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David Shukman

It’s one of the greatest honours in the scientific world: the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


And it’s just been awarded to a remarkable team including Indigenous Lakota leaders, many traditional knowledge keepers and western experts in genomics and archaeology.

Ludovic Lakota Prize.jpg

Ludovic Orlando, a principal investigator of the Horsepower project, is among the winners.


Their research revealed the astonishing history of the horse in North America, combining the latest genetic techniques with oral traditions and traditional knowledge.


The investigation overturned the standard Western narrative.

Prof. Ludovic Orlando and Dr. Yvette Running Horse discuss image of the Blacks Fork horse’s healed fracture.

© Northern Vision Productions.

It showed that Indigenous peoples developed a very deep bond with horses at least one century earlier than scientists had previously acknowledged.


“I was convinced, as a Western scientist, that the history of the horse in the Americas was known and really, truly grounded,” Ludovic said in an interview with the AAAS.


But the partnership with the Lakota opened up a far more holistic view.

“Our paper is really considering ancient DNA just as one of many dimensions,” he said. “It shows what we miss if we just stick to the Western science model.


“This award first and foremost goes to horses for their capacity to help us navigate between different worlds and reconnect them.”

Ludo prize pic.png

Wendell Yellow Bull, one of the study’s co-authors, told the Lakota Times:


“It is important for our children, our community members and the world to know that other cultures did not ‘discover’ us, our horses, or our lands.


“We showed it to them then, and we are teaching them now.”


Of 12,000 scientific articles submitted to the journal Science every year, only 700 are published. And only one of those wins the prize.

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