COWGIRL STORIES

Squaw Race, Pendleton Round-Up, 1951

One of our tribal elders, Leah Conner, appeared in a magazine article from the days when she was queen of the Round-Up.  It can be found at http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/winter_2003/ft_rodeo.html

There is a photo of Leah and her sister Etta in the lead in the squaw race.   The Conners were and are very big on Round-Up, hell bent for leather. 

 Indian women seem to have been excellent  horse women in the mid-20th century.  It was a way of life here on the Umatilla Indian Reservation to rely on horses for mobility and recreation.  Nowadays hay costs a mint.   We don’t have access to the rangelands held in common as in the past.  Wild horses are depleting our rangelands with their constant eating and tramping around.

I heard that one of our oldest elders, Viola Penney Wocatsie, was a reluctant jockey at the Pendleton Round-Up.  She hated racing.  Of course it was quite dangerous.  Because she was petite like her mother, Viola had no choice but to race.  Her mother, Molly Minthorn Hayes, would enter a few horses in the squaw race. If the jockey didn’t show up, Molly would send all the Penney uncles and cousins to search throughout the Round-Up grounds for Viola.  Vi’s get-up was a bright orange satin shirt to set off her reddish hair.  Her relatives would hoist her up on the horse and off she’d go, no say so.  They never did win, but Molly did collect pay for her horses.    

We know there are more cowgirl memories, photos, and memorabilia out there.  We’re interested in borrowing them from you for the COWGIRLS exhibit til October 9.  Contact Randall Melton, Collections Curator, at (541)429-7720 or email him at randall.melton@tamastslikt.org.

 

LEAH CONNER

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