Saddle Bronc Rider
Said to be a nephew of the great Nez Perce leader, Chief Joseph, Jackson Sundown was the first Native American to win a major rodeo championship. Born around 1863 in Montana, Sundown may have fought against U.S. troops in the Nez Perce War of the late 1870s. After his people’s defeat, he took refuge on the Flathead Reservation, where he married, raised a family, and learned to “cowboy.”
Jackson Sundown entered the bucking horse competition at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1914, 1915, and 1916. At an age when most cowboys have long since retired, 53-year-old Sundown captured the trophy saddle. He later competed in a number of California rodeos.
With his Nez Perce hairstyle and long side braids, Jackson Sundown was easily recognized. He wore orange angora chaps, thickly-fringed gauntlets, flat-brimmed cowboy hat with feathered band and ribboned chin strap, and a loose bandana. He always rode waving his hat in his free hand. Rodeo legend Yakima Canutt said of Sundown, “He was a marvelous rider–a man of fine character.” Jackson Sundown died in Idaho in 1923 and was buried in the Lapwai Valley.