Stopping the Navajo Horse Hunt

Val Cecama-Hogsett
We managed to stop the Navajo hunt. We alerted everyone to the plans of the US Government to transfer horses as quickly as possible once the Stewart Amendment gets passed in the Interior budget.

The Stewart amendment removes restrictions on sale and transfer of horses and removes the restriction on using funds for the destruction of healthy wild horses & burros. Burros were not mentioned in Stewart’s mass euthanasia plan.

Then there was a closed-door meeting in UT, it was by invitation only, even though the host was a state university, and attended by Representatives, Senators, Governor’ and several federal agencies, like BLM, USFS and the one photo that we took of the vehicles there was really troubling, the Navajo Fish & Game.


So we, Citizens Against Equine Slaughter (CAES) sent in a request for public records, to the UT Governor, who was in attendance. We asked for all communications about this ‘summit’. We were shocked and disgusted at what we saw in those documents.

The Governor’s office sent us the agenda for that meeting. There were goals listed, one was removing the riders in the budget, the ones that are restrictive, not allowing horses to be killed by BLM or sold/transferred to anyone who intends to send them to slaughter.

The Amendment offered by Chris Stewart and supported by 3 other buddies of his, was to lift these riders. The house passed that amendment. The Senate chair submitted her recommendations, to the Senate, and they were red in twice, clearly marked as the draft to be marked up by the Senate Appropriations committee. That never happened, the Senate never even gave it a bill number. So the only version that exists to date is the House version with the dangerous language. If an Omnibus is passed on March 23, we suspect that House version would just be put through without the Senate ever having a say.

This date, March 23rd for the deadline on the budget, fit right into the agenda, the one from the summit in UT. They expected that amendment to go through on March 23rd, without the riders. Now we are on to the next terrifying step in their agenda. That step was “How quickly can we move them onto tribal lands” We believe the answer to that question was estimated to be 3 days, just in time for the Navajo hunt.

Why do we think this was just going to be done with no input from the public? Because just a day or so before the UT Summit the GAO report we told people was coming, came out. The timing was intentional, and of course, it agreed with the livestock, oil and other extraction industries had been claiming. Overpopulation, starving, damaging the lands, NONE of which held any truth. Then the ringer: this GAO report claimed there were 94 thousand wild horses on the Navajo Reservation alone.

We knew this was a lie, and we started work on finding the Navajo Tribe’s census numbers. We found that information and the Navajo people stated they had approximately 55,000 wild horses. Others who live on the Rez. or who are watching and documenting the Navajo wild horses said no way, they believe the number was under 25 thousand. So the only clear thing was that the GAO report was inflated. But, why?

Well, if they had not been exposed, the horses from BLM holding, long and short term, would quietly be shipped to the Navajo, and when the Navajo hunted, slaughtered, mass euthanized them they needed to have this inflated population number to explain both the need to kill and the number killed.

And with the permission granted by removing the rider, it taking about 3 days to move the horses to tribal lands, the Navajo Hunt was suddenly scheduled for March 27. Tidy little timeline and pr campaign building up to it.

When we put out the expose’ on the Summit we got told we were conspiracy theorists. When we filed an ethics complaint against Rep Stewart and his co-conspirators, we were called crazy, and no other major wild horse advocates would even support us.

When I called people who worked on the Rez. they believed the GAO population numbers, until they went searching, and did flyovers. Then people started saying holy crap you’re right. And now, we have just a few weeks to respond and stop the hunt, while trying to make sure the Senate does not blindly pass the Stewart Amendment in the Dept of Interior budget, even in an omnibus.

We called every tribe I have connections with as an indigenous person. I contacted water protectors and told them they needed to get to this protest another group was organizing for March 2nd. I spent days on the phone, sending emails, contacting people on FB, Twitter, every contact I used to deal with in my 30 years of animal advocacy and activism. I had been fighting this since September, with every volunteer at CAES working every minute they had.

Patience O’Dowd, also a member of CAES and WHOA (who is involved in 2 court cases to stop the illegal roundups in Placitas and Ruidoso, NM) worked tirelessly on the expose. Both Patience and I are sick, she has been for over a year, I have been for 4 months, but we kept this fight going, trying to keep this issue in the forefront of people’ minds, all as volunteers, and with under $1,000 in donations (even though we are begging for help with legal fees, pro bono law firms, anything).

When the Navajo Nation Council, President Russ Begaye met with the Navajo Fish & Game yesterday we were on pins and needles waiting to hear the outcome. We heard rumors that the hunt was off, canceled, but I could not get through to the contacts we had on the Rez. The ones I had told about this GAO report and the Summit agenda, even sharing a photo we took of the Navajo F& G at that summit. So CAES put out a preliminary, unofficial statement that we were waiting for confirmation, but believed the hunt was canceled.

When I finally heard from the photographer who follows the wild horses on the Rez and is a tribal member, he was elated, thanked us for everything we did to help.

The woman I had first contacted, the one who works on the Rez to educate the Navajo about the horses and show them better options than killing horses, well she was angry. She felt we had no right to claim any credit, and she kicked me out of the group she made to educate the tribe.

My personal opinion is and has always been that the only winners in a situation like this are the horses. They got the win. However, in this twisted world, we live in everyone is competing for money, and if you do not promote your organization, lay claim to the wins you have, people don’t support you, they send their donations elsewhere.

I hate this system, I hate the drama, the backbiting, and competition over money. I got into this for the horses, not for credit or money or to be in the news…only for the horses. EVERY dime CAES gets goes to the horses, we don’t buy ourselves vehicles, plane tickets, computers or stay in posh hotels. Honestly, sometimes I am so focused on a situation that I walk into a meeting and forget I have not brushed my hair, or have worn the most stained shirt I own.

But we go, we fight, and we will claim this win on the Rez as something we at least helped to achieve.

References and Resources

The Stewart Amendment in the House version of the Dept of Interior appropriations bill

Summit Expose’


Ethics Complaint Filed With the Office of Congressional Ethics.

One thought on “Stopping the Navajo Horse Hunt

  1. This may be a naïve question – but why in the world isn’t your CAES working together with WHE? Laura Leigh seems to be in the same boat – working for the horses, but in it pretty much alone, other than volunteers, and having the same problems. Seems to me you have much in common & are both getting bad-mouthed about your attempts to HELP THE HORSES – which is or should be all of the advocates goal – right? I know there are many large organizations, but it appears the smaller ones – with less “overhead ” stand a better chance of getting something done.

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