A famous Nez Perce rodeo man and an excellent
Jackson Sundown is from the Wallowa band and nephew to Chief
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
|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
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).
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, 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 managers
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. 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 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.
Sundown made his last public appearance in 1917 for Governor Moses
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 Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn.
The memorial reads:
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 equaled.