Sad news out of New Mexico this morning: Sonny Jim, a true legend of the Indian rodeo scene, was gunned down during a property dispute. A man of Modoc descent who’d long lived in Navajo country, Sonny Jim was the nation’s top Indian cowboy during the early 1970s, renowned for his long, luxuriant hippie hair as well as his bull-riding skills. In 1982, he reinvented himself as a champion steer wrestler—dangerous work for any cowboy, let alone one entering the sunset of his career.
A 1974 piece from Sports Illustrated captured both Sonny Jim and his beloved sport at their finest. And check out some vintage Indian rodeo photographs here, here, and (especially) here, via the excellent Colorado Plateau Digital Archives at Northern Arizona University.