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Sarah Winnemucca of the Northern Paiutesby Gae Whitne Canfield
Synopses & Reviews
Of the many Native American women who were torn between two cultures on the American frontier, three have captured the popular imagination: Pocahontas, Sacajawea, and Sarah Winnemucca. This is the first full-scale biography of Sarah, the daughter of a Northern Paiute chief in western Nevada.
During her short but adventurous life between about 1844 and 1891Sarah Winnemucca worked tirelessly for the physical welfare and education of the Paiutes and all Indians. During a childhood made traumatic by the influx of white settlers and miners, she learned English and Spanish and two Indian languages in addition to her own. Through her work as an interpreter and a scout she eventually became an important political figure among the Indians of her region and traveled to Washington as their representative. Beautiful and persuasive, she appeared as the "Princess" Sarah in theaters and churches, telling the white world about the Paiutes and their problems. Because of her friendship with two Boston intellectual women, Elizabeth Peabody and Mrs. Horace Mann, she was able to publish her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, one of the first books by a Native American. Her eastern allies also helped her to fund the Peabody School for Indian children in her home state.
Balancing those successes were many personal and public failures. It was impossible to feed and clothe the Paiutes on the promises of Washington politicians. The charm that won the hearts and minds of her audiences also provoked personal attacks and innuendos. Two of Sarah's three marriages ended in divorce; the less formal liaisons failed also.
Historians have found it difficult to separate the truth from the fictions perpetuated by white critics and by Sarah herself. In preparing this biography, Gae Whitney Canfield relied on newspaper reports and interviews, the Peabody and Mann papers, and public documents, as well as Sarah Winnemucca's own account of her life. The result is an exciting history of an extraordinary individual, who was at once a traditional Indian woman and a liberated Indian activist.
About the Author
Gae Whitney Canfield is a graduate of the College of Emporia, Emporia, Kansas, and holds a master's degree in library science from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Librarian in the Richmond Unified School District, Richmond, California.
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