Thocmetony (Sarah) Winnemucca


“If women could go into your Congress, I think justice would soon be done to the Indians” – Sarah Winnemucca

Sarah Winnemucca was born in 1844 in Nevada of the Northern Paiute and originally given the name Thocmetony (translation: shell flower). Growing up, Thocmetony’s grandfather Chief Truckee thought it important to be educated in and exposed to different cultures that were quickly becoming prevalent in Native American lands. In California, she quickly learned English, Spanish, and multiple Native American dialects. When returning to Nevada, she lived with a white settler family for a time and changed her name to Sarah.

Sarah tried to continue her education in California when her grandfather died (it was one of his dying wishes), but was kicked out of school when non-Indian families complained about her presence there. As a result, Sarah went back to Nevada when many aggressions between settlers and Native Americans were reaching a fever pitch. She used her language skills as an interpreter/peace maker, and attempted to advocate for the rights of her people. After witnessing the many hardships on reservations, Sarah went on a lecture tour spanning several states detailing the plight of Native Americans, and was able to speak with President Rutherford B. Hayes in Washington D.C. (though very little came out of the meeting, Sarah saying later that the President’s and Congress’ “promises which, like the wind, were heard no more”)

Sarah then became the first Native American woman to publish an English written book, her autobiographical Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (added to my Goodreads reading list). Over the course of her life, Sarah Winnemucca was: a military scout, an author, a teacher, an interpreter, a peace maker, and in the end, extremely disheartened that the struggles of Native Americans fell onto deaf ears.

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