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Accolades for VFE director's book

VFE Director Wayne McCrory wins prestigious book award

The Wild Horses of the Chilcotin: Their History and Future has received the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for most outstanding scholastic book in BC for 2024. The prestigious book award was set up by the University of British Columbia Library and Pacific BookWorld News Society in honour of the late Basil Stuart-Stubbs, a respected UBC head librarian and book scholar.

The award comes with a monetary prize which will, in part, be donated to help fund Tŝilhqot’in First Nations students’ higher education and in part to support the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology's work.

The book has received a starred rating for a book of its genre on the US Booklist, was number one on the BC Books bestsellers list for six weeks and has been ranked in the top-ten for five months. McCrory credits editors biologist Maggie Paquet, Tsilhqot’in knowledge-keeper Alice William, and the editorial team at Harbour Publishing, particularly Lynn Van Luven, for the quality of the book.

Published by Harbour Publishing, McCrory’s book is a richly illustrated story about his intellectual and emotional journey in the country of the Xeni Gwet’in/Tŝilhqot’in People. The book is set in the Brittany Triangle area of the Chilcotin Plateau area of British Columbia, near where the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology stewards a nature sanctuary: the Jaŝ Chinook Salmon Nature Sanctuary. McCrory’s research and his many visits to the area used the VFE property, which includes a small cabin, as his base camp.

Wild horses: a returned native species

Through his engagement in Tŝilhqot’in oral histories and legends, and his ongoing field research, McCrory came to appreciate the central place that the wild horse, known as ‘cayuse’ or ‘qiyus’, occupies in the lives and cultural traditions of the Tŝilhqot’in.

His research helped the Xeni/Tŝilhqot’in establish North America’s largest wild horse preserve (and Canada’s first). Through a century of range wars and bounty hunts against wild horses, McCrory outlines how settlers nearly eradicated wild horses from the land.

He builds a strong case for provincial and federal legislation to protect wild horses before they are all gone.

Instead of being an alien species — feral domesticated horses escaped to the wild — McCrory’s research reveals they are in fact a returned native species that evolved in North America. Horses became extinct here some 5,000 years ago but survived in Eurasia after having crossed the Beringean land bridge.

Reintroduced to the Americas by the Spaniards in the early 1500s, horses spread across the Great Plains via Indigenous trade networks and were re-introduced into the Chilcotin region in the early-to-mid 1600s.

Genetic studies by McCrory and equine expert Dr. G. Cothran show that some Chilcotin wild horses carry Spanish-Iberian bloodlines from the horses brought by the conquistadors.

Today’s horses are survivors of a century of bounty hunts and would not be there today but for the efforts of the Tŝilhqot’in Peoples who revere them as a special mountain horse.

Dreams and horse encounters spurred writing the book

McCrory never imagined when he first went to the Chilcotin in 2001 to study grizzly bears for the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, that he would become so intrigued with the beauty, ecology, behaviour, origins and bloodlines of wild horses as well as the rich Tŝilhqot’in relationship to the horse. Two decades later he would publish an award-wining book on wild horses.

A dream of a mysterious stone horse that came one night in his ‘Field of Dreams,’ was one motivator for his book. Then he had a profound encounter while being charged by a wild horse herd dubbed the ‘black stallion band.’ The vibrant horse stories and ancient legends shared with him by Tŝilhqot’in elders, along with their deep concern for the future and preservation of the horse, also touched him deeply.

McCrory’s book can be ordered online from and is available in fine bookstores everywhere.

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