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Teepee village continues to be part of Pendleton Round-Up

By KATHY ANEY
Of The East Oregonian

PENDLETON — It has been more than 100 years since the first American Indians camped in town to take part in the Pendleton Round-Up. Every year since, hundreds of teepees have adorned the lawn near the grounds’ north grandstands.

Change in the village is a constant. University of Oregon and 12th Man flags now billow from the tops of teepees. And for some, each year offers the opportunity to pass along the tradition of setting up shelter to a younger generation.

On a recent afternoon, Darcy Johnson plays with her one-year-old granddaughter, Barrett, surrounded on all sides by teepees. Darcy's daughter — 2000 Happy Canyon Princess Drew Rivera — helps her husband of two years, Shane, unpack a mattress and the cloth doorway of their family's teepee.

Just a few days ago Darcy said her two sons, Matt and Micah, drove from Portland to erect the large teepee before turning around and driving back. The two men, both in their 30s, planned to return with their families Wednesday once Round-Up begins, but Darcy said she thought it was important for them to help set up camp if they were to partake in the week's festivities. Her sons both have children who will participate in the Round-Up, too.

“It's nice to see these traditions continue,” she says, sitting in a nearby lawn chair and keeping Barrett occupied.

Drew Rivera says setup can be stressful.

“People are territorial about their spots,” she says.

Indeed, Darcy says friends and other family members know where to find the Johnsons. The family has visited the encampment all of Drew's life, and has camped here for 20 years.

Seeing friends and family in the same spot each year is “almost something you take for granted,” Drew said.

Just down the thoroughfare, Jim Kirk, of the Muckleshoot tribe, looks back on how the village has changed over the 33 years he has been camping here. He said Indians used to have more time to set up, from Sunday to Wednesday. Now, they have to be finished on Sunday, he said. Indians also used to be able to gamble and play the bone game — an American Indian ritual game — in a nearby parking lot, until the city shut them down.

“I think we're kind of a sideshow for them,” Kirk said of the Round-Up. But he later adds there are pros and cons to the arrangement. Round-Up provides a safe space where the cowboy and Indian cultures can coexist peacefully, a place in which young ones from both cultures can mingle.

The Round-Up also provides potatoes, hamburger, beef roast, corn and other rations for the Indian campers, along with shelter and hay for their horses.

Buffy Hines, a 1984 Happy Canyon princess, said the villages are something for tourists to see. She helped orchestrate the dancing exhibitions that take place in Roy Raley Park to help drive business to the vendors there.

What keeps Buffy coming back is the “family tradition,” she said.

Drew said it is intriguing to view photos of the village from a century ago. For her, it's amazing to think that in 100 years, people will be looking through pictures of the current village. She said it would be awful if the Indian village disbanded in the future.

“In 30 years, Barrett will be married and (camping here) with her husband,” she said.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.com

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