A part of the Pendleton Round-Up since its inception, the Indian Village is more than just a place for members of local tribes to stay: It contains living history and traditions older than the event itself.
There’s a structure to the village that has been followed for decades, said Bobbie Conner, director of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute. “Native Americans come from Montana, New Mexico, California, Canada. They don’t all camp in the teepee village.”
Conner said the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla — Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes — make up the primary population of the village. Members of neighboring tribes, such as the Yakama, Warm Springs, Nez Perce and Colville tribes, stay there as well.
“The roster of people allowed to set up tents there does not fluctuate dramatically,” Conner said.
But Marjorie Waheneka, who has coordinated the Indian Village for 11 years, said when Chief Clarence Burke was alive he would put up a few extra tents for people coming from out of town.
“He played host to people that came from Canada or Montana,” Waheneka said.
Conner said there are usually between 300 and 350 tents at the village, ranging in size from 12 to 30 feet.
The village is a home away from home for the people who stay there. They eat, sleep and spend time with their families there, including people they may not have seen in a while.
“A lot of people come home for the ‘informal family reunion’ on both the Indian and the non-Indian side,” Conner said. “I lived away for 24 years, and I don’t think I missed a Round-Up in those 24 years.”
Waheneka said there are other traditions that get kept alive, even after people have died.
“People in mourning will put up teepee skeletons,” she said. “Last year we had about five skeletons for families that put them up in memory of loved ones that passed on, as an indication to others that the spot is reserved.”
Many people staying at the Indian Village will keep their homes open for people to walk through and look at, Conner said.
“Some people make displays in the interest of education, because most people who visit are fairly uninformed,” she said.
But there are also several demonstrations that take place in nearby Roy Raley Park, such as arts and crafts booths.
“There’s no commercial activity in the tents,” Conner said.
The village is used as a place to hold gatherings and dinners — some to host the court, and some in honor of elders who have passed away.
“The village has an abundant number of family activities,” Conner said.