Publication Year: 2001
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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List of Illustrations
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I am grateful to Paiute tribal elders Helen Williams and Marjorie Dupee for sharing their time and memories with me. Cary Hanson and Georgia Hedrick generously made sources in their collections available to me. Guy Rocha kindly commented on a portion of my manuscript....
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To an author accustomed to pursuing the unknown story along the roads less traveled, Sarah Winnemucca looms above the historical landscape of the Great Basin like Mount Everest — and poses a similar challenge. Now that racism and the effort to crumple Sarah inside...
1. The World of the Paiutes: "Many years ago, when my people were happier than they are now"
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As a child Sarah Winnemucca’s name was Thocmetony, meaning ‘‘shell flower’’ in the Paiute tongue. Her memory began with terror and flight. In the late fall (possibly of 1848), her band camped by the Humboldt River, where the men fished and the women gathered grass seeds for winter food. When they heard that a party of white men...
2. The San Joaquin: "Rag friend"
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Thocmetony thought she was born about 1844. If her birthplace was the Humboldt Sink, it may have been summer or early fall when the Kuyuidika-a gathered at the place where the Humboldt River ended in a broad, shallow lake, dotted with marshy islands and ringed with green reeds, for the annual mud hen hunt. At molting time, when...
3. Genoa: "Our dear good friend, Major Ormsby"
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The white men’s country beyond the great wall of mountains had charmed Sarah even though its people terrified her, but the austere desert was the homeland she longed for. White travelers in the Great Basin saw the desert very differently than she. Fremont wrote of its ‘‘dreary and savage character,’’ its burnt appearance, and the sense...
4. The Pine Nut Mountains: "I felt the world growing cold"
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The starvation winter of 1859–60 had a good deal to do with the bloody battle that followed. The hardships of that season conclusively demonstrated that the Nevada desert had insufficient resources to support two peoples. And as more whites streamed inwith the Comstock rush, many Indians were arriving at the belief that they must ‘‘starve or fight.’’1 At the same time, tensions...
5. Winnemucca Lake: "It is a fearful thing to tell, but it must be told"
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Sarah’s whereabouts during the years immediately following Truckee’s death are difficult to determine, a problem compounded by her occasional inconsistencies and erroneous dates. Snyder apparently kept his promise to the dying chief. Sarah relates that Natches and five other men took her to California with Elma...
6. Camp McDermit: "Can you wonder that I like to have my people taken care of by the army?"
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In the beginning, before the sun and the moon were created, was the night. Only shamans can see through the darkness to the night beneath, but for curings and dances night is the time when power may be captured, especially around midnight or in the hour before dawn. Night is powerful and immortal, and the night spirit is capricious. It may choose you — or it may not. Even if you are not a shaman who can...
7. Winnemucca: "I would willingly throw off the garments of civilization and mount my pony"
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The year 1874 began with one of the worst crises the Winnemuccas had yet endured: the arrest and imprisonment of Natches. Having heard that blankets would be issued by Indian Agent Ingalls at Walker Reservation, Paiutes living in the Humboldt region went to claim their share. Issuing supplies only at the reservations was one...
8. Malheur Reservation: "I cannot tell or express how happy we were"
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An early pioneer in southeastern Oregon wrote of being impressed by the ‘‘bigness’’ of everything: ‘‘The country was alive with cattle, horses, sheep andwild animals surpassing anything in size and numbers we had ever seen. Beeves were being driven to market by the thousand, the roads were blocked withbig six-horse wool wagons and we sighted great herds of deer and antelopes.’’ Malheur Reservation was on the same scale, a generous domain of lavender hills...
9. The Bannock War Begins: "I, only an Indian woman, went and saved my father and his people"
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Across the gray sage desert of southern Oregon, past mesas and low, rounded hills faintly tinged with the green grasses of spring, thundered a herd of six hundred stolen horses. Beside them on brightly decorated pinto ponies rode the Bannock warriors, each wearing a single eagle feather in his braided hair or a headdress of porcupine skin and dyed, trimmed horses’ tails. If a man had proven...
10. The Bannock War: "I had a vision, and I was screaming in my sleep"
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The Battle of Silver Creek was the news that Sarah,Mattie, and the soldiers brought late at night to General Howard at his camp about fifteen miles from the Malheur agency. The arrival of his couriers completed what the general termed in his report ‘‘a very hazardous enterprise.’’ Howard would have liked Sarah to turn around immediately and head back to Camp Harney with his orders, but she had already ridden two hundred miles on this mission, by his calculations...
11. Yakama Reservation: "I am crying out to you for justice"
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Few Indians of Sarah’s day conceived of Indianness in the all-embracing terms of a common cause. Other tribes might be seen as allies or enemy nations, and they occupied varied positions in the pecking order: the Bannocks looked down on the Paiutes and the Paiutes thought themselves superior to the Washos. These deeply felt rivalries had enabled white men to control the West; the army could rely on the aid of Indian auxiliaries willing to oppose their tribal enemies. Problems...
12. Washington DC: "This which I hold in my hand is our only hope"
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Most peoples have a myth about a hero who sets out to right a world gone wrong — a saga that embodies the hope that in desperate times a brave and resolute figure will rise to save them. Around Paiute campfires, this myth took the formof the battle between Tavu, the little rabbit, and the sun. In olden times...
13. Fort Vancouver: "For shame! For shame! You dare to cry out liberty when you hold us in places against our will"
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Resurrection after defeat and death is a strong theme in old Paiute stories. When Isha the hero wolf was killed in a mighty battle in which he fought alone against an invading army, his younger brother, Itsa the coyote, disguised himself as a woman, stole his brother’s scalp from the enemy camp, and buried it ceremoniously several times on his journey home. On the sixth night, a mysterious voice...
14. Boston: "I pray of you, I implore of you, I beseech of you, hear our pitiful cry to you, sweep away the agency system"
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Boston, when the Hopkinses arrived in the spring of 1883, was more than rows of red brick houses, lengthy naves of old elms, the smooth, blue expanse of the Charles River at twilight, the silvery jangle of streetcar bells, and the bustle of crowds among the brightly lit shops, theaters, and hotels. Boston was the shrine of reform, indeed...
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The sacred lake, in its circlet of desert hills, reflected the deep blue of late summer skies. All Paiute children learned early that they must bless and respect Kuyuiwai — Pyramid Lake in taibo’s tongue. Beneath its waters lurked evil powers, the Paohas, wicked mermaids...
16. Henry's Lake: "Let my name die out and be forgotten"
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Anew power and an old dream were rising in the land. In the Mason Valley, far south of Lovelock and beyond the Walker River Reservation, a Paiute named Wovoka, or Jack Wilson, heard a great roaring on the mountain. Sinking into a deep trance, he saw a vision, and he began to preach to the people. They must do the dance he showed...
Epilogue: Sarah Today
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More than a century after her death, the old controversies over Sarah have not yet been laid to their final rest. This was demonstrated in 1994 at the naming of the Sarah Winnemucca elementary school in Reno. After the name had been accepted by the school board, several parents who favored naming...
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Page Count: 368
Illustrations: Illus., maps
Publication Year: 2001
Series Title: American Indian Lives