Tocmentony  (Sarah Winnemucca)
A Woman of Many Names 
By Mary Trotter Kion 
Sarah Winnemucca was the first Indian woman to write a book, but there was a long, hard road she had to travel first.  As a child of the Paviotso Paiutes of Northern Nevada she was called Tocmentony which translates as Shell-Flower. She was called Sarah, in her
adolescent years, by white people who could not pronounce her Indian name. Winnemucca, the name of her Chieftain father, was added as a last name. These young years for Sarah Winnemucca, granddaughter of the famed Chief Truckee, were difficult times for the Paiutes as the whites invaded their land where the Oregon Trail crossed it. Then they began building towns where the Paiutes gathered food and held their sacred ceremonies. 
Sarah's grandfather was a friend to the whites but he was wise enough to see that soon they would rule over all the land. He wanted Sarah to be educated so she could live and survive in this new world. Sarah adored her grandfather, and his words swayed the young girl's opinion
towards the whites. 
In 1850 Chief Truckee and some of his people, including Sarah and her mother, moved to California. He hoped that there Sarah would receive the education she would need. The Paiutes found work at a ranch.  Their wages seemed like a fortune but the white men began
forcing their sexual desires upon the Paiute women. Finally they returned home to find the whites had surrounded the Paiutes, forcing them to move so they could find food.  But Truckee found an  opportunity for Sarah to learn white ways by sending her to work at a
stage stop where she learned to communicate in English and Mexican. Then two Washoe men were killed for a crime that two white men had committed and Sarah's brother brought her home. When two Indian girls who were missing were found, badly abused, at another station an uprising flared. Some men from another tribe killed the two offenders, then burned the station. Soon homes along the Carson River were attack in response to the many depredations the Indians had  suffered. 
The uprising settled down, but Chief Truckee was dying. Still wanting Sarah to be educated, he sent her and her sister to the mission at San Jose in California. Sarah's stay was a happy one until the wealthy mothers of San Francisco declared the two Indian girls to be an offense
to their daughters. Though forced to leave, Sarah couldn't forget what she'd learned and still wanted an education. She believed it was the only way she could help her people, especially since political officials were now trying to make the Paiutes move to a reservation. Some
Paiutes wanted to fight for their rights and urged Sarah's father to join them. Though it put him in danger, he held to his peaceful beliefs. 
Sarah was now a beautiful and educated young woman who traveled from one reservation to another, trying to help the Indians. When she was twenty-seven she received another new name by marrying Lieutenant Bartlett. Unfortunately, Bartlett was a drunk who soon
spent the money she'd saved. After their divorce Sarah worked as an interpreter until President Grant forced all Indians to live on eservations. Sarah went to the reservation at Malheur, Nevada where the Indian agent was a good man who helped the Indians.  He was 
soon replaced with one who closed the Indian's school and reclaimed the land they were raising crops on to feed themselves. After Sarah tried to reason with him and was banished from his reservation, many of the Paiutes died of disease or starved to death since their crops were taken from them. 
To seek help for her people Sarah started for Washington to speak to the "Great White Chief" but the Bannock War stopped her. The Bannocks had taken her father and some others so Sarah, in disguise, made it through the Bannock's lines and rescued them. Afterwards, her father declared she was now Queen Sarah of the Paiute, adding one
more name to the others. For the rest of the war she helped the army. At its end the government rewarded her people by declaring them prisoners of war. They were sent to the Yakima Reservation  in Washington Territory. On the way many babies and old people died
in the frigid January weather.  When they reached their destination the Yakima agent, Father James Wilbur, put them in sheds unprotected from the freezing weather. 
To help her people Sarah began to give lectures in San Francisco on the treatment her people were receiving. Her words brought praise for her but the agent at the Malheur Reservation told lies about her. After receiving an invitation from Washington to speak for the Paiutes, she
arrived there unaware that the Malheur agent had sent a letter on ahead, voicing even more lies about her.  After a long wait, under guard, the Secretary of the Interior, Carl Schurz, made her many promises including the providing of tents and food for her people. But they were empty promises that produced nothing. 
When her people asked to return to their home in Nevada Father Wilbur wouldn't let them go. He didn't want to lose the work he was getting out of them, but offered to hire Sarah as an interpreter. When she refused he banned her from the Yakima Reservation. Before she
left she informed him that she thought Hell must be full of Christians like him. 
Sarah again acquired a new name when she married another white man, Lewis Hopkins. This time her husband was a gambler, and again her money was soon gone.  Things had not changed for her people other than becoming worse. They were starving and Sarah, with her
husband, ventured on a lecture tour in the east where she was helped by Elizabeth Peabody and her sister Mary Mann. Because of them, Sarah became the first Indian woman to write a book, Life Among the Paiutes. Things were going right until Sarah's husband took the 
money that had been donated to help the Paiutes and spent it. She returned home with only some barrels of old clothes. Her husband now had tuberculosis so they moved to Pyramid Lake Reservation. 
Sarah's efforts were rewarded when she was given one-hundred-and-sixty acres in Nevada to start a school, while her brother farmed the land. Her white neighbors were resentful that she owned this land and that the Indian children were receiving the better education. They cut
off the water supply. The school closed, then Sarah's husband died. Her faith in the white people gone, she returned to her tribe to live as an Indian. 
By 1890 Sarah's health was failing. She had contracted tuberculosis. On October 17, 1891 Sarah Winnemucca died at the age of forty-seven, but this brave woman with many names left behind a legacy for her people in the book she wrote and her belief in the necessity of an
Mary Trotter Kion prefers to spend her time reading, researching, and 
writing about historical person and events, except for when she is
playing with her grandchildren and her numerous pets.