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Cayuse Chief Jesse Jones remembered as


ayuse Chief Jesse Jones Jr., Uma-Pi-Ma, died Dec. 19, twelve days after his 80th birthday. He was a father, an uncle, and a grandfa-

spect. Simply put, Jesse James Jones Jr. was a “man amongst men.”

ther. He was a horseman, a war dancer, a story teller. ones was born Dec. 6, 1940 to Jesse James Sr. and He was a friend, an “advisor” and teacher, a deJeanette (McKay) Jones and was raised in the upvout leader at the Tutuilla Presbyterian Church. per McKay Creek area. He was an athlete and a hunter. He was married twice. With wife Merrily BrothHe was a disciplinarian and strictly adhered to erton he raised two boys – Jesse “Buck” James Jones certain kinds of protocol, including appropriate dress Jr. and Brooker Phillip Jones. Upon the death of his for the occasion. sister, Josephine, Jones adopted James Anthony Jones. He was vigorous and robust, he was prompt, he His son, Gabriel Hawk Jones, was the child of Jones was faithful to his people and community. and his second wife, Marvella Henry. His fifth son, He was among the men who followed the tradithe youngest, is Jacob Jones. Chief Jones also had 11 tions of the past, who didn’t show up empty handed grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. and he never refused food or drink when he visited His father’s house, which was destroyed by fire, friends and relatives. was in the mountains, but the family address was He was an “encyclopedia” of tribal history and Pilot Rock where he was educated. culture and he shared his wealth of knowledge with He graduated from Pilot Rock High School in 1959, people young and old, Indians and non-Indians alike. a member of the Rockets’ state-champion basketball He shoed horses and raced horses. He was a team. That same year he was invited to war dance in member of wild horse racing teams and cow-milking Portland in honor of Oregon’s 100th birthday. He rode teams at rodeos around the many times on his horses, Joe Northwest. Buck and Dinero, representing He rode the spotted horse, the Confederated Tribes of the silhouetted against the mounUmatilla Indian Reservation tains, and was a wagon train in Portland’s Rose Festival “raider” at Happy Canyon, Parade. where he participated for more Jones didn’t stop playing than 60 years. hoops locally, before the advent He ruled as chief in the Inof post-World War II basketdian tee-pee village where he ball tournaments. In the 1950s, camped for decades with his Jones was part of Presbyterian family next to the fence near teams that brought many trothe ticket booth, behind the old phies back to the church. bull pens. Jones was employed for He was a fixture on Saturmany years in the Pilot Rock day mornings, presiding for lumber mill and he worked more than 30 years over the cattle on horseback at the 7UP ceremonial dancing, his deep, ranch. He lived on the south strong, melodic voice fillreservation, but would show ing the Pendleton Round-Up Chief Jesse Jones laughs during the Saturday morning up on the north end to help arena. friends and relatives with dances sponsored by Pendleton Woolen Mills. He proudly rode in Septemcattle drives and branding. ber’s Dress Up and Westward He loved and supported the Ho! Parades and was inducted into the Round-Up CTUIR community, spending countless hours over and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame in 2004. the years at Longhouse events and celebrations. He was a portrait-worthy subject for photographers from around the world, cutting a razor-sharp t his funeral Dec. 21, which was live-streamed figure in his regalia and war bonnet. because of COVID-19 gathering restrictions, He loved Hank Williams. Walla Walla Chief Don Sampson, Peo-Peo-Mox-Mox, He had a big smile and bright eyes. read condolence letters from Mort Bishop III, retired He had a firm handshake and may have been unpresident of the Pendleton Woolen Mills, and Rob comfortable doing it, but would give hugs as well. Collins, Round-Up Indian Director for eight years. He was always prompt, conscientious about where Letters also came from the Pendleton Round-Up and he was supposed to be. Happy Canyon directors. He was not impersonal, he was statesmanlike, Jones became loyal friends with the Bishop family, dignified, well-spoken and thoughtful. which owned the Pendleton Woolen Mills. He was And he commanded, received and deserved recommitted to the Saturday morning dancing because




Confederated Umatilla Journal

Photo by E.J. Harris, former photographer for the East Oregonian

of the Bishop family’s friendships with the headmen of the Confederated Tribes. The dancing began in 1927 to honor Chauncy Bishop, who died in a hunting accident. Poker Jim established the event and the Pendleton Woolen Mills reciprocated by bringing prizes. “Jesse was there for us every September,” Bishop wrote in a message read at the funeral. “He was the lifeblood of the Saturday morning dances … through sickness, sadness, injury, pain, family deaths, Jesse was there for us.” The Round-Up arena was his “sacred ground,” Bishop wrote. “He stood tall, he stood proud in his buckskins and eagle feathers. His deep melodic voice boomed through the stands and the Indian encampment and echoed across the canyon wall. He was there for his people, he was there for his drummers, he was there for his dancers, he was there for the piercing call to the wild. Jesse was our sentinel. He was there with dignity and grace.” Bishop also described Jones as a “wise man.” “He was the steady one,” Bishop wrote. “He was the one who lifted us up. He was there for all of us. He was there for you, for me, our fathers and forefathers.” In his letter, Bishop called Jones “our leader.” “He was our chief. He was the one brave and true. Jesse Jones was a man amongst men,” he wrote.


obbie Conner volunteered alongside Jones at the Saturday morning dances, recording the winners and organizing photo shoots. She helped out for 22 years and knows Jones led the event for much longer than that. “The origin of the war dances were the result of loss of life due to a hunting accident and that was a very old established relationship [with Bishops] that Jesse wanted to uphold,” said Conner, director at Tamastslikt Cultural Center. The Conner family camped in the Indian Village across from the Jones family tents. The Saturday morning dances epitomized Jones’ involvement with the Indian community. “He was faithful to honoring the lives and traditions of our people at the Longhouse as a chief,” Conner said. “He was always there for dances, funerals, veterans and ceremonies. When his presence was needed he was always there.” Conner said Jones was “incredibly loyal.” “If you were his friend, you were his friend for life,” she said. “When people were on their death bed, Jesse came to visit with them.” Conner said Jones loved to tell stories of the old days. “I think Jesse missed the old people and the old days,” Conner said, adding that Jones “always wanted to be appropriate, honoring the old ways.” He shunned displays of public affection like hugging, but, rather, he was statesmanlike. “Jesse exemplified that,” Conner said. She will remember Jones as “a man’s man in part Chief Jones on page 5A

January 2021

Profile for Confederated Umatilla Journal

January 2021 CUJ  

January 2021 CUJ