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The beginning

Roy Raley, father of both Happy Canyon and the Pendleton Round-Up , was a true Pendleton pioneer. He was born in Pendleton in 1880, the only son of the four children of Col. and Mrs. James Henry Raley. He was a lawyer, legislator, cattleman, banker, surveyor, engineer, sportsman, businessman, and creator of community celebrations. He was a man who made things happen”and not just any way, but the right way.

When the Pendleton Round-Up chose its first president in 1910, it was a foregone conclusion that Roy Raley would be the first. The community recognized him as a showman. He liked celebrations, whether it was attending world’s fairs or lodge picnics. As he said in a speech to the Portland Rose Festival officials in 1924, “When the band starts to play, I start down the street – and I usually find many others doing the same thing. It has been a great pleasure to attempt to analyze the various forms of entertainment, in order to attempt to find the elements in them which attract the crowds and then to try to verify my conclusions by using these elements in my own shows.”

The first Happy Canyon show was in 1914, entitled “The Pageant of the West – an Outdoor Dramatic Production, Symbolizing the History and Development of the Great West.”The idea originated with Roy Raley, who for the three years since the beginning of the Round-Up, worked on a thought that the community and visitors attending the Round-Up needed a first-class community entertainment for their evenings. Raley wrote the script for Happy Canyon, planned the scenery, and directed the first pageants.

The night show of the Pendleton Round-Up was, during 1914 and 1915, held as a part of the Umatilla-Morrow County Fair. In 1916, land was purchased in downtown Pendleton, the Happy Canyon Association was incorporated, the amphitheater was constructed at a total cost of $11,140, and the first show with full scenery took place. Cost of admission was 50¢ for adults and 25¢ for children.

Raley knew the Indians well, and with the help of local tribal members, worked up a sequence of Indian village life before the coming of the white man. He designed the scenery and backdrop, including the high basalt cliffs of the region with teepees in the foreground to represent this area during the coming of the white man, first as frontiersmen and later as emigrants.

His father had traveled along the Oregon Trail to Pendleton in 1862, and had settled in a log cabin at the exact location where the Oregon State Correctional Facility now is located west of Pendleton. Roy Raley had all of the family background necessary to write an accurate and entertaining account of the history of the development of this region.

Raley was active in all community affairs, being a long-time member of the Pendleton school board, president of the Pendleton Rotary Club, Pendleton city attorney, president of the Oregon State Bar, chairman of the Pendleton Parks Commission, planner of the Vert building in Pendleton, and originating member of the Pendleton Foundation Trust. He also was the organizer of the Indian beauty contest, still held annually before the Westward Ho! Parade .

Native History

On With The Show!

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The Happy Canyon Pageant depicts the settling of the American West, beginning with a portrayal of the Native American way of life prior to the arrival of the white man, continuing with the arrival of Lewis and Clark, followed by the prairie schooners of the pioneers of the Oregon Trail and concluding with a reenactment of a frontier town's rollicking main street mishaps.

The actors are members of the community, mostly volunteers, and include many Native Americans from many different tribes, who travel from all parts of the northwest to participate in what for many is a longstanding family tradition.

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The Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes have a long colorful history in serving as the agents of hospitality to the visitors of this area. It may have been started by their ancestors 11,000 years ago who left evidence of their society at Fort Rock, Oregon.

In more recent centuries, these tribes have been saying “Welcome to our land” since the first fur traders and explorers entered what is now Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon.

During the early visitations of the first European guests to the region, these tribal groups had a stable, religiously oriented life which was sustained by a variety of economic pursuits. They had access to the deer, bear, elk, antelope, berries, and roots; the flora and fauna of the mountains as well as that of the more arid regions of the Columbia basin.

The great runs of salmon in the Columbia and its tributaries furnished a much appreciated food staple. So important was this fish that among many tribes of the Pacific Northwest, the word for fish was simply salmon. Many tribal beliefs and ceremonies centered around the salmon. The catching of salmon provided an important food supply which could be dried and stored, thus providing leisure time. In addition at such sites as Celilo Falls, the salmon catch also put the tribal people of the entire area in contact with one another, furnishing opportunity to trade and share cultural development.

Treks to the buffalo country of Montana afforded the tribes with the variety of products derived from the buffalo, as well as trading and cultural contacts with the Plains tribes.

Nature was not only the provider. The local tribes learned that by cooperating with nature, efforts could yield new means of gains. Local groups, after the introduction of the horse to the area in the early 1700’s, became widely known for their knowledge of selective breeding of horses. Members of the Cayuse Tribe became so famous as horse dealers and breeders that their tribal name has entered the American language as a synonym for Indian pony. A close neighbor of the Cayuse, the Nez Perce Tribe, developed a new breed of horse, famous today as the Appaloosa .

Warfare was not a regular activity of these tribes. Relations between tribes and with emigrants were generally peaceful. There were at times misunderstandings that developed due to conflicts of culture. One of these was closely associated with the concern of private ownership of land. Historically, the Indian had no concept of private ownership of land. Territorial limits were respected by a given tribe, but no one man owned any particular piece of land. Land was provided by and owned by nature, and was man’s only to use.

In May of 1855, over 5,000 Indian delegates from the Yakima, Nez Perce, Walla Walla, and Cayuse Tribes met with government officials at the old Yakima tribal council grounds, which is now the city of Walla Walla, to hold one of the most picturesque treaty sessions recorded in American Indian Affairs. From this council the Treaty of 1855 was drawn which designated the future relationship of these tribes with the Federal government and established the reservations now occupied by these tribes. The Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse were guaranteed a number of provisions as payment for the land they were to release for white settlement. Among these was the guarantee of 245,699 acres of land, some of which includes the present town-site of Pendleton, to be reserved for Indian use.

Presently there are 1,335 enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla , approximately half of which reside within the boundaries of the Umatilla Reservation (which has been diminished through succession and approved land sales to its present size of 174,121 acres). As participating members of the Umatilla County community, their children can attend a local charter school or public schools and the adults work at the Wildhorse Casino, in community offices, mills, schools, shops, and on its ranches and farms.

The Happy Canyon pageant has become a part of the heritage of the host tribes. For the past 107 years of its performance they unpack their family heirlooms and set up their tepees, to appear at Happy Canyon and to unfold a glimpse of the past – the children following in the moccasined footsteps of their elders without rehearsal or advanced direction.

Tribal groups throughout the nation have representatives encamped during the week of Round-Up and Happy Canyon. Sizeable delegations from the tribes of the Yakima, Colville, Spokane, Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone, Bannock, Warm Springs, Paiute, and Rock Creek participate in the events of the week.

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