Human-Animal Interactions Recap

By Kathryn Renton

     Oct. 26-27, Salt Lake City. The University of Utah Department of History hosted a Tanner Lecture and O. Meredith Wilson Symposium on Human-Animal Interactions, where Marcy Norton gave a keynote address based on work in her forthcoming book on people and animals in the Atlantic World (under contract with Harvard University Press).  Professor Norton used the case of dogs used by Spanish conquistadors to hunt and kill indigenous people to illustrate “modes of interaction” that influence the subjectivities attributed to individual animals, and which can shift between cultures or also within one culture. In the companion symposium, invited speakers included Iris Montero on the hummingbird in Mesoamerican culture; Bathsheba Demuth on sled-dogs in the Arctic North; and Kathryn Renton on horses in the Americas. 

     The discussion of wild versus domesticated animals should be of interest to the rentonhorsesmembers of the EHC.  It came up in Professor Norton on the circum-Caribbean indigenous concept of iegue in taming individual members of a wild species, versus the control over reproduction in domesticated animals common to European cultures.  My discussion of the cimarrón or feral and stray horses that populated the Americas emphasized the semi-feral management of these same domesticated animals in Iberian husbandry techniques. The status of the “Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros” remains a contentious issue for ecologists and conservationists in the federal lands managed by National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management in the western U.S. I drove out to Baker, NV to spend two days observing the herd of horses in the Sulphur Springs Herd Management Area with Kathleen Hayden. The status of these animals as wildlife or domestic strays proves to be an important debate for how their populations should be managed.