Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was a nephew of Nez Perce Chief Joseph. He was 14 in 1877 when the flight of the Nez Perce took place across much of Idaho and parts of Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana. His uncle famously surrendered with the eloquent “I will fight no more forever” speech at Bear Paws Battlefield in Montana.
Meanwhile, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn, wounded, went with a small group of Nez Perce into Canada where he lived for a couple of years with Sitting Bull’s Sioux.
He lived in Washington and Montana, gaining a reputation as a skilled horseman, and a new name, Jackson Sundown, before moving to Idaho in 1910. His skills atop a bucking bronco became so well-known that other riders would simply pull out of the competition when they heard Sundown had signed up. At least one rodeo manager solved that problem by paying Sundown $50 a day for exhibition bronc riding.
In 1911, Sundown along with George Fletcher, who was black, and John Spain, a white cowboy, competed at the Pendleton (Oregon) Roundup in a famous multi-racial showdown. Ken Kesey told that story in his 1995 book, Last Go Round.
In 1915, at the age of 52, Jackson Sundown came in only third in bronc riding at the Pendleton Roundup. He decided to retire. But the next year, Alexander Phimister Proctor, a noted sculptor who was working on a sculpture of Sundown at the time talked the man into riding just once more. Jackson won the saddle bronc competition that day at the age of 53. Many of his competitors were half that age or less.
Jackson Sundown died of pneumonia in 1923. He was buried at Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Culdesac, Idaho. He was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2006.