OTTAWA -- Ojibwe Spirit horses were almost driven to extinction in the early 1970s.

They were considered a pest as farms encroached on their grazing lands in southwestern Ontario.

Most were rounded up and sold off, with many destined for the slaughter house. The small horses were indigenous to Canada long before the Mustang evolved from Spanish horses.

According to the Ojibwe Horse Society, they were in North America thousands of years prior to European contact.

Four of these unique and rare animals now have a home in Ottawa at the Madahoki Farm, formally the Lone Star Ranch at 4420 West Hunt Club Road.

The farm is run by Indigenous Experiences, an event company specializing in showcasing Indigenous culture and sharing it with the wider community.  

Trina Mather-Simard, the Executive Director of Indigenous Experiences, says the horses were one of the driving factors for them to relocate to the farm and they have been a hit with visitors.

"We opened yesterday in a complete downpour and still had a full house of people," Mather-Simard said. "We have so much going on here we really try to build the event around that kind of fall farmers market but from an Indigenous perspective."

Rhonda Snow, one of the exhibitors at the farms fall festival, has dedicated her life to saving the Spirit Horses. She grew up listing to stories from her elders about how the small but strong animal was essential to everyday living. She retells those stores through visual arts.

“They are really important because they are part of native culture, they lived alongside us and we used them not just for work but to survive,” Snow said. “It really affected my family and then when I heard about how when the government deemed them to be worthless and wanted them destroyed, I connected it to what happened to most Indigenous people, they were a nuisance just like the culture of aboriginal peoples.”

The Autumn Festival at the Madahoki Farm continues until Oct. 24.