the doorstep of one of Ontario’s most traditional wilderness areas, as Quetico Provincial Park stands among the best for its beauty and its ruggedness. We’re only too happy to have you here, whether it’s for a day, for a week, or a lifetime. We are the Canoeing Capital of Canada. We are the Gateway to Quetico Provincial Park. We are Naturally Wild.