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2006 Hall of Fame Inductee
Jackson Sundown

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2006 Hall of Fame Inductee

Jackson Sundown

Jackson Sundown (Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn) was a Nez Perce Indian, who was born in 1863. Sundown’s life spanned a turbulent time with the Nez Perce Retreat of 1877, and the aftermath as a wanted war criminal. Sundown found exile in Canada with Chief Sitting Bull and the Sioux Indians, who had recently defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. In 1879, Sundown returned to the United States to live in secrecy on the Flathead Indian Reservation with his family.

In 1910, Sundown rejoined his tribe on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Lapwai, Idaho, where he took an allotment of land and built a cabin. He later married Cecelia Wapshela in 1912, and they built a home at Jacques Spur, Idaho.

Sundown became a well known horseman and he entered rodeo events at Kamiah and Grangeville, Idaho. Immediately he became a crowd favorite with his big sombrero and his hair in braids, tied under his chin held in place with a handkerchief, with bright colored shirt, and angora chaps.

In 1911, Sundown made the Saddle Bronc Finals for the World Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up, which ended in controversy and protest. He competed with George Fletcher, an African American, and John Spain, a European American. In 1915, Sundown made the Saddle Bronc Finals for the World Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up, and again placed third. He decided it was time to retire from competition. However, Alexander Phimister Proctor, who hired Sundown as a model for his sculpture at the time, persuaded Sundown to enter the Saddle Bronc event at the Pendleton Round-Up. Sundown took Proctor’s offer, and found himself in the Saddle Bronc Finals against Rufus Rollen and Bob Hall, both European American cowboys. Sundown would make his final ride on “Angel”, who twisted in circles before exploding into the air several times and the judges signaled to end the ride. A quiet hush overtook the thousands in the grandstands and bleachers, until the Round-Up judges announced, “Jackson Sundown, first place!”

Jackson Sundown became one of the legendary cowboys of the early 20th Century. He was 53-years-old when he won the World Title in the Saddle Bronc Championship at the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up.

In 1923, Jackson Sundown died of pneumonia, he was buried at Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur, Idaho. Sundown wasn’t even an American citizen when he died. Congress voted in 1924 to make American Indians citizens of the Untied States.

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