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Letter from Sarah Winnemucca

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                    


Letter from Sarah Winnemucca, an Educated Pah-Ute Woman

To Major H. Douglas, U. S. Army:
I learn from the commanding officer at this post that you desire full information in regard to the Indians around this place, with a view, if possible, of bettering their condition by sending them on the Truckee River Reservation. All the Indians from here to Carson City belong to the Pah-Ute tribe. My father, whose name is Winnemucca, is the head chief of the whole tribe; but he is now getting too old, and has not energy enough to command, nor to impress on their minds the necessity of their being sent on the reservation. In fact, I think he is entirely opposed to it. He, myself, and most of the Humboldt and Queen's River Indians were on the Truckee Reservation at one time; but if we had stayed there, it would be only to starve. I think that if they had received what they were entitled to from the agents, they would never have left them. So far as their knowledge of agriculture extends, they are quite ignorant, as they have never had the opportunity of learning; but I think, if proper pains were taken, that they would willingly make the effort to maintain themselves by their own labor, providing they could be made to believe that the products were their own, for their own use and comfort. It is needless for me to enter into details as to how we were treated on the reservation while there. It is enough to say that we were confined to the reserve, and had to live on what fish we might be able to catch in the river. If this is the kind of civilization awaiting us on the reserves, God grant that we may never be compelled to go on one, as it is much preferable to live in the mountains and drag out an existence in our native manner. So far as living is concerned, the Indians at all military posts get enough to eat and considerable cast-off clothing.

But how long is this to continue? What is the object of the Government in regard to Indians? Is it enough that we are at peace? Remove all the Indians from the military posts and place them on reservations such as the Truckee and Walker River Reservations (as they were conducted), and it will require a greater military force stationed round to keep them within the limits than it now does to keep them in subjection. On the other hand, if the Indians have any guarantee that they can secure a permanent home on their own native soil, and that our white neighbors can be kept from encroaching on our rights, after having a reasonable share of ground allotted to us as our own, and giving us the required advantages of learning, I warrant that the savage (as he is called to-day) will be a thrifty and law-abiding member of the community fifteen or twenty years hence.

Sir, if at any future time you should require information regarding the Indians here, I will be happy to furnish the same if I can.
Camp McDermitt, Nevada, April 4th, 1870

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A Century of Dishonor, By Helen Hunt Jackson, New York, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1885

A Century of Dishonor


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