A famous Nez Perce rodeo man and an excellent horseman
Jackson Sundown is from the Wallowa band and nephew to
1983, Jackson Sundown, Nez Perce Horseman, in Montana,
the Magazine of Western History, vol. 33, no. 4
1994, Rodeo's Sundown, in Wild West
Idaho County Free Press
Lewiston Morning Tribune
Rodeo Idaho ! Louise Shadduck
|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.
Jackson Sundown (1863 - December 18, 1923) Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn (Blanket
of The Sun) 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. He was also
the nephew of Chief Joseph.
The horsemanship of the Nez Perce was
envied and admired throughout the Indian Nation. It was from these
Nez Perce warriors that Jackson Sundown had learned to ride. He rode
his own Appaloosa pony from the time he could walk. By the time he was
eleven years old the five bands of the Nez Perce Indian Nation left Ft.
Fizzle and swept through Idaho, fleeing over the Lolo Pass into Montana.
They where hotly pursued by U.S. Army troops lead by O.O. Howard.
Sundown and other boys were hiding under buffalo robes when the Army
troops made an early dawn atteck on the Indian encampment, August 9,
1877, at the Battle of Big Hole in Montana. Although the tepee in which they were hiding was set on
fire, the boys managed to escape.
The Nez Perce War of 1877 began and
Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was 11 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 battle ended
Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn retreated to Canada expecting to jon up with
Sioux Chief Sitting Bull, with a small band of cold, hungry and injured
Nez Perce. An early snow on September 30th at Bear Paw made it easier
for the calvary to again swoop down upon the Indians. Young Sundown was
one of the Nez Perce who escaped from that fight, and he did so by
hiding himself from the soldiers by clinging to the side of his horse so
that it appeared riderless. He was, however, slightly wounded and had no
blankets or food. He continued to ride North and eventually reached
Sitting Bulls camp in Canada.
Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn became known as Jackson Sundown and
developed a well know reputation as a skilled horseman.
In 1910, Jackson Sundown moved back to Idaho. And in 1912 he
married Cecelia Wapshela, and they lived on her ranch located at Jacques
Spur, six miles east of Lapwai.
Sundown became a well known all-round rodeo rider. Jackson
Sundown was going to rodeos all over the northwest. In 1912 it is
recorded that Jackson Sundown (at the age of 49) entered rodeo events in
Canada and Idaho (Culdesac, Orofino, Kamiah and Grangeville). He rode in
Grangevilles Border Days Rodeo several times.
At the first
rodeo in Grangeville in 1912 on the last day of the event during
the afternoon program he declared he would ride the unriden bucker
Cyclone for any amount of money, with all the riders taking part in
the celebration swearing vengance on the horse. The event managers pulled
Cyclone and would not allow him to be ridden again for fear of someone
loosing their life.
Sundown became a favorite at these rodeos because he was tall, lean and
handsome, he wore his hair in braids tied under his chin, and he always
wore bright colored shirts.
In 1914, while competing in the Culdesac annual roundups, Sundown was having much success as an all-around rodeo
rider. Other contestants pulled out of rodeos because Sundown was
riding and they knew he would win. As a result the rodeo manager,
decided to hire Sundown to exhibition ride for $50.00 a day to entertain
In 1915, Sundown (at age 52) went to Pendleton Oregon and placed
third. Sundown decided to retire from rodeo after the Pendleton
Roundup. He packed up his buffalo-skinned tepee and his cowboy gear
and went to Pendleton. In 1916 a sculptor, Alexander Phimister Proctor (who was
sculpting Sundown at the time), persuaded Sundown to enter the 1916
Roundup in Pendleton, Oregon and paid his entrance fee. Sundown
made it to the saddle bronc semi-final round and then rode "Casey
Jones" to move into the finals with two other cowboys (Rufus Rollen and
Bob Hall). Rollen and Hall both had excellent rides. As
Sundown eased onto Angel's ,( he had first ridden Angel at the Pendleton
Round up in 1911), back for his final ride, the blindfold was
removed from Angel. Angel tried to whirl and leap to throw Sundown
off. All Sundown's years as a child in the Wallowa's riding, and
his career in Montana as a horseman, and his rodeo experience showed
that day. It is said that Sundown became one with the horse.
As Angel tried one last attempt at throwing Sundown off, Sundown fanned
his hat at the horse. And then the signal of the end of the ride.
Jackson Sundown, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn, was the 1916 World Champion
Bronc Rider. He had used his old range saddle as always. When the
handsome leather tool prize saddle was awarded and he was asked what he
would like engraved on the silver plate , he asked that his wife's name
Sundown made his last public appearance in Lewiston in 1917 with
Idaho Governor Moses Alexander as the guest of honor.
In 1923, Jackson Sundown died of pneumonia, he was buried at Slickpoo
Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur. Later a stone monument was
placed there to remember the Nez Perce warrior and horseman
The memorial reads:
Nez Perce Born in Montana 1863
Died at Jacques Spur, December 18,1923
At the age of 60 years
Jackson Sundown rode with Chief Joseph in 1877.
He performed in many rodeos in the Northwest and Canada. In 1916
he won the World's Championship at Pendleton and an ovation never before