Jackson Sundown, the Bishop Brothers, and the Pendleton Round-Up. Let’er Buck!

Note: In honor of the Pendleton Round-Up, we’re sharing an older post about Jackson Sundown, who is one of the great riders of the American West. It explains our company’s long and rich connection with the Pendleton Round-Up. And you might want to read our earlier post about an exhibit of Jackson Sundown’s personal effects, with photos of modern-day volunteers raising the actual teepee in the historic shot below: see it here.  Let’er Buck!

The Pendleton Round-up  starts this week—an amazing rodeo adventure in Pendleton, Oregon, celebrating its 102nd year. Our designers travel there for inspiration, entertainment, and to watch our westernwear in action on rodeo competitors and fans. Oregon Public Broadcasting has a video titled “Pendleton Round-Up: The Wild West Way”  that’s well worth watching, and Cowboys & Indians magazine has some great background.

Among the historic images, you’ll see this shot:

This is Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown posing at the Pendleton Round-Up. This image actually made the fashion blogs in 2009, when recreations of Roy Bishop’s fringed coat and Jackson Sundown’s oval-print shirt were part of Pendleton’s Centennial offering. But the story is about more than fashion history. This photo is about rodeo history.

The association of Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Round-Up goes back to the very beginning, when along with his brothers Clarence and Chauncey, Roy Bishop established the first mill at its current location in Pendleton, Oregon. The brothers combined their production and retailing expertise with an idled mill, a river, and fine fleece provided by local wool growers. Back then, PWM was a blanket company. Our first and most valued customer was the Native American, and the Bishop brothers worked hard to fill the strong demand (we still sell approximately 60% of our blankets to Native customers every year).

The Bishops were key to the conception of the first Round-Up. Rodeos are big business now, and they were big business then. It was an undertaking to get to a rodeo, especially for a working cowboy. The Round-Up needed something special to draw the crowd. It was unheard-of to include Native Americans to a Western rodeo, but Roy Bishop rode out to meet tribal leaders and invite their participation. He was politely received and quietly listened to, but he left without receiving a definite answer.

The rodeo’s starting date approached, and still he waited. On the morning before the rodeo began, Roy stepped out on the mill’s loading dock. In the distance, he had his answer when he saw the dust of the tribes as they made their way to the Indian campground. The cooperation between the Columbia Basin tribes and the Pendleton Round-up, unique among modern rodeos, continues to this day.

So what about the other person in this photo?

Jackson Sundown was born Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn in 1863 in Montana. During the Nez Perce war of 1877, he rode with Sitting Bull, retreating to Canada with the Sioux. He eventually returned to Washington, then to Idaho, then to Montana, supporting himself by working, breeding and breaking horses.

In 1912, at the age of 49, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn began entering rodeo events in Canada and Idaho using the name Jackson Sundown. The crowds went wild when he tied his braids under his chin, lifted his sombrero and started the ride, his wooly angora chaps streaming.

He took so many prizes that other riders refused to challenge him. Stock owners pulled their animals when they saw his name on the list of possible riders, as after Jackson Sundown rode a horse, it might be so thoroughly mastered that it never bucked again.

Jackson Sundown entered the Pendleton Round-Up several times, placing but not winning. In 1915, in a controversial decision, he placed third and decided to retire from rodeo riding. But a sculptor named Alexander Phimister Proctor prevailed upon him to try one more time. In 1916, he did. Jackson Sundown came out of the gate on a horse named Angel, and the spectacular ride that followed has become legendary. The crowd went wild, and threatened to take down the grandstands board-by-board if Sundown wasn’t awarded the title he had so clearly won.

At twice the age of his competitors, the lanky six-foot tall Indian not only won the bucking championship, but the all-around title as well. He lived out his life on the Nez Perce reservation, raising horses and passing on his skills until his death in 1923. He’s been inducted into more rodeo and athletic halls-of-fame than we have space to list. He is a key character in a novel by Ken Kesey, The Last Go ‘Round.

Jackson Sundown is also featured in a terrific documentary called “American Cowboys.” This is a detailed look at the frustration of competitive riding for contestants of color. It was playing at the Tamastslikt Cultural Center just outside Pendleton, which is a fantastic place to learn about the history of the tribes of the Columbia Basin. It may or may not be part of their permanent installation, but this documentary includes footage of Sundown riding. Sadly, photographs of him riding rare; this may be the only one.

It is sad that a man who possessed such incredible skills in horsemanship isn’t shown during more of his competitive rides. But there are plenty of images of Jackson Sundown showing his deep understanding of a wardrobe’s role in a great performance. Chaps, hat, and that aloof expression. Jackson Sundown had it all, a fact well-illustrated by this logo for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Yes, that is Jackson Sundown.

So today, in honor of the Pendleton Round-Up, please enjoy these images of Jackson Sundown; Nez Perce warrior, compatriot of Sitting Bull, bronc rider, horse breeder, main character, documentary subject, fashion blog icon, Round-Up Champion and Inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

And a true proponent of individual style.

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CENTER OF CREATION by Deborah Jojola

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Deborah Jojola is the artist behind “Center of Creation,” the 2018 addition to the Pendleton Legendary series of blankets. An Isleta Pueblo and Jemez Pueblo Native American, Ms. Jojola is an expert in a variety of media, including painting, frescos, printmaking, ceramics, and bookmaking.

Her work is influenced by Surrealism, popular culture, Native culture, and her own personal experiences. She has received many prestigious awards, and is self-taught in her ongoing study of fresco, as part of her mission to bring back the lost art of Isleta Pueblo frescoes.

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Said Jojola of Islaeta traditions, “There was a pottery tradition, but it died out. There are contemporary artists that do the contemporary pottery, but it is only taught to family members. I see none in the collections of the many museums I visit. Basket weavers made willow baskets, but that medium is lost, too, no one weaves.” When Ms. Jojola was commissioned to produce a floor mural, she took it upon herself to research traditional designs on pots, kiva walls, and baskets. Her research led her to identify five key Isleta elements:

  1. Flower
  2. Seed pod
  3. Wind and clouds
  4. Lightning/spirit arrow
  5. Seeds flying in the air/circle and dots, also used in body painting by dancers.

These five elements were associated with the nearly vanished pottery tradition. Ms. Jojola used them on the mural, then turned to the art of the fresco, revitalizing the process with these ancient Isleta designs.

To make a fresco, the artist starts with earthen plaster that she screens and cleans. She gets her earth from a nicely cultivated field in Pueblo Jemez. This has been an agricultural area for many thousands of years, and it’s been carefully tended and enriched to stay fertile, so the earth is super fine.

She mixes the earth with a secret ingredient recommended by her mother, a binder that combines the earthen plaster and binds it to the surface that she’s going to plaster. She always uses distilled water to keep her colors clear of chemical contamination.

A framed panel is covered with burlap, which she then covers with the earthen plaster. There also a fiber involved in the fresco; the panel’s wood has been milled, but the burlap has a “tooth” that the plaster adheres to.

She also incorporates mixed media into some of her work; for instance, “Center of Creation” used a lithographed paper border along the bottom. She works with diptychs (two-panels) for ease of transport.

“Center of Creation” is adapted from the first fresco to be entered in the Santa Fe Indian Market.

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Here is the artist’s full explanation of the story told by this very special piece.

It takes two to marry and create life—the diptych is symbolic of that, because it’s two pieces. The cloud is picking up the seed and carrying it around, shown in the movement of the arrows from the earth. This is part of the growth of life, the flower-like passive movement of growing and moving.

The bottom border in the original piece that’s black on white, is actually a lithograph print done on Japanese paper, a contemporary piece. It’s placed directly above an earthen brown border. Old homes on the Pueblo have an earthen border, but it means more than that. We are Earth people. We are born from our Mother. The darkness is Mother Earth.

The two panels of the diptych do not quite touch. This is the center, the lifeline. For potters, the space where things don’t touch is the lifeline. This is the space for the breath that we all need to live. We were always here, and Creator gave us the original instructions on how to care for the earth and all its beings. The arrows symbolize sovereignty, instructions, and purpose to carry on the traditions of spiritual balance.

At the top of the design is the symbolic presence of wind, supported by the curvilinear spiral of life. Life is a spiral, and we have purpose in this life, and beyond this life.

Ms. Jojola is a fascinating person whose years as an artist and educator have involved her in so many artistic and curatorial projects. If you can hear her speak, make the time to listen. She has over 30 years of experience teaching, with time as an instructor at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, the Institute of American Indian Art, the Very Special Art of New Mexico, and OFF Center Community Arts, the East West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, and the Tamarind Institute. Ms. Jojola coordinated a Printmaking Exchange with Institute of American Indian Arts, Crow’s Shadows Institute in Pendleton, Oregon, USA and University of Sidney, Australia.

More information on her career and work can be found here:

Deborah Jojola 

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See the blanket here: Center of Creation

And it’s also a beautiful mug! Center of Creation mug

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Wild and Scenic Rivers Part Two with Greg Hatten and Pendleton

We continue our series with Greg Hatten’s Woodenboat adventures on rivers protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers act. In this installment, Greg’s team approaches the run of a lifetime. 

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Frank Church Wilderness

In June I took my wooden boat down the River of No Return in the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho. The Middle Fork of the Salmon was one of the original eight rivers inducted into the Wild and Scenic program and the bill was written and championed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. This trip was special for so many reasons – mostly, because I got to row it alongside some of the best guides and woodenboat river runners on the planet…the Helfrich crew.

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The degree of difficulty of rowing this river in a fragile wooden boat was at the high-end of anything I had ever rowed. From the very first oar-stroke, the extreme gradient drop and rocky rapids provided non-stop rowing action the entire first day. For the five mile start through Sulpher Slide, Hell’s Half Mile and the Class IV Velvet Falls, I had just enough time to catch my breath between rapids and cast an occasional glance around at the beauty and rawness of the river wilderness and steep canyon walls we threaded our boats through.

The absence of dams on this river gives us a truly wild river to run – where the river level and conditions are dictated by the weather, the snow melt, the vertical drop, and the rock slides which change sometimes every year. Nothing controlled or contrived about the Middle Fork – it is in it’s natural state – rugged and raw and almost “untouched” by a human hand.

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Middle Fork

After ten years of unsuccessful lottery applications, my usual band of river runners finally drew a permit to run the Middle Fork in 2017. We planned for months and made preparations with more excited anticipation than any trip we had ever planned. A week before the June trip we got word that the unusually heavy rains and spring storms caused a river that was too high to run safely and an access road that was too littered with downed trees and rock slides to open in time for our trip. River was closed and the permit revoked.

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Looking beyond the disappointment, we appreciated the fact that the river is subject to the changing conditions of Mother Nature – which means that sometimes it’s just un-runnable.

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A dam to tame it and provide easier access is a terrible trade-off – even if it meant that we would have to return to the river of no return to run it one day when the conditions were more favorable and mother nature was more cooperative. We have the Wild and Scenic Act to thank for that – and we were all grateful for it.

“The great purpose of this act is to set aside a reasonable part of the vanishing wilderness, to make certain that generations of Americans yet unborn will know what it is to experience life on undeveloped, unoccupied land in the same form and character as the Creator fashioned it… It is a great spiritual experience. Unless we preserve some opportunity for future generations to have the same experience, we shall have dishonored our trust.”

Senator Frank Church (1957-1981)

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Featured blanket: Chief Joseph

First woven in the 1920s, this USA-made wool blanket has been one of our most popular designs ever since. Chief Joseph led the Nez Perce tribe native to northeastern Oregon in the late 1800s. Widely admired for protecting his people and speaking the truth, he is honored with this design, symbolizing bravery. Bold arrowheads represent the chief’s courage, strength and integrity.

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See all the options here: Chief Joseph blanket

Enter Now: a Skamania Lodge Treehouse Giveaway!

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Pendleton Woolen Mills is excited to announce an opportunity to win a weekend at the Skamania Lodge Treehouses. Skamania is offering two retreats–one more romantic, the other more family–for two days and nights in one of two private treehouses. If you’re hoping to rough it, be warned that these beautiful, secluded accommodations are all about privacy and luxury, with decks, firepits and sophisticated décor. The contest is live now: ENTER TREEHOUSE CONTEST

 

The Treehouses are part of the gorgeous Skamania Lodge Resort, which overlooks the Columbia River from the Washington side.

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Activities and amenities abound, including:

  • Championship Golf Course
  • Zipline adventure and Aerial Park
  • Pool or hot tubs
  • Extraordinary cuisine served up with spectacular views
  • The Waterleaf Spa
  • The Columbia Gorge: drive, cycle or hike part of the Lewis & Clark Trail
  • Historic Multnomah Falls and Crown Vista Point
  • Hood River, home to galleries, shopping, restaurants and world-famous Windsurfing

And don’t forget, you’re close enough to take a tour of Pendleton’s Washougal Mill!

ENTER HERE: TREEHOUSE GETAWAY CONTEST

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All photos courtesy Skamania Lodge

Wild & Scenic Rivers Part One with Greg Hatten and Pendleton

Note: Please enjoy this guest post from Greg Hatten, of WoodenBoat adventure fame. He took some Pendleton blankets along on his latest river runs. Here’s his write-up!

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Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

“The great purpose of this act is to set aside a reasonable part of the vanishing wilderness, to make certain that generations of Americans yet unborn will know what it is to experience life on undeveloped, unoccupied land in the same form and character as the Creator fashioned it… It is a great spiritual experience. Unless we preserve some opportunity for future generations to have the same experience, we shall have dishonored our trust.”
Senator Frank Church (1957-1981)

In 1968, Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and President Johnson signed it into law. The primary goal was to “protect and preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Eight rivers were inducted in the original group and, now, fifty years later, there are over 200 rivers in the program. The state of Oregon has more protected rivers than any other state by far – with over 50 included in the program.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of that legislation, I’m running several of the classic rivers that are under its protection in 2018.

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Answering Questions about Pendleton

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Thanks to our friends who have brought some claims circulating on social media to our attention. We owe an enormous debt of respect and gratitude to the Native Americans and First Nations people who choose our blankets, and care deeply about this relationship. We understand that it’s important to speak the truth.

Pendleton’s mills are our pride and joy, and both are well over a century old. Keeping them updated is a priority and a challenge, but we think it’s worth it to keep weaving in the USA. Our mills are subject to inspections, and when problems are identified, we take immediate action to resolve them. We have earned third-party certification for sustainability (read more here), and our management is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.

We respect the right of current and former employees to make political donations to candidates they personally support. These donations are not endorsements by Pendleton.

Pendleton supports the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We make our blankets for Native Americans, but we don’t claim our products are made by them. Our company’s history is always part of our marketing and sales materials, and is available on our website.

Pendleton blanket patterns are developed by in-house designers. Some are based on historic designs created to serve the Native American market. Blanket stories, told on hangtags and on the website, credit the inspirations and traditions behind the patterns. We also commission Native American artists to create designs, and adapt existing artwork (usually paintings) into blankets. These artists are always compensated and credited by name for their work. You can learn more here: Native artists.

Pendleton is proud to support organizations that serve Native Americans, veterans and America’s National Parks. Our relationship with The American Indian College Fund spans more than twenty years, and our endowment to the College Fund provides scholarships for Native American students. Pendleton also makes annual donations to NARA (Native American Rehabilitation Center) to support outreach and health care for Native American women.

In 1909, Pendleton was one of many mills producing wool blankets for Native Americans. Now, over a hundred years later, we are the only mill still weaving wool blankets for Native Americans here in the USA. Native Americans were our first, and are still our most valued customers. Thanks to everyone who has written in support of our shared history and friendship.

We hope we have answered your questions, but if you have more concerns, please write to us at PendletonWM@penmills.com and we will respond. We are listening.

Greg Hatten guest post – Buell Blankets and the St. Joseph Museum

Today’s post is from our friend Greg Hatten, of WoodenBoat adventure fame. Greg has always been interested in our Buell blankets (all retired, but one is still available), which were part of our Mill Tribute Series. Greg decided to find out some information on the original Buell blankets at the source; his hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. Enjoy this visit, and if you’re interested in our Mill Tribute series blankets, links to our previous posts are below.

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Buell Blankets Headed West

St. Joseph, Missouri is my hometown. It’s a dreamy little river town that started out as a trading post on the banks of the Missouri and quickly became a launching pad for pioneers headed west to Oregon and California in the mid 1800’s. Some historians estimate that 250,000 settlers made the trek by wagon and on foot between 1850 and 1900. Most of those trips started in St. Joseph or Independence – where final provisions for the 5 month journey were acquired before embarking on the grand westward adventure that started by crossing the Midwestern prairie. Many were leaving for the rest of their lives.

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Wool blankets were on the provisions list of every trip – for sleeping and trading with Native Americans along the way. In St. Joseph, the Buell Woolen Mill was the primary source for blankets headed west. Known for quality over quantity, the blankets were strikingly colorful and many designs were based on patterns used by different Native tribes in paintings and beadwork out west. They were prized by the pioneers and Native Americans alike.

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As stated in the 1910 Buell Catalog:

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