|The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun
News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.
Seen above competing in 1976, Oglala Lakota Howard Hunter Sr. — whose Lakota name is Sunka Watogla Akan Yanka Wicasa (Wild Horse Rider) — was recently inducted into the Indian National Finals Rodeo Hall of Fame. In 1969, Hunter took first in bareback, first in bull riding, second in saddle bronc and won the all-around champion spot in South Dakota High School Rodeo Association competition, an achievement never accomplished before or since.
PHOTO COURTESY/ANNE HUNTER
Cowboy rides into Hall of Fame
Hunter inducted at Indian National Finals Rodeo
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer
RAPID CITY — Howard Hunter Sr., Oglala Lakota, was inducted into the Indian National Finals Rodeo Hall of Fame during this year’s 37th annual INFR held Nov. 6-10 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Along with Hunter, this year’s class included Gracie Welsh, Mohave/Chemehuevi, Felix Gilbert Sr., Navajo, or Diné, Josiah Johns, Seminole, and Harry Shade, Blood.
Hailing from Kyle in the Pejuta Haka District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Hunter is considered by many to be one of the greatest Indian cowboys in the history of competitive rodeo. He is a four-time Indian Saddle Bronc World Champion, winning the title in 1980, 1987, 1988 and 1990. He also was the first champion of the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association in 1974, in the bareback and saddle bronc events and was named the all-around champion of the circuit for that year.
In addition to being a dominant figure in the world of Native American rodeo, Hunter was extremely successful in competition outside of this arena. He qualified for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association National Finals Rodeo three times and won the “Daddy of ’em All” — the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in 1976 when he was only 26 years old. He was the South Dakota Rodeo Association all-around champion in 1971, competing in all three rough stock events — saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding.
The inaugural class of the INFR Hall of Fame last year included only co-founders and past commissioners of the rodeo. Nominations this year were open for the first time to past competitors in the INFR.
“I am very honored and proud that he got the award, and I am glad that the INFR decided to recognize him. We are all proud of him and his accomplishments,” said Howard Hunter Jr., son of the hall of famer.
Hunter rode well into his 40s until he was forced to retire after a horse fell on him in his final competitive rodeo at the Crow Fair in Montana. After being confined to a wheelchair for some time, Hunter was able to climb back onto a horse despite still suffering the lingering effects of injuries sustained in his last appearance in the rodeo arena.
The criteria for being nominated for the INFR Hall of Fame include the requirement that nominees be over the age of 50 or deceased, and that the nominee had participated in the INFR for a period of 10 years with distinguished performance during that time. The INFR Hall of Fame is also open to rough stock (bulls or horses) riders that have competed in five or more Indian National Finals Rodeos.
The INFR has been in existence for 37 years and currently has 11 regions in the United States and Canada. Only champions from each region qualify to participate in the annual rodeo. Over $1 million in prize money is up for grabs each year for those Native American cowboys and cowgirls who participate in the organization’s events.
At this year’s INFR, 59 different Native American nations were represented.
Recently, the organization has begun awarding educational scholarships to Native youth across the country and has so far awarded over $50,000 in scholarship money.
More information can be found online at www.infr.org.
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at firstname.lastname@example.org)