Fresh ideas: You can help put Sarah Winnemucca in Washington
March 20, 2002
If you have been to Washington, D.C., perhaps you have seen Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Each state has been allowed two statues there, honoring men or women who have been notable in the history of that state.
Currently six statues are of women, among the 97 now congregated in our nation’s capitol. It is an impressive sight to see these persons memorialized in bronze or marble.
Nevada is one of three states that has only one statue at this time — of U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran. About two years ago, the Nevada Women’s History Project began a drive to designate a Paiute Indian woman, Sarah Winnemucca, as Nevada’s second statue.
On May 29, 2001, Gov. Kenny Guinn signed into law Assembly Bill 267 (sponsored by Assemblywoman Marcia de Braga, and passed without objection in the Nevada Legislature). AB 267 officially designates the second Nevada statue to be of Sarah Winnemucca.
A committee of six Nevadans will choose a sculptor and oversee the construction of the statue and its placement in the U.S. Capitol. The Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs will provide administrative support to the committee of six.
The NWHP is charged with the responsibility of raising project funds at a conservative estimate of $150,000.
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Why would so many Nevadans enthusiastically champion the Sarah Winnemucca statue? Because Sarah was someone of incredible achievement during Nevada’s 19th century (1844-91). The reputed daughter of the chief of the Paiutes, Chief Winnemucca, and granddaughter of Chief Truckee, Sarah chronicled her life and struggles for justice in “Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims,” the first book ever written by a Native American woman.
Sarah, the author, was also a linguist, educator and interpreter of her culture to the white world. She lectured hundreds of times on both coasts about wrongs visited on Indians by the U.S. government. She won popular support for Indian causes, while generally facing a wall of indifference in Washington, D.C.
The school she started for Native Americans near Lovelock innovatively promoted both Indian and English languages and values, becoming a model for subsequent schools.
Most important to Sarah were her efforts to promote understanding and acceptance between her own people and those people of the white world. She believed in the sisterhood and brotherhood of humankind.
Honors already granted to Sarah Winnemucca have included a Nevada historic marker in her honor, membership in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and membership in the Indian Hall of Fame.
She was also posthumously inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and is listed in “Notable American Women, 1607-1950.” Perhaps the highest honor of all will be her statue, standing tall among the notable persons of the 50 states.
Donations to the Sarah Winnemucca Statue Project are entirely tax deductible and will not be used for administrative expenses. Donations will be used exclusively to fund the creation of the statue and its placement in Statutary Hall in Washington.
Your help is needed in honoring this most unusual Nevadan.
Please send whatever contribution you can to Nevada Women’s History Project, 770 Smithridge Drive, Suite 300, Reno, NV 89502.
Susan Paslov writes for the Nevada Appeal as a member of the “Fresh Ideas” writers group.
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