Presenters 2017


Diana Webster (White Earth Band of Ojibwe)

Founder/Director: Native America Humane Society

Keynote Speaker
​”Healing Our Animals Heals Our People”

With Special Guests


Dr. Michael Yellow Bird (Three Affiliated Tribes, Arikara)

“What Equines (and Other Animals) Can Teach Us about Mindfulness”

Tribal nations have practiced traditional ceremonies since time immemorial in ways that honor their own unique spiritual beliefs and understandings. Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, Director of Tribal and Indigenous Peoples’ Studies at North Dakota State University, has made it his journey to research the connections between Indigenous ceremonial practices and mindfulness meditation. He has created a new field of study around therapeutic mindfulness practices that he terms “Decolonizing the Mind.” By using traditional contemplative mindfulness practices, Dr. Yellow Bird hopes to help people eliminate trauma, toxic experiences, habits, thoughts, and behaviors from the brain (especially those associated with colonization.) He also believes that these practices are helped and supported by our connection to all living beings especially our companion animals such as horses, dogs, and cats.



Thomas Smittle
(Shoshone/Navajo descent)


John Spence, MSW, Ph.D.
(Gros Ventre/Sioux)

Sacred Connections
Healing through Horses

​Horses (and other animals) have long been regarded as healers and guides in many tribal traditions. NAHS and EQUUS INTERNATIONAL Film Festival have the honor of bringing together two leaders in the groundbreaking work being done in tribal communities with horses as partners in healing, Thomas Smittle and John Spence.  John is with Native American Therapeutic Horsemanship, LLC.
This panel will speak about the role that horses once played in the traditions and cultures of tribal communities in North America. These “sacred connections” between horses and owners were lost as the dominant culture imposed new values—religious, social, and economic—on Native nations. Working to restore these traditions with horses, these inspiring leaders will talk about the healing that occurs in their programs for tribal youth, veterans, victims of violence, and community members in treatment.


Kristie Johnson (Navajo)


JoRee V. LaFrance “Fortunate with Horses”
(Crow Tribe)

Other Presenters Include

Gillian Lyons
Senior Wildlife Fertility Control Policy Manager
Humane Society of the United States

Gillian Photo