Saturday, 26 April 2014

Sarah Winnemucca A Woman of History



Thocmentony “Shell Flower”


Sarah Winnemucca
Descended from two chiefs Sarah Winnemucca was born in 1844 into the Piute Nation now the state of Nevada.  Growing up Sarah was pulled in two opposing directions.  Her Grandfather Chief Truckee supported General John C. Fremont in the Bear War while her father Chief Winnemucca did not trust white people and advocated a position of separation between the two races.

At the age of six her Grandfather Chief Truckee took Sarah to California where she  first encounter white people and was introduced to the opulence of the colonial cultural.  |At the age of thirteen she was sent to become “part of the household” of a white family at Mormon Station and here she learned to speak five languages.

As a young woman Sarah was relocated with the rest of her nation on to reservations as colonists took over more and more of the best land for themselves.  Her linguistic skills provided her a unique opportunity and she became an interpreter for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Later she worked for the US Army again as an interpreter and scout.

In January 1880 she went to Washington where she addressed Secretary of Interior Carl Schurz and President Rutherford B. Hayes.  She is described as speaking passionately on the poor the treatment of her people and the broken promises of the government agencies.

Sarah’s connection to the white culture and the agencies that continued to mistreat the Piute people resulted in her becoming an object of mistrust by her own people, while at the same time being Aboriginal a member of the Piute nation meant that the white culture also mistrusted her.

Sarah was an amazing woman not just for her linguist abilities but also for her writing skills, tenancy in the face of adversity, her respect for herself as an Aboriginal woman, her Piute Culture and in her belief that knowledge and truth would motivate good people to do the right thing.

Over her lifetime she delivered over 400 speeches where she presented the broken promises and deplorable treatment of her people in an attempt to gain support public and political support for the fare treatment of her people.

She wrote the book “Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims and doing so she attributed with preserving the history and culture of the Piute Nation.  She was also the first known Native American Woman autobiographer.  

Sarah died on October 17, 1891 believing herself a failure.  Her mission throughout her life was to educate the white culture about the Piute people and their tradition.  She went to her grave believing that knowledge would end the oppression of her people.

Sarah Winnemucca was a Woman of History when in the face of overt oppression she remained optimistic believing that in the face of knowledge/truth people will do the right thing.

While the oppression of Aboriginal people and Aboriginal women specifically continues today in North America Sarah represent the best of us as she remain optimistic and  out spoken all of her life.  Could we ask for our daughter to do more than this?

 To Learn more about Sarah Winnemucca please visit these website:





 Grandma Snyder
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