By Chris Kieffer
NEW ALBANY – New Albany High School students visited on Friday an animal with a long, historic heritage.
One of the last living pure Choctaw horses was at the school during a presentation about the breed – which was the first horse brought from Spain to the United States – and about Choctaw culture.
“I wanted students to have an appreciation of Native American people and to know about the first American horse,” said Richard Little of the Ripley-based Chata Isuba Association, which works on education about and preservation of the animal.
After Spanish Conquistadors brought the horses to the New World, the Choctaw people introduced them to Mississippi during the 1600s, Little said. By 1828, the herd numbered 15,000, but they were transported to Oklahoma in 1831 during the forced expulsion of the Choctaw tribe.
Today, a small remnant of 500 Colonial Spanish horses lives near Oklahoma’s Blackjack Mountain, and only a verified 186 are pure Choctaw ponies. One of those is Panola Anna, whom Little brought to New Albany High School.
“I hope they realize what this horse did for the Choctaw people,” said Jalon Bullock, who teaches at New Albany High School’s vocational center and helped bring Little to the school. “It is a piece of Mississippi history, and I want them to understand what it meant.”
Little, who taught at New Albany Middle School from 1971 to 1991, spoke to the students about the five years he lived with the Choctaw people from 2008 to 2012. He told them the story of his 2011 trip to Blackjack Mountain when he brought the first Choctaw horse back to Mississippi since 1831. He hopes to help reintroduce the breed to the state.
Little spoke for about 30 minutes and then led students outside, where they were able to pet Panola Anna.
“It was very interesting to me,” said NAHS junior Mallory Hogue, 17.
She said it was intriguing to hear about the breed and about how it is going extinct.
“I’d heard all about them, but I’ve never seen one,” she said.
Friday’s appearance was Little’s first school visit to talk about the horses, but he hopes to do more soon.