Who is Jim Pepper?
Jim Pepper (1941–1992), who was of Kaw/Creek heritage, grew up in Portland. His Kaw Indian name Hunga-che-ada translates to Flying Eagle. He became a tenor and soprano saxophone player, composer and bandleader of international significance, creating a unique, innovative body of work that continues to inspire and influence musicians and attract audiences across the United States, throughout Indian Country, and Europe.
His song “Witchi Tai To” is the only song based upon a Native American chant to break into the Top 40. He is one of the very few saxophonists in history to create an unmistakable original “sound” on the instrument. His compositions have drawn the interest of major composers the world over, including David Amram and Gunther Schuller, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Jim Pepper’s tenor saxophone is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the American Indian, and among his many honors are his induction into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
The Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival
Founded in 2013 to increase access to music education and honor this remarkable musician’s legacy, Jim PepperFest: The Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival is held at Parkrose High School in late summer. The festival returns Sept. 28, 2019.
Featuring daytime and evening festivities, the free event celebrates Native American culture and Jim Pepper’s musical legacy. The festival is open to the public and takes place outdoors with dancing on the lawn and Mount Hood views.