Indian cowboys and cowgirls win big in Las Vegas* By Brandon Ecoffey and Joe Budd

LAS VEGAS –– South Dakota is known to produce its fair share of skilled horseman. So it should come as no surprise that four from South Dakota returned home from this year’s 2014 Indian National Finals Rodeo as newly crowned world Champions.

Clutch performances and fast times seemed to be the modus operandi of South Dakota’s athletes at this year’s 2014 INFR rodeo as final round performances catapulted four South Dakota Indians in to record books.


Jordan “Slick” Phelps brought home the gold buckle at this year’s Indian National Finals Rodeo. Photo from Facebook

This year’s class of champions was led by the skilled riding of eighteen year old Rockyford native, Jordan “Slick” Phelps. Phelps, who is the son of Ted and Alice Phelps, would rise to prove his championship pedigree as he would seize the 2014 INFR bull riding title an 80pt ride in his final ride of the rodeo. Phelps had entered the day in third place behind Cam Bruised Head and Louis Preston, but would be 1 of only 2 riders to successfully “cover” their bull in the championship round.

Phelps took to social media to voice his jubilation shortly after taking home the gold buckle.

“Sitting here in shock…(I) can’t believe this is happening!” Phelps said. “All i got to say is THANK YOU ALL!!!! For all the support and help! Especially for believing in me! Just a dream come true. Can’t be any happier..this gold buckle around my waist means the world.”

Phelps was joined by fellow Oglala Lakota Josey Johnson. Johnson would win the title on a night where her late father and all-time great Lakota bull rider, C.L. Johnson, was inducted in to the INFR Hall of Fame. Johnson, who is a graduate of Red Cloud High School, and the daughter of Leslie Cuny succeeded in roping her calf in a jaw dropping time of 2.5 seconds in the championship round to seal the first world title of her young career.

“To be a world champion feels like all the hard work I put in the past couple of years has finally paid off, not only with my own roping but with my horse Woody. I’ve had him since he was a baby and we learned how to rope together. My family has also put a lot into this and to share the moment with them was pretty awesome,” said Johnson.

Her mother Leslie Clifford explained what the win meant to the family.

“It means the world to our family. She practiced so hard at it,” she said. Cuny also added that Josey adhered to the teachings of her step father, Mark Cuny, who helped prepare her for her coronation as a champion.

The win also held special meaning as Johnson seized her place on the podium on the same night her father entered the INFR Hall of Fame.

“It was also a great accomplishment for her to achieve because it was on the same night the INFR inducted her father into the hall of fame. He was there with her. We are so very proud of her this is one of her dreams come true,” said Cuny.

Josey reiterated what her mother had said about having her father, who was himself a world champion bull rider, seemingly there in her special moment.

“To win the world championship the night my dad was inducted into the hall of fame was so very special I can’t even explain the feeling. I didn’t want that moment to ever end. I felt that he was right there with me and now I am not just the daughter of a legend and world champion, I also am a world champion,” said Josey.

A third Oglala was named a champion as well in the senior team roping event. Bart Ness of Martin and his partner Ed Harry would take home the crown with an average time of 13.62 seconds. Their average time over the course of the weekend was more than three seconds faster than any other competitor.

Cheyenne Eagle Butte will also prepare to welcome home their own world champion in the form of this year’s 2014 INFR barrel racing winner Jakki Young. Young would hold off her competitors with a final round time of 15.72 seconds to shore up the title as well as the fastest time of the night.

“It feels pretty amazing and getting to share it with my best friend Josey makes it seem even more unreal! I have dreamed of being a world champion barrel racer since I was a little girl. I was raised on a ranch and rode horses almost every day of my life. Spent so much time on a horse I was actually sick of riding,” said Young who is also the traveling partner of Josey Johnson.

“But now that I’m grown I realize that’s what got me where I am! I definitely have to thank my dad for that. My whole family raises horses so I had a lot to choose from. My horse HF A Nifty Frenchman aka Nifty was given to me by my grandpa Geno Hunt and if it wasn’t for him and my horse I would not be a world champ,” Young said.

*This article was first published in the Native Sun News

Brandon is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who earned his education at Dartmouth College. He is the managing editor of Native Sun News and a contributor to He has been published globally and also works as the Life and Current events editor at Native Max Magazine.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

1 thought on “Indian cowboys and cowgirls win big in Las Vegas* By Brandon Ecoffey and Joe Budd

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