One of the hallmarks of the 100-year-old Pendleton Round-Up is the participation of local Indian tribes since the very beginning. The story — told recently in OPB TV’s just released documentary, The Wild West Way — goes like this: More than 100 years ago, the City of Pendleton had become and important trading stop in the West and a bustling community had sprung up around it but it wasn’t particularly known for anything — so the citizens and business leaders decided to create something. They decided on a “frontier exhibition.”
Leaders wanted to get the local tribes involved, so they went to the owners of a new business in town, the Bishop brothers of Pendleton Woolen Mills. They negotiated with the tribes for certain portions of meat, hay and other provisions if they would come and demonstrate their traditions at the new event. The negotiations were left unsettled, however, with the tribes wanting more than the Bishop brothers’ final offer. Finally, on the very first day of the event, when the Bishops looked east, they saw a great cloud of dust rising up, and they had their answer: the Indians were riding into what they would help establish as the Pendleton Round-Up.
100 years later, the tribal participation in the Round-Up is unmatched in any rodeo and, according to the well-documented history Pendleton Round-Up at 100, the tribal gathering is the largest rodeo encampment of Indians anywhere in North America. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indians work with rodeo organizers all year long to put on the Round-Up. Indian traditions are demonstrated and brought to life through the nightly Happy Canyon Pageant, Native American Village and in the traditional Westward Ho! Parade.
Do you have Indian tribal connections? Have you gone to the Happy Canyon Pageant at the Pendleton Round-Up? What did you take away from seeing that show? Have you seen representations of Native American traditions at other rodeos? How important is it that a rodeo include Indian traditions?
- Mort Bishop III: President of Pendleton Woolen Mills
- Jess Nowland: Happy Canyon participant, Round-Up volunteer
- Clinton Bruisedhead: Native American cowboy
- Cedric Wildbill: Filmmaker of American Cowboys, vendor coordinator for the Round-Up
Note: If you’re in Pendleton, you’re invited to be in the audience for our live show from Pendleton City Hall at 500 SW Dorion (in the Community Room — entrance on SW Emigrant Avenue). Come as early as 8:00 a.m. to get a seat, and we’ll start the live show at 9 sharp. (City Hall is near the end of the Westward Ho! Parade route on SW Dorion Avenue, so you can just walk to the other side of the building after Think Out Loud and catch the whole historic parade!)