Paiute princess immortalized in Nevada’s Capitol
Appeal Features Editor
In life, Sarah Winnemucca fought for education and equality.
Now she will forever be remembered for those two causes in bronze sculptures of her on display in the Nevada Capitol as well as in Statuary Hall in Washington D.C.
Born around 1844 to Chief Winnemucca, Sarah lived among the Paiutes but was also exposed to the white world, marrying two white men.
She mastered the English language and used her skills to work as a translator for the military. During that time, she witnessed injustices committed against American Indians and, among other things, called for the return of the Paiutes being interred in Oregon to their native Nevada.
Sarah went on a lecture tour, giving nearly three hundred lectures from Boston and New York to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., between April 1883 and August 1884.
She founded a school in Lovelock and wrote, “Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims,” most likely the first book written by an American Indian woman.
Sarah, who’s Paiute name was Thocmetony – meaning shell flower – died in 1891, at the approximate age of 47.
At the time of her death, she considered her efforts a failure.
But Benjamin Victor’s six-foot statue of the Paiute princess tells a different story.
In one hand, she holds a book; in the other, a shell flower as a token of peace. Her dress and hair are caught in a perpetual sweep of the wind. It is smaller than most other sculptures housed in Statuary Hall.
“I think the power that she held was not in physical stature, but in her powerful spirit,” Victor said.