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.  Let’er Buck!

The Round-Up

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 (see it here: The Wild West Way), and Cowboys & Indians magazine has some great background.

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

Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown pose in front of the family teepee of Jackson Sundown.

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.

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.

The History of a Strong Connection

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

Jackson Sundown

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.

Jackson Sundown and his fellow champions
Enter a caption

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.

A Documentary

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.

A rare photo of Jackson Sundown riding in the Pendleton Round-Up Arena. The photo has been written upon, and these are the words: "Moorhouse 1916 - Winning the Championship of the World 'Jackson Sundown' on 'Angel' 'no 6' Pendleton Ore"

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.

Logo for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which features a silhouette of 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.

Jackson Sundown poses with another rider to his left and a businessman to his right. Sundown is smiling, and wearing his signature hat and silk kerchiefs, his wooly potted chaps, and beaded gloves that feature a rider on a bucking horse on the cuffs.
Jackson Sundown poses inside a stable with his championship saddle. He is wearing furry chaps, his signature hat, and a senim workshirt. When he rode, Sundown often tied his braids together on his chest, and they are so tied in this photo. He also holds a lariat.
Jackson SUndown poses in front of his family teepee, wearing a dark cotton shirt with large light polkadots, no hat, a beaded belt, and beaded gloves that show a rider on a bucking horse.
Jackson Sundown smiles for the camera, wearing a chambray shirt, his hat and kerchief, a champion belt buckle, and his beaded gloves.
Jackson Sundown sits on his horse, wearing his signature hat, a dark cotton shirt with large light polka dots, and beaded gloves.
An iconic photo of Jackson Sundown, standing with one foot forward wearing his signature wooly chaps, hands on hips, facing the camera without a smile.

Mea Alford, 1945 Pendleton Round-Up Princess

The Pendleton Round-Up in Wartime

When Mary Esther Brock (or Mea, as she’s been called most of her life) was appointed to the Court, there hadn’t been a Pendleton Round-Up for two years. World War II was still going on, but the community missed their annual tradition so much that they decided to hold it anyway. And an important part of the Round-Up is the Round-Up Court.

Mea Brock as a Pendleton Round-Up Princess in 1945.

Pioneer Heritage

Round-Up royalty was chosen based on family history, age and ability to ride a horse. Mea, reminiscing, stressed that a family’s pioneer background was one of the most important criteria. Her father’s grandparents had come from Missouri on the Oregon Trail in 1848 or 1849, settling first in Heppner, where her father, Wilson E. Brock, was born. Her grandfather was treasurer of the first Pendleton Round-Up. So her pioneer pedigree was impeccable on her father’s side.

Mea’s mother came from New England. She’d graduated from Colby with a degree in library science, and gone west to open a library in North Bend. From there, she went to work at the University of Washington. She loved working in Seattle, but answered the call when the founding fathers of the town of Pendleton wanted to open a public library. She came to Pendleton and organized the town’s first library. She also met Wilson Brock, owner of Pendleton’s Taylor Hardware. They married, and Mea was born after a long wait for children.

“My father had to put up with an only girl child who wasn’t particularly athletic,” Mea remembered. She was active in drama and choir in high school, but she was the only child of a man who loved riding, hunting, skiing and boating. “I learned how to do all those things, but I was bad at all of them,” said Mea. She was much more interested in school than sports. “I loved my childhood—school was a wonderful and exciting place.”

The 1945 Court

Mea remembers a much smaller Round-Up than we see today, but it was an event. Her father, who owned the local hardware store, would close his business. Her parents had a box—she and her dad would go sit in the bleachers to be closer to the action–and her parents would host friends from all over the country. Said Mea, “The Round-Up was much loved by all.”

She was chosen as a Princess in April or May. Mea wasn’t exactly thrilled—she didn’t love horses—but the announcement of the court was a lengthy process full of suspense and fanfare. Princesses were announced one-by-one in the East Oregonian, with a photo and a big write-up. Two of the princesses were just out of the local high school—Mea and her friend Gloria, whose life dream was to be a princess. Another was from Helix, OR, and another was from a ranch in the foothills of the Wallowas. The Queen was part of a prominent local ranching family.

Said Mea, “Some of these girls had basically trained their entire lives to be on the Round Up Court. Not me, though. My dream was to be a Rose Festival Princess!” Mea might have felt underwhelmed, but her father was delighted. He had Hamley’s make a saddle for Mea with a silver horn, and had a leather fringe jacket like those worn for trick riding made for her as well. “My mother hated that jacket!”

Getting Ready

Mea had ridden since she was young alongside her father. They had matching grey Arabian horses—Tony was her father’s, and Smoky was Mea’s. She liked her dad’s horse better, as he was more active and less likely to pull back to the barn, so they traded. But she knew she wasn’t prepared for the level of horsemanship required. So she graduated from high school in late May and spent the first weeks of the summer of ’45 practicing her riding skills.

She was terrified.

Round-up Princesses had to jump two fences. Smoky was not a jumper, so a dear family friend loaned her a jumper—he was hard to control—much more difficult. Each day after she practiced the jumps, her father met her with a glass of ice water because her mouth was so dry from fear that she couldn’t even open her mouth. Said Mea, “This was the first experience in my life where I’d felt insecure and afraid. Thinking about it now still makes me shake.”

Summer Events

Over the summer, the Queen and her Court rode in very few parades. When they went to Portland for the big Rose Festival parade, they left the horses in Pendleton. Tires were extremely hard to get, and gas was impossible, so they went by train. She wore her special Round-Up attire, which included “Justin boots and a Stetson hat, which I didn’t like because it had a flat brim.”

Over the course of that summer, there were four Court events requiring escorts, and men were off in service.  Said Mea, “If you didn’t have a beau, the committee would find you one.” Mea did have a beau, in fact she’d had the same beau since first grade, but Bob Alford was in the service. Her dates for the four events were four strangers, all from different branches of the military. Mea said, “A mystery date for each date. They were all very nice. One of them showed up in my husband’s class in dental school. He came out one evening and told me, ‘I was your date during the Round-Up.’ He was the Navy date.”

The Main Event

September came, and with it, the main event. This would be a subdued and somber affair, not the usual swirl of socializing that Mew associated with the Round-Ups of her childhood. Soldiers on leave were there, reminding everyone of the sacrifices going on overseas. Since the war had drained off the men, women had taken over the ranches.

Said Mea, “Even producing the out-of-town horses was very difficult, because of the expense of getting them there. So there were a lot of local people raising calves and bulls and horses for the shows.” The result was much smaller, but people were so glad to have it back. Her mother didn’t mind the scaled-back nature of the Round-Up that year, as she could be overwhelmed by all the out-of-town hosting and general socializing.

On Opening Day, both horse and rider were nervous for the ride out. Pendleton firemen had hosed off the track on opening morning, and someone had left the firehose in front of the fence. Mea’s horse shied at the hose. Her mother says that she went so far over one side that the seat of her skirt brushed the ground, but she pulled herself up and back into the saddle. Mea was so terrified that she doesn’t remember, but her mother insisted that this was exactly how it happened.

Mea carried out all aspects of her courtly duties for the length of the Round-Up. On the last day, said Mea, “I got off my horse, got into my mother’s car and she drove me to California, where I was starting college.”

She has never been on a horse since.

Life after Round-Up

Mea arrived to Pomona wearing a fashionable shirtdress, a Hamley belt with silver buckle, her leather fringe jacket, white anklets and wooden sole Oscars (clogs). She got there late, due to her Round-Up duties. Her roommates were told to expect a rodeo princess. Mea thinks her roommates expected her to arrive on a horse.

Her mother sent her to school with 27 pleated skirts sewn with fabric from the Pendleton Woolen Mill. Said Mea, “I had absolutely NO ROOM FOR THEM. I finally mailed them home. This is how spoiled I was.”

Mea eventually transferred to the University of Oregon, where she was a standout in the school’s Theater department. She went to the Round-Up every year until she graduated, married, and moved to Hawaii with her husband, Bob Alford, “the same little boy who kissed me by the pencil sharpener in first grade.”

On a newlywed’s budget, they didn’t travel back to Pendleton very often. Once Mea had children of her own, they heard the story of Mea jumping the fence and brushing the ground many times. Later, when she finally took her children back to see it, she was surprised to see that somehow, the fence had shrunk!

The Princess Today

Mea and her husband raised their family in Portland, where she lives today. No one has taken up riding, although her daughter wanted (but never received) a horse. Mea’s custom saddle with the silver horn sits on a saddle block in her eldest granddaughter’s room.

During the Centennial of the Pendleton Round-Up, the directors asked the past royalty to return, to ride in the parade. Mea was one of six princesses who rode in a wagon pulled by donkeys. “Donkeys!” she laughed. “And no one knew who we were. ‘Who are you?’ people called out.” She remembered this with a smile while displaying the hat she wore.

She liked the brim of this hat much better–the hatband is the belt she was wearing in her photo above, and over her shirtdress when she arrived at Pomona.

Momentos of Mea's time as a Princess.

A new blanket for Jackson Sundown, Pendleton Round-Up Champion

Editor’s note

In honor of the new blanket honoring Jackson Sundown, we’re sharing an older post about one of the great riders of the American West. It explains our company’s long and rich connection with the Pendleton Round-Up, and tells the story of Jackson Sundown, a real-life hero and icon of the west.

2016 Jackson Sundown blanket

Sundown was the first Native American to win the World Saddle Bronc Championship and crowned the All-Around Cowboy at the Pendleton Round Up in 1916…at the age of 53! He was the nephew of Chief Joseph and his life spanned from the Indian Wars to frontier settlement. Pendleton has created a Jackson Sundown blanket that is only available at two locations:

Tamastslikt Cultural Institute
47106 Wildhorse Blvd.
Pendleton, Oregon 97801
541.966.974

Pendleton Mill Store
1307 SE Court
Pendleton, Oregon 97801
541.276.6911

Let’er Buck!

The Pendleton Round-up  is going on this week—an amazing rodeo adventure in Pendleton, Oregon. 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:

Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown stand in front of a teepee.

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 poses in his woolly chaps.

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.

Three competitors, one winner.

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.

Jackson Sundown rides Angel, his fierce bucking bronco.

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.

Logo for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, featuring a silhouette of 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.

Sundown, 1916
Sundown poses with his winning certificate
Jackson Sundown in the cotton shirt with ovals, remade by Pendleton to commemorate the Round-Up centennial. His beaded glove cuffs show him riding.
Sundown in his trademark hat, and another pair of gloves with beautiful beaded cuffs.
Sundown on his horse.
Jackson Sundown

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

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 that’s well worth watching.

See it here: “Pendleton Round-Up: The Wild West Way”  

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

Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown pose together in front of Mr. Sundown's family tipi.

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

Historical photo of Jackson Sundown

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.

Jackson SUndown poses with felloe rodeo champions in a historical photo that's part of the University of oregon archives.

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.

Jackson Sundown riding, Pendleton Round-Up historical photo from 1916

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.

Logo of the National Cowboy and Western heritage Museum, Oklahoma City

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.

Sundown in 1916, the champion
Historical photo of Jackson Sundown
JacksonSundown-Please note his beaded glove cuffs and polka dot shirt
Jackson Sundown smiles for the camera
Jackson Sundown on his horse, note beaded glove cuffs.
Jackson-Sundown in full riding splendor, wearing another beautiful pair of beaded gloves.

The Babbitt Wagon

Grand Floral Parade

If you know anything about Portland’s Rose Festival, you know that Portlanders love our Grand Floral Parade. We love it enough that year after year, we stand (and sit and camp overnight, but that is a different story) on our city’s curbs to watch it, no matter the weather. Covered in slickers and trash bags, umbrellas and newspapers over our heads, we watch the well-watered floats go by. But not this year! We had gorgeous (and long) days throughout the festival, especially the day of the big parade.

2009 Rose Show Babbitt Wagon drawn by horse

2009 Rose Show , Babbitt wagon with a native American rider alongside

Which reminded everyone around here of our last entry in Grand Floral Parade. Yes, that was our entry, decorated by Pendleton volunteers.

Wagon and pendleton blankets

We were delighted that it won a blue ribbon, but we shouldn’t have been surprised. It isn’t just any wagon; it’s a Babbitt Brothers wagon.

The Babbitt Brothers

Babbit Red Crown Trading post

This is one of the original wagons used by the Babbitt brothers, five shopkeepers who came west in 1886 to make their mark. They founded the C O Bar cattle ranch, as well as opening a mercantile in Flagstaff. In time, their success with commerce outpaced their success with cattle. Over the next 100 years, the Babbitts owned and operated over twenty trading posts, doing business with the Navajo, Hopi and Apache tribes.

Historic Babbit Wagon with family and pendleton serape

Library photo of babbitt Wagon

Today

Babbitt’s is still active and thriving (and working with Pendleton). Thanks to the generosity of the Babbitt family, this historic wagon was used quite a bit when we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the opening of Pendleton Woolen Mill in Pendleton. It made a visit to the Pendleton Round-Up.

Babbitt wagon at the Pendleton round-up

And the blue-ribbon-winning wagon (plain, of course, it hasn’t been bedecked in quite a while) is currently residing in the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store. Its rather grand history makes a nice backdrop for displays of our blankets.

Babbitt wagon at the Woolen Mill Store

Babbitt close-up

We will be transporting it back to the Babbitts eventually, but until we do, please feel free to stop by and see it. This wagons has made so many trips, it is truly part of the history of the West.

Jackson Sundown Exhibits

Museum Request

Bob Chenoweth, a museum curator, contacted us to see if he might acquire a Jackson Sundown Western shirt for some upcoming exhibits in Idaho. He also mentioned a tipi that had belonged to Mr. Sundown that he was hoping to include, as well.

The shirt in question was a special design we produced in 2009/2010 based on a shirt worn by Mr. Sundown in one of the more iconic shots in Pendleton’s archives. Mr. Chenoweth acquired his Jackson Sundown shirt, and we also sent him a copy of the photo that inspired it.

Roy Bishop & Jackson Sundown

He replied as follows:

I thought you might like to know that after comparing contemporary photos of the tipi from when we set it up a few years ago to the photo you sent, it is the same tipi. 

Tipi 4

 

This particular tipi was made in about 1878 for Corbet Lawyer to use when he went to Oklahoma to advocate and help the 1877 war prisoners that were taken there after Chief Joseph surrendered at Bear Paw, Montana.

It was later passed on to Jackson Sundown until his death.  Jackson shortened the base by about two feet.  You can see it is tattered along the bottom edge. 

It reverted to the Lawyer family and Archie set it up at the National Congress of American Indians in Lewiston in 1961. It came to Nez Perce National Historical Park in about 2003 as a loan from the Lawyer family.

We did set up the tipi some years ago here at the park. As you can see, we did not pull it too tight or stake it down, since it was pretty old

We are exhibiting a saddle used by Jackson Sundown at the Lapwai rodeo in 1914, along with a quirt that he owned, and the “replica” Jackson Sundown shirt Pendleton produced a couple years ago. This exhibit is currently at the Nez Perce NHP near Lapwai, Idaho, through the end of January. Then these items will go on the road.

Where to see it

You can see these items at the Nez Perce National Historical park near Lapwai, Idaho. After that, these items will be part of an exhibit featuring Jackson Sundown material as part of the Idaho Historical Museum’s Sesquicentennial exhibition. This upcoming exhibit will be at the Idaho State Historical Museum in Boise and is slated to open Spring, 2013.

Mr. Chenoweth had hoped to use the tipi in this exhibit, along with several other Sundown artifacts, but it appears that the gallery space does not have enough height to accommodate the tipi. That is simply too bad, but at least…you can see it here.

Jackson Sundown and the Pendleton Round-Up

The Pendleton Round-up

… is going on right now—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:

Roy Bishop and Jackson Sundown

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 Bishops

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

Jackson Sundown

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.

Jackson Sundown and two of his co-competitors

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 I 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.

Jackson Sundown riding Angel

It is sad that a man who possessed such incredible skills in horsemanship isn’t memorialized while sitting a horse. But there are plenty images of Jackson Sundown that show just how much he understood the role of wardrobe 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.

Logo for the National Cowboy and Western History museum

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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