The Plateau Culture Area is the area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. Much of the area is classified as semi-arid. Part of it is mountainous with pine forests in the higher elevations.
The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon has a number of displays about Plateau Indians, including one that looks at the Indians as cowboys. According to the Museum display:
“With the advent of reservations, many Plateau Indians transformed their old horse culture into cattle ranching, taking advantage of treaty rights which allowed them to pasture cattle on unclaimed lands outside reservations.”
During the twentieth century, the horse became less of a working animal and more a symbol of Indian pride and heritage. According to the Museum display:
“In the first half of the twentieth century, Plateau Indians used their horses for farming, rounding up cattle, trading, and transportation. As more Indians purchased cars and trucks, the role of the horse in Plateau life changed, becoming a symbol of friendship and help. Plateau Indian love of horses is still expressed in parades, ceremonies and rodeos, colorfully adorned with traditional Plateau-style horse regalia.”
According to the Museum display:
“In the 1920s, rodeo emerged as one of the most popular sports in Plateau country, spurred on by the success of Jackson Sundown and the growing number of Indian cowboys. Indian rodeos possess features that make them distinctively Native American. In addition to the standard forms of competition, the events often include traditional social dances called powwows, ancient gambling games called stick games, and feature dare-devil horse racing by both men and women.”
Shown below are some of the rodeo-related Indian artifacts which are one display.