Sarah Winnemucca was born at Humboldt Lake in Nevada. Her father was a Paiute chief. When she was a young girl, her grandfather, who was on good terms with whites, took her to Carson City to be educated, and she soon became one of the very few Paiutes in Nevada to be able to read and write in English. After the first Paiute War, Sarah and her family moved to the Malheur Reservation, which was reserved for the Paiute and Bannock people. Sarah took a job teaching and interpreting for the local Indian Agent, Samuel Parrish, who was generally liked by the residents. After four years, Parrish was replaced by William Rinehart, who refused to pay the Paiute for their agricultural labor, and conditions on the reservation greatly deteriorated. In 1878, everyone on the reservation left, and the Bannock began raiding white settlements, triggering the Bannock War. During the war, Sarah acted as an interpreter for the army and helped track the Bannock. She personally helped her father and 75 other Paiute escape from the Bannock camp. Unfortunately, when the white soldiers came to remove the Bannock to the Yakama Reservation in Washington, they didn’t distinguish between the Bannock and the remaining Paiute, and they were all taken together. Sarah devoted herself to campaigning for the right of the Paiute to return to their old reservation, Malheur. She wrote memoirs and pamphlets (she was the first Native person to publish works in English), which were noted for their eloquence. She went on a speaking tour in California, which was very well-received, and even made a trip to D.C. to argue the case for her people to federal officials. Unfortunately, while the officials promised to help, they never provided the funding. Meanwhile, the Indian agent at Malheur started a vicious smear campaign against Sarah, accusing her of being a drunkard and a prostitute. However, the military men who had served with her defended her and attested to her brave character. She continued to lecture around the country, and in her later years opened a school for Paiute children. She is a controversial figure today, but thankfully, many people still remember her as a courageous and outspoken woman, and not an alcoholic.
Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca