City bars decorations on statue of rodeo star Jackson Sundown

Jackson Sundown competes in the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon. Image from Pendleton USA

The city council in Pendleton, Oregon, voted unanimously to ban decorations on all public statues in response to a dustup over a bronze that honors rodeo legend Jackson Sundown.

A resident started decorating the statue of Sundown, who was a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, last Halloween. Pamela Harmon, 50, said she is a descendant of the rodeo star.

“We got a huge response,” Harmon told The East Oregonian last month. “And we did it again for Christmas and then for St. Paddy’s Day.”

Not everyone saw the situation in the same way. After someone tore down her latest display, which included a banner that read "Kiss Me! I'm Irish," her husband chased the man down and the two were involved in a short scuffle.

The incident, which has not resulted in an arrest, prompted Harmon to start a petition to allow her to continue decorating the statue. The request did not sit kindly with Nez Perce Chairman Silas Whitman.

Decorations on a statue of Jackson Sundown have been generating front page headlines and controversy in Pendleton, Oregon. Image from The East Oregonian / Facebook

“Nez Perce and non-Nez Perce have a natural affinity for the man and his story as he represents some of the finer qualities all of us would aspire to have,” Whitman wrote in a letter to the city council, the Oregonian reported. “Allowing the statue to continue to be decorated makes a mockery of the man, his legacy and what he represents to many people.”

Members of the Umatilla Tribes, whose reservation borders Pendeton, weren't happy either. They circulated another petition that asked the city to ban decorations.

“I think about if there was a bronze of my father, my grandfather, would I want that happening?” Mayor Phillip Houk told the paper after the council voted to ban decorations on Tuesday. “And quite frankly, I would not.”

Sundown was a regular at the annual Pendleton Round-Up in the city. He won the 1916 championship at the rodeo at the age of 53 after announcing his retirement.

The city unveiled the statue in his honor in June 2013.

Get the Story:
Pendleton council bans Sundown decorations (The East Oregonian 4/7)
Tribal members weigh in on Sundown decorations (The East Oregonian 4/4)
Pendleton statue fight gets physical (The East Oregonian 3/19)

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