PENDLETON — Two and a half hours. That’s the shortest amount of time so far that Dorothy Cyr and her family have been able to erect their five teepees in the Indian Village on the Sunday morning before the Pendleton Round-Up.
It’s no easy feat, and this year things might take a little longer.
“It’s a mad rush,” Cyr said.
The family, like many others, have been setting up their teepees in the same area of the village for generations during Round-Up. The Indian Village brings tribes from all over the Pacific Northwest.
Cyr herself remembers coming to the grounds as a child. Back then, her mother would bring everything for cooking meals during the whole Round-Up week.
“When mom was here, she kept everything grounded,” Cyr said.
Things are different now. Her mother has passed, and they no longer reserve one of their teepees for cooking. Cyr herself is working during Round-Up, and won’t be camping on-site.
She said coming to set up the teepees each year is a big challenge, but it’s worth it to honor her late mother.
Her family sets all of the doors facing eastward, so as to greet the sunrise each morning.
“Every year, we go ‘ugh’, but it’s really important,” she said.
The teepee that her mother surprised her with years ago from Harden, Montana, is ready to go by 7 a.m. on Sunday. Its thick canvas has a few patches from wear.
Across the village, poles carved from lodgepole pine stand alone, are still waiting to become teepees with spacious interiors.
Linda Sampson said many people go scouting for trees to carve the poles from earlier in the summer. By the Sunday of setup, they are hoisted atop pickup trucks, some of the poles as long as 24 feet.
Taking good care of the poles is one of the many keys to successfully setting up a teepee.
“If you walk around here you might hear people shouting ‘watch the tips!’,” she said. “Everyone has their own tent, their own style, their own way of setting it up.”
Sampson can point in any direction of the village and list off the names of which families are camping where.
“You can walk through here and talk to anybody. And the children are all here learning. It’s the only way you learn, you do it year after year after year,” she said.
Cyr’s brother, Lloyd Barkley, helped the younger people in their family decide where to position each pole in one of their teepees. Because only a few of the poles are tied together, the rest must balance on each other with precision.
He said in his 63 years of living, he’s come to camp at the Indian Village maybe 50 times.
“It’s been a lifetime. Really, it hasn’t changed,” he said.