Howard Hunter: 1951-2015
April 7, 2015
Feb. 4, 1951 – April 4, 2015
Howard Hunter, a saddle bronc rider who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 1976, 1979-80, passed away April 4 in Kyle, S.D. He was 64.
Hunter finished a career-best eighth in the 1980 world standings, and was ninth in 1976 and 12th in 1979. He is a member of the South Dakota Rodeo Hall of Fame.
Hunter rode saddle broncs for more than 40 years, winning the Badlands Circuit saddle bronc riding championships in 1976, '78 and '82.
He also qualified for the Indian National Finals Rodeo 14 times, winning four saddle bronc riding titles (1980, 1987-88, 1990). He was the Great Plains Indian Rodeo Association saddle bronc riding champion 10 times.
Hunter, who stood 5-foot-5 and weighed 130 pounds, was inducted into the Indian National Finals Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. His Indian name is Sunka Watogla Akan Yanka Wicas. Translated, it means Wild Horse Rider.
Hunter was one of eight children who grew up on his parents' ranch and helped raise cattle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Hunter's grandfather was an infant survivor of the Battle of Wounded Knee, a massacre that took place 20 miles from Kyle, S.D., in 1890.
From 1962-72, Hunter won 27 buckles and two saddles while competing in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. In 1969, he took first in bull riding and bareback riding, and second in saddle bronc riding, and was the all-around cowboy at the South Dakota State High School Rodeo Finals.
Hunter obtained his PRCA permit in 1972 and Charlie Colombe, an Indian bronc rider, steered him to three-time saddle bronc riding world champion Shawn Davis – who won gold buckles in 1965, 1967-68 – to mentor him.
Hunter won $109,205 in his career, including wins at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, Houston, Ellensburg (Wash.), El Paso (Texas), Deadwood (S.D.), Casper (Wyo.) and Jackson (Miss.).
Hunter was seriously injured at the Crow Fair Rodeo in Crow Agency, Mont., on Aug. 19, 1995, when a bronc fell on him. The fall resulted in a traumatic brain-stem injury, and forced him to retire from the sport.