This ten-county area sustains the confluence of diverse cultures: the cowboy world of the Pendleton Round-Up; Chief Joseph Days’ Celebration; John Day’s Kam Wah Chung Company; the “Four Rivers” of the Snake River Valley’s Japanese, Native American, Basque, and Hispanic legacies. The metaphor of distinct waters swelled into a shared stream reveals both change and continuities in the arts and cultures of this rich region.
Eastern Oregon is home to a range of peoples: the Nez Perce, Burns Paiute, Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla Indians; Hispanic communities; descendents of Chinese and Japanese settlers; and Europeans claiming heritage from the Scotch to the Basques.
Rounding-Up, Commemorating, and Passing On Tradition:
As festivals everywhere do, the Pendleton Round-Up engenders a “time out of time” feeling as normal social boundaries break down and strangers greet one another on the street. Yet this event also reveals fissures in the social fabric.
Transformation in the Wallowas:
Each town in the region celebrates a range of festivals, rodeos, and seasonal events as part of local folklife.
An Asian Legacy:
Population growth in the 1860s brought cattle and sheep to the region, shaping its economy and culture. As new groups arrived, social divisions emerged between whites, local Native Americans, and the Chinese who settled.
From Braceros to Lowriders:
Seasonal festivals create a means of giving thanks for natural abundance, merging Christian and indigenous beliefs and practices.
The Basque World:
In the late nineteenth century, Basque men immigrated to the region and filled the need in the expanding sheep industry for workers who could withstand the harsh conditions and loneliness of the work
The heart of southeastern Oregon is cattle ranching and cowboy culture.
Continuity and Change:
According to one traditional artist, practicing a folk art form keeps artists in touch with deeply held cultural values and with the ancestors who taught them the art.