On the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation – Ashland, Montana.
The brown hills edged with pine trees seem to stretch for miles as we ride horseback across the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Montana. When we pause to rest in the shade of a tree Leo Spang, a Native ethnobotanist, digs up the roots of Blackroot, (Echinacea) and shares the tongue-numbing remedy for many ailments. He picks western yarrow for us, telling us to rub the yellow flowers between our fingers. The plant releases a camphor-like smell. Mixed with leaves, yarrow is used to stop blood oozing from a wound.
Back at Zane and Sandra Spang’s ranch their relative Jay Old Mouse, a flutemaker for the Cheyenne people, comes to play. His tunes are rich and haunting in the night air. Old Mouse is typical of the artists, elders and craftspeople who share their traditions with guests at Cheyenne Trailriders. “I want people to know that we are real and that we live in two worlds,” says Old Mouse. “We have to provide and work – I’m a carpenter by trade – but we hang onto our traditions.”
The music makes us feel connected to the surrounding hills. We carry the tunes with us as we fall asleep on the earthen floor of our tipi. Cheyenne Trailriders designs custom trips. For an overnight ride including horse fee, lodging in a tent or tipi, guide, and six meals, the cost is $250 per adult. The ethnobotany course on the trail is an additional $75 per person. Ask about family prices. The minimum age for horseback rides is 8-years-old.