The small town of Pendleton, Oregon, a population of 16,000 inhabitants, is located in the arid eastern part of Oregon. Surrounded by wheat fields and at the foot of the scenic Blue Mountains, the town boasts a modest lack of big box stores. If you scan the yellow pages, or the Pendleton, Oregon business directory, you will not find most of the familiar big box names. This "lack" is due to the towns determination to stay a "real west" destination. Pendleton, Oregon is home to the famous Pendleton Roundup that dates back 100 years. The towns population reaches 50,000 the second week in September, during Round Up. "Let 'er Buck" is the Round Up's trademark slogan.
Pendleton has a rich and colorful history. In the early 1900s, the town had a flourishing Chinese community. Tunnels dug under the town housed opium dens, bordellos, saloons, and Chinese laundry,. Today, tours of the restored tunnels give visitors a taste of early Pendleton. Incorporated around 1910, the towns first city laws were, no public drunkenness, no fights, and no shooting of guns in the city limits. It is common knowledge that in it's wild west days, Pendleton housed 18 bordellos and 32 saloons. It is reputed some of the bordellos existed in Pendleton into 1950s and possibly longer. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation built Wildhorse Casino and Resort in 1995, four miles outside Pendleton, on the reservation. The tribes include the Cayuse, Walla Walla, and Umatilla indians. The reservation is in Eastern Oregon and Southeast Washington. The casino reportedly cut the unemployment on the reservation by 50 percent. Also on the reservation is Tamastsklit, a cultural center for the tribe's history and culture. The 18 million dollar structure is architecturally beautiful, and blends harmoniously into the surrounding hills.
The Umatilla tribes and their culture are woven into the history of Pendleton, and is illustrated in The Happy Canyon show at the Pendleton Roundup, a nightly show depicting history from both the pioneers perspective, and the Indian's perspective. Pendleton's legacy of cowboys, pioneers, and Indians is uniquely alive. The towns decision to halt "progress" by denying the big box entity's, does help create a certain real west feel. Although some feel the lack of progress limits employment in the area, the choice seems to serve them well. The Pendleton Round Up reportedly creates over twenty million in revenue annually.
Written by Lyndsey Morgan
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