- The Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864–1891 ed. by Cari M. Carpenter and Carolyn Sorisio
What is the impact of an edited collection of newspaper sources when digital newspaper archives are increasingly capacious? Edited by two highly respected scholars who have themselves published major critical analyses of Sarah Winnemucca as an activist, performer, and orator, The Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864–1891 demonstrates that such a book is still a welcome scholarly companion. The Newspaper Warrior covers events ranging from this important Native activist’s first public appearances to her death.
The skillful editorial work of these two scholars should be detailed and praised, for the labor of preparing such a book is too often invisible. They have located sources in myriad archives across the nation (many of them local historical societies); they have copied, compared, selected, abbreviated, transcribed, and arranged their results, bringing coherence to materials widely separated by time and place. Of these tasks, the most important is editorial: culling from the mass of information the “most relevant” content (xiii). Carpenter and Sorisio have articulated their criteria of selection: reminding us this is not “an exhaustive record,” they have chosen items that bear out or modify our sense of Winnemucca’s biography, her performances, and her book, Life among the Piutes—as well as those that elucidate her skill at working within the culture of “newspaper representation of herself … and American Indians” (3). Given that the two biographies of Winnemucca cannot be called fully scholarly productions, the resources gathered in The Newspaper Warrior, one hopes, can become the foundation for a newly conceived and carefully documented biography prepared by a trained scholar.
The Newspaper Warrior opens with an introduction connecting its reprinted sources to major topics of interest to contemporary scholars working in areas of Native activism: “authenticity” of identity, performativity, translation, and the vexing question of how to understand the work of public Native intellectuals who have advocated assimilation (3). The introduction presents a brief biographical overview, focusing on items that relate to “the newspaper record” and placing these collected texts within thematic “contexts of representation, performance, and resistance” (3). Carpenter and Sorisio provide a brief contextual history of Native performers and orators on stage, noting the changing attitudes and representationtreatments [End Page 114] al strategies of newspapers that reported on these public figures. They emphasize the significant differences among newspapers that result from geographic location (the book includes content from papers across the nation) and demography (it also includes material from urban papers with nationwide circulation as well as from small-town papers such as Nevada’s Gold Hill Daily News). They analyze, as well, how Winnemucca adapted her self-fashioning to each context, using humor, sentimentality, impeccably correct English, and a carefully crafted bodily appearance.
Three sections follow, presenting “news articles, letters to the editor, advertisements, book reviews, and editorial comments” by and about Winnemucca, arranged chronologically and geographically (1). Taken together, these sources document her public career. The earliest section is the largest and most exciting, reproducing information from difficult-to-access sources that document the earliest details of the activist’s life in Nevada, California, Idaho, and Utah. The following, shorter sections contain materials related to the now familiar story of Winnemucca’s lecture tours in the East under the sponsorship of Mary Peabody Mann and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, and conclude with items covering Winnemucca’s last six years in the West. Throughout, the text is enriched by judicious explanatory endnotes that point to other sources not reprinted here and that provide local, historical, and scholarly contexts and references.
This carefully edited book enriches our present understanding of Winnemucca and begs to be complemented by similar archival investigations—for example, into the records of Winnemucca’s substantive negotiations with her sponsors (perhaps through a collection of her correspondence). Her interactions with federal agencies that determined the policies against and for which she advocated surely...