RONAN – Cowboys and cowgirls crowded the Ninepipes Museum on Wednesday to celebrate the life of Jackson Sundown, notorious Nez Perce rodeo rider.
Author Rick Steber of Oregon has spent years gathering stories about the Native American horse rider and came to Mission Valley — Sundown’s old stomping ground — to share the tales.
Steber has spent the last week traveling to schools and telling the story of a rider who refused to be bucked from the back of a kicking horse. Steber shared his stories with a crowd of more than 80 people Wednesday at the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana History.
The event also featured a raffle that included an old blanket awarded after his win in the Pendleton 1913 roundup rodeo. Steber’s stories brought an old riding hero back to life.
"He dug in the rough, his spurs. He removed his flat, beaded reservation hat and fanned angel’s ears. This brought the crowd to their feet, they stomped their boots on the wooden bleachers and shouted in unison ‘Sundown! Sundown! Sundown!’” Steber told the audience.
Steber will spend the rest of the week touring the area and telling the story of Jackson Sundown.
There’s much more about Sundown available on the Nez Perce website including the following:
The horse became a very important part of the Nez Perce people. Not only for hunting in buffalo country, but the horse was a warrior. Nez Perce learned to breed and work with horses. Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn (Jackson Sundown) from an early age worked and cared for horses. Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was a famous all-around cowboy, horseman, and excellent rider and breeder of horses.
The Nez Perce War of 1877 began and Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was 14 years old. Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn and Sam Tilden (Suhm-Keen) both were assigned to attend to the horses in the evening and herd the horses while the tribe decamped. After the Nez Perce war ended Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn retreated to Canada with a small band of cold, hungry and injured Nez Perce. It is believed that Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn stayed with the Sioux (Sitting Bull’s camp in Canada) about two years, then crossed the border into Washington. He then went into Montana, married and had two daughters.