Cousins are named 2024 Happy Canyon princesses

By on Thursday, December 7th, 2023 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

News release from Happy Canyon:

PENDLETON – The Happy Canyon Board of Directors is proud to announce cousins Layla Sohapppy and Lauren Gould as the 2024 Happy Canyon Princesses. They will serve as the 2024 ambassadors for the Happy Canyon Night Show, Oregon’s official outdoor night pageant that takes place each night of the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up. The women will be formally introduced as the 2024 Happy Canyon Princesses during a special Princess Brunch on Sunday, Dec. 17, from 1-4 p.m. at the Pendleton Convention Center. The public is invited to attend.

“We’re excited to have these outstanding young women represent Happy Canyon in 2024,” said Happy Canyon President Kipp Curtis. “With a multi-generational family connection to Happy Canyon, we’re honored to have them as ambassadors. Their special bond as cousins adds an extra special touch to this opportunity and is exciting for both their families and Happy Canyon.”

Layla and Lauren are both descendants of Old Chief Joseph, who led the Nimiipuu people through the states to escape to Canada in 1877 and was an advocate for native Americans to remain on their homelands. The cousins are also great-great granddaughters of Annette Blackeagle Pinkham, who married Chief Clarence Burke in 1970 and resided in Cayuse until her death in 1988.

Layla, whose Indian name is Tsanat (Place of the Swan), is an 18-year-old enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and 2023 graduate of Nixya’awii Community School. Her parents are Jacy Sohappy and Tyler Niemeier. Layla plans to attend a four-year university after she earns an associate degree from a community college. Layla would like to pursue a career in history and native American heritage and cultures and is interested in returning to her tribal land to work with elders or collect information and artifacts for the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.

Layla follows in her mother’s footsteps as a Happy Canyon Princess. Her mother, Jacy Sohappy, was a Happy Canyon Princess in 2002, and since then several of Layla’s aunts have also served as princesses. Her cousin, Látis Nowland, served as a Happy Canyon Princess in 2023. Layla said her cousin’s involvement this past year helped her learn more about what goes into the role.

Becoming a Happy Canyon Princess “is definitely a forever dream of mine, but would make my ancestors and loved ones proud of me for representing not only my family but my indigenous peoples as a whole,” Layla said.

Following graduation from high school, Layla has enjoyed the opportunity to travel to and participate in a variety of powwows, and she has danced in powwows since she was young. She enjoys activities that make her feel more connected to her people and culture, including dancing, weaving, beading, horseback riding, and gathering roots and berries.  

Lauren, whose Indian name is Tamawiitanmy (Earth Blanketed Woman), is an 18-year-old enrolled member of the Nez Perce from Lenore, Idaho, and her parents are Aaron and Jackie Gould. Lauren has lived her entire life on her family’s ancestral land and ranch near the Clearwater River. She is part of the Wallowa and Whitebird bands and also descends from the Umatilla, Okanogan, and Arrow Lakes people. Lauren graduated with honors from Lapwai High School in 2023, and was a two-time high school state basketball champion. Lauren plans to complete her associate of arts degree at Columbia Basin College, where she currently attends, and then transfer to a four-year university to pursue a career at a native American museum in archives.

Lauren has participated in the Happy Canyon Night Show and Indian Encampment for the past several years. She and Layla have both held the roles of young weavers, which were passed down to them from their great-great grandmother through other family members. Several of Lauren’s family members have served as Happy Canyon princesses, one of which was the late Anna Jane Wilkinson Pond who served in 1958 with Joyce Hoptowit and again in 1959 with Anna Marie Pond. Her aunt – and Layla’s mother – Jacy Sohappy, also served as a princess.

“I am proud to be from an involved family and intend to carry this family tradition on through the generations,” Lauren said.

Lauren’s interests include powwow dancing, gathering cultural foods, basket weaving, sewing, horseback riding, basketball, cooking, working cows and cultural ceremonies.

The Happy Canyon Night Show takes place September 11-14, 2024.

Photo: (From left to right) Cousins Lauren Gould and Layla Sohappy will serve as the 2024 Happy Canyon princesses. Photo provided by Happy Canyon.