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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 18, 2002 - Issue 61


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Winnemucca Descendant to Attend Statue Ceremony

by Janice Hoke Reno-Gazette Journal
credits: Liz Margerum Reno-Gazette Journal
When Sarah Winnemucca's statue is raised in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol her grand-niece plans to be there in her fringed buckskin dress.

"I'm going to get it beaded when we go to D.C.," said Louise Tannheimer, 83, of Portola, Calif.

Winnemucca, a 19th-century northern Nevada Paiute woman who worked for peace between American Indians and the newly arrived settlers welcomed by her grandfather, Chief Truckee, will be memorialized by decree of the Nevada Legislature in 2001 with the second statue from Nevada. The first, placed in Statuary Hall in 1960, was of U.S. Sen. Patrick McCarran.

Wearing her mother's colorful beaded moccasins and a necklace of beads and shells made by a Nixon Paiute woman, Tannheimer was the guest of honor at a dinner at the Siena Spa Resort in Reno sponsored by the Nevada Women's History Project and the American Association of University Women. Her maternal grandmother, Gracie Winnemucca, was Sarah Winnemucca's younger sister.

While she never met her famous ancestor, Tannheimer is proud of her and her family.

"At last somebody's recognizing her. She was a lady before her time. She did many outrageous things, but she always believed in herself," Tannheimer said.

Of the 97 state statues in the House of Representatives, six depict women, but none of the women was American Indian, said Carrie Townley Porter, director of the Nevada Women's History Project, the group charged with raising $150,000 for the Winnemucca statue.

North Dakota, one of three states still eligible to contribute a second statue, has chosen Sacajawea, the Indian woman who guided Lewis and Clark on their voyage of discovery of the Northwest U.S., as its second statue, Porter said.

At the dinner, the six members of the committee that will select the design and the sculptor for the 7- to 9-foot statue of Winnemucca were announced:

Debbie Allen of Churchill County and Porter, nominated by Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins; Nevada's first lady Dema Guinn and Steven High, executive director of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, nominated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio; and Reno artist Mary Lee Fulkerson and Richard Hooker of Las Vegas Cultural and Community Affairs, nominated by Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Sarah Winnemucca deserves the honor, said Susan Paslov, a Western Nevada Community College teacher who portrayed a fictional childhood friend at the dinner.

"I admire her fortitude and courage," Paslov said. "She had tremendous pluck. She would take on anything, traveling, lecturing to skeptical audiences, wearing European clothing."

In a time when no woman, particularly an Indian, came forward into the public eye, Winnemucca testified to Congress and President Rutherford B. Hayes about injustices at the hands of federal Indian agents. She also wrote an autobiography, the first book written by an American Indian woman, helped secure Fort McDermitt as a reservation for the Paiutes and opened a progressive school for Indians in Lovelock.

"She was way ahead of her time in teaching methods," Paslov said. "She insisted on preserving the Indian culture and language, but she also taught English."

"She was our first public woman in a time when women were not public," Porter said.

Sally Zanjani, a Reno historian, has written a biography of Winnemucca, published by the University of Nebraska Press in April.

Zanjani and Porter, an archivist, revived a plan three years ago, originally proposed by teacher Georgia Hedrick, to get Winnemucca chosen as the subject of the second Nevada statue.

"We called (State Assemblywoman) Marcia de Braga and she jumped on the bandwagon," Porter said. "Sarah Winnemucca was one of her favorite people."

De Braga was able to get a bill drafted within a week and eventually pushed it through both Senate and Assembly with no opposition by removing the request for $100,000 to pay for the statue.

The Nevada Women's History Project, a non-profit group affiliated with the Nevada Women's Fund, has raised a little more than $10,000, mostly small donations from individuals as well as donations by the Las Vegas Los Prados Women's Club, several Soroptimist clubs, and Raggio.

"I believe in the causes of women," State Sen. Bernice Mathews said. "She was an awfully brave woman to do what she did, particularly as an Indian woman. Now,we need to start looking for the money."

Send Sarah to Washington
Every state in the union is allowed two statues of its noteworthy people in the Capitol in Washington, DC. Nevada has only one so far, of Senator Pat McCarran. There is a growing movement to make Sarah Winnemucca Nevada's second statue. A bill has been introduced in the Legislature and is gaining support.


Sarah Winnemucca (to find the bio of Sarah, click on Biographies, alphabetical, W)
Sarah Winnemucca's birth coincided with the beginning of an era of dramatic historical changes for her people, changes in which she would play an important and often thankless role. She worked throughout her life to communicate between her people and the white people, to defend Paiute rights, and to create understanding.

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