Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sarah Winnemucca (born Thocmentony, Paiute: Shell Flower) (ca. 1841 – October 17, 1891) was notable for being the first Native American woman known to secure a copyright and to publish in the English language. She was also known by her married name, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, under which she published most of her work. Her book, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, is an autobiographical account of her people during their first forty years of contact with explorers and settlers.
Born "somewhere near 1844" at the Humboldt Sink in Mexico (now western Nevada), Sarah Winnemucca was the daughter of Chief Winnemucca (Po-i-to). Although she claimed that her father was chief of all the Northern Paiute (and she was therefore often called the "Paiute Princess" by the press), the Paiute had no centralized leadership and her father, though influential, was the chief of a small band.
Sarah's grandfather, Captain Truckee (meaning "good" in the Paiute language), was enthusiastically friendly towards white people. He guided John C. Frémont during his 1843-45 survey and map-making expedition across the Great Basin to California. Later he fought in the Mexican-American War, earning his nick-name "Captain" and many white friends. Although Sarah was terrified of white people, her grandfather took her with him on a trip to the Sacramento area (a trip her father refused to go on), and later placed her in the household of William Ormsby of Carson City, Nevada to be educated.
Sarah Winnemucca soon became one of only two Paiutes in Nevada able to read, write and speak English. Due to these skills, she became a translator for Indian Agents at Malheur Reservation , designated a reservation for the northern Paiute by a series of Executive Orders issued by President Ulysses S. Grant. Later she served in this same capacity at the Yakima Reservation.
Sarah also worked as a translator, messenger and scout for the US Army during the Bannock War of 1878 (in which Paiutes fought alongside the Bannocks) as well as several smaller conflicts, and she was very well regarded by the officers she worked for. Likewise, she thought highly of the Army, referring to its members as "our soldier-fathers" many times in her book. She detested most of the Indian Agents she worked for, however, and advocated military administration of the reservations. Because of her relations with the Army, her reputation is controversial and many Paiutes view her as a collaborator.
Following the Bannock War, the Paiute bands she was associated with were deemed untrustworthy and forced to march to the Yakima reservation (in Washington Territory), where they endured great deprivation. Sarah went there with them to serve as a translator. Due to their experiences there, she began to lecture on the plight of her people across California and Nevada. During the winter of 1879 and 1880, she and her father visited Washington and gained permission from Secretary of the Interior, Carl Schurz, for the Paiutes to return to Malheur at their own expense. However, this promise went unfulfilled for years.
- Knowing the temper of the people through whom they must pass, still smarting from the barbarities of the war two years previous, and that the Piutes, utterly destitute of everything, must subsist themselves on their route by pillage, I refused permission for them to depart . . . and soon after, on being more correctly informed of the state of affairs, the Hon. Secretary revoked his permission though no determination as to their permanent location was arrived at. This was a great disappointment to the Piutes and the greatest caution and care was necessary in dealing with them.
- Report of Yakama Agent, James H. Wilbur
- Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Year 1881, p. 174 and 175.
- American Indians of the Pacific Northwest
While lecturing in San Francisco, California, Sarah met and married Lewis H. Hopkins, an Indian Department employee. In 1883, they traveled east where Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins delivered nearly three hundred lectures. In Boston, the sisters Elizabeth Peabody and Mary Peabody Mann , wife of the educator Horace Mann, began to promote her speaking career. The latter helped her to prepare her lecture materials into Life Among the Piutes, which was published in 1883 (1994 edition: ISBN 0874172527). Sarah's husband supported his wife's efforts by gathering material for the book at the Library of Congress. However, her husband's tuberculosis and gambling addiction left Hopkins with little financial reward for all her efforts.
After returning to Nevada, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins built a school for Indian children which was to promote the Indian lifestyle and language. The school operated briefly, until the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 required Indian children to attend English-speaking boarding schools. Despite a bequest from Mary Peabody Mann and efforts to turn the school into a technical training center, Sarah's funds were depleted by the time of her husband's death in 1887, and she spent the last four years of her life retired from public activity. She died at her sister's home in Henry's Lake, Nevada of tuberculosis.
External links and references
- Biography, from the website of Nevada Women's History Project at the University of Nevada, Reno
- Voices from the Gaps: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a biography from a University of Minnesota website
- Biography from the National Women's Hall of Fame website
- Nevada Historical Marker 143 on Thocmetony, from a state of Nevada website
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details