This photo archive was prepared for 1859 magazine by one of our readers, Mitchell Kaba. Mitchell discovered the slides stowed away in his grandmothers basement. He works as an art appraiser, and was able to gather information about people depicted in the photos. Contact him at email@example.com or through his business, Mitchell Media Appraisals.
These remarkable photographs, shot roughly ten years after the introduction of Kodachrome film, are among the earliest known true color images of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla people. They were taken in 1948 at the Pendleton Round Up, a legendary rodeo held every summer in the city of Pendleton, Oregon. The photos capture preparations for the opening day ceremony in which a procession of Native American riders made their way from the tipi village into the main arena. The young woman shown prominently in the first series of images is Virginia Wilkinson, the Round Up Queen for 1948, along with members of her royal court, including their chaperone, Melissa Parr. One of the reasons I enjoy investigating collections such as these is that they help me to build connections across time, connections between people and places. While researching these slides I learned that the Wilkinsons and their extended family have been involved in the Pendleton Rodeo for more than a hundred years, with members from each generation taking part in the annual event dating back to Chief Jim White, who commanded a racing team of bareback Indian riders in the early 20th century. Most recently, Virginia Wilkinson’s great nieces, Katie and Mary Harris, both of whom were former court princesses, worked together on a project to painstakingly recreate the beaded elk-hide dress which Virginia is seen wearing in these 1948 images. Katie Harris was also featured in a National Geographic article a few years ago about the importance of horses in Native American culture. If you look at the photograph they published of Katie, standing next to her Appaloosa, dressed in her traditional tribal regalia, produced in the same vivid colors as these 70-year-old Kodachrome slides, you can actually feel the distance between the past and the present fading away.