The Rodeo Circuit

Omak Rodeo — Contestants waiting to compete during "slack". When there are too many riders for the evening or afternoon performance, a series of preliminary rounds called "slack" takes place in the morning. Norman Lindley, an Okanagan stock contractor, provided some of the bucking stock for the 1996 Omak Rodeo.
Photograph by Leslie Tepper, 1996

Omak Rodeo

Native cowboys from the Plateau frequently competed, and won, at Calgary, Pendleton, Yakima and Ellensburg, but they had a famous stampede in their own region — the Omak Suicide Race and Stampede. Stock contractor Leo Moomaw, from the Colville Reserve, and his partner, Tim Bernard, are among its founders.

The first Omak Stampede was held in 1932 at the local high school. There was no fence, no gate and no means of collecting admission fees. Today, part of the stampede grounds and the Native Village are on the Colville Reserve, and the Native community works closely with the city in planning the annual event.

The Suicide Race, or Mountain Race, was introduced in 1935 as a special attraction. Riders must scramble down a hill that plunges 69 m to the river, then cross the river to the finish line in the centre of the rodeo arena. The competitors are all from the Native community and many of them have won several times.

Horse being prepared for the Mountain Race, Omak Stampede, Omak, Washington, 1996. — Horses must be examined by the veterinarian before they are allowed to race. The symbols painted on them and the feathers attached to their manes are medicines that protect them and give them strength.
Photograph by Leslie Tepper, 1996
Omak Suicide Race
Photograph by Leslie Tepper, 1996

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Introduction | What makes Native Rodeo Different? | History of Rodeo Associations | Rodeo Heroes | The Rodeo Arena | The Rodeo Circuit | Rodeo Events | Down the Road