Southeastern Oregon Folklife Survey in Malheur County

Southeastern Oregon Folklife Survey in Malheur County
By Douglas Manger, contract folklorist, Southern Oregon Folklife Survey, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts 

Scratch the surface a bit in Malheur County–the second largest in Oregon–and you’ll discover a wealth of folklife traditions, from the buckaroo rodeo, to the Mexican American panaderia (bakery), to Native American sweat lodge rituals.

To experience one of the most revered traditions in the county, look to the 100 year old Vale 4th of July Rodeo. There you are sure to catch Dan and Robin Fulwyler in the team calf roping competition. As horse trainers, rodeo competitors, and helping hands on area ranches at branding time, the Fulwylers’ live and breathe Western ranch traditions passed down through the generations. Not to be outdone, since the age of five their two daughter have rode and roped, as well.

From the Rodriguez Bakery in Nyssa, it’s just a short walk down the street to the home of Eva Castellanoz. Of Aztec/Otomí ancestry, Eva is a practicing curandera, or traditional healer. Eva attends to her patients’ needs in a variety of ways. Medicinal herbs, along with ritual limpias (smudgings or cleansings), are used to address both physical and emotional issues. Words channeled through her by the Holy Spirit help Eva provide wise counseling.

Native American sweat lodges in Ontario? Yes, the tradition lives on with James Dionne, a Chippewa/Cree born on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota.One night, in a dream, James was called to lead the sweat lodge circle. “The sweat lodge is a time to honor the Creator,” James explained. In the circle, James serves as the interceder praying that those in the circle will get answers. Apart from overseeing the sweat lodge circles at his home, for six years James served as the volunteer leader of the sweat lodge at the prison outside of Ontario.

With the exception of the Fulwyler image, all photos by Douglas Manger.

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