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Next: AppendixContentsPrevious: 7. Bannock War

Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883) by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins


One day the commanding officer sent for me. Oh, how my heart did jump! I said to Mattie, “There is bad news.” Truly I had not felt like this since the night Egan was killed by the Umatillas. I got ready and went down to the office, trembling as if something fearful was waiting for me. I walked into the office. Then the officer said to me,—

“Sarah, I have some news to tell you and I want you to keep it still until we are sure if it will be true.” I then promised I would keep it still if it was not too awful bad news.

He said, “It is pretty bad.” He looked at me and said, “Sarah, you look as if you were ready to die. It is nothing about you; it is about your people. Sarah, an order is Issued that your people are to be taken to Yakima Reservation, across the Columbia River.”

I said, “All of my people?”

“No, not your father’s, but all that are here.” I asked, “What for?”

He said he did not know.

I said, “Major, my people have not done anything, and why should they be sent away from their own country? If there are any to be sent away, let it be Oytes and his men, numbering about twenty-five men in all, and the few Bannocks that are with them. Oh, Major! if you knew what I have promised my people, you would leave nothing undone but what you would try not to have them sent away. Oh, Major! my people will never believe me again.”

“Well, Sarah, I will do all I can. I will write to the President and see what he thinks about it. I will tell him all you have said about your people.”

I was crying. He told me to keep up a good heart, and he would do all he could for me.

I went home and told Mattie all, and she said, “Well, sister, we cannot help it if the white people won’t keep their word. We can’t help it. We have to work for them and if they get our people not to love us, by telling what is not true to them, what can we do? It is they, not us.”

I said, “Our people won’t think so because they will never know that it was they who told the lie. Oh! I know all our people will say we are working against them and are getting money for all this.”

In the evening Mattie and I took a walk down to their camp. There they were so happy; singing here, singing there and everywhere. I thought to myself, “My poor, poor people, you will be happy to-day; to-morrow or next week your happiness will be turned to weeping.” Oh, how sad I was for them! I could not sleep at night, for the sad thing that had come.

At last one evening I was sent for by the commanding officer. Oh! how can I tell it? My poor heart stood still. I said to Mattie, “Mattie, I wish this was my last day in this cruel world.”

I came to myself and I said, “No, Mattie, I don’t mean the world. I mean the cruel,—yes, the cruel, wicked, white people, who are going to drive us to some foreign country, away from our own. Mattie, I feel so badly I don’t think I can walk down there,” Mattie said, “I will go with you.”

We then went down, and Major Cochran met us at the door and said, “Sarah, are you sick? You look so badly.”

I said, “No.”

He then replied, “Sarah, I am heartily sorry for you, but we cannot help it. We are ordered to take your people to Yakima Reservation.”

It was just a little before Christmas. My people were only given one week to get ready in.

I said, “What! In this cold winter and in all this snow, and my people have so many little children? Why, they will all die. Oh, what can the President be thinking about? Oh, tell me, what is he? Is he man or beast? Yes, he must be a beast; if he has no feeling for my people, surely he ought to have some for the soldiers.”

“I have never seen a president in my life and I want to know whether he is made of wood or rock, for I cannot for once think that he can be a human being. No human being would do such a thing as that,—send people across a fearful mountain in midwinter.”

I was told not to say anything till three days before starting. Every night I imagined I could see the thing called President. He had long ears, he had big eyes and long legs, and a head like a bull-frog or something like that. I could not think of anything that could be so inhuman as to do such a thing,—send people across mountains with snow so deep.

Mattie and I got all the furs we could; we had fur caps, fur gloves, and fur overshoes.

At last the time arrived. The commanding-officer told me to tell Leggins to come to him. I did so. He came, and Major Cochrane told me to tell him that he wanted him to tell which of the Bannock men were the worst, or which was the leader in the war. Leggins told him, and counted out twelve men to him. After this talk, Major Cochrane asked me to go and tell these men to come up to the office. They were Oytes, Bannock Joe, Captain Bearskin, Paddy Cap, Boss, Big John, Eagle Eye, Charley, D. E. Johnson, Beads, and Oytes’ son-in-law, called Surger. An officer was sent with me. I called out the men by their names. They all came out to me. I said to Oytes,—

“Your soldier-father wants you all to go up to see him.”

We went up, and Oytes asked me many things.

We had to go right by the guard-house. Just as we got near it, the soldier on guard came out and headed us off and took the men and put them into the guard-house. After they were put in there the soldiers told me to tell them they must not try to get away, or they would be shot.

“We put you in here for safe-keeping,” they said. “The citizens are coming over here from Canyon City to arrest you all, and we don’t want them to take you; that is why we put you in here.”

Ten soldiers were sent down to guard the whole encampment, —not Leggins’ band, only Oytes’ and the Bannocks. I was then ordered to tell them to get ready to go to Yakima Reservation.

Oh, how sad they were! Women cried and blamed their husbands for going with the Bannocks; but Leggins and his band were told they were not going with the prisoners of war, and that he was not going at all.

Then Leggins moved down the creek about two miles. At night some would get out and go off. Brother Lee and Leggins were sent out to bring them back again. One afternoon Mattie and I were sent out to get five women who got away during the night, and an officer was sent with us. We were riding very fast, and my sister Mattie’s horse jumped on one side and threw her off and hurt her. The blood ran out of her mouth, and I thought she would die right off; but, poor dear, she went on, for an ambulance was at our command. She had great suffering during our journey.

Oh, for shame! You who are educated by a Christian government in the art of war; the practice of whose profession makes you natural enemies of the savages, so called by you. Yes, you, who call yourselves the great civilization; you who have knelt upon Plymouth Rock, covenanting with God to make this land the home of the free and the brave. Ah, then you rise from your bended knees and seizing the welcoming hands of those who are the owners of this land, which you are not, your carbines rise upon the bleak shore, and your so-called civilization sweeps inland from the ocean wave; but, oh, my God! leaving its pathway marked by crimson lines of blood; and strewed by the bones of two races, the inheritor and the invader; and I am crying out to you for justice,—yes, pleading for the far-off plains of the West, for the dusky mourner, whose tears of love are pleading for her husband, or for their children, who are sent far away from them. Your Christian minister will hold my people against their will; not because he loves them,—no, far from it,—but because it puts money in his pockets.

Now we are ready to start for Yakima. Fifty wagons were brought, and citizens were to take us there. Some of the wagons cost the government from ten dollars to fifteen dollars per day. We got to Canyon City, and while we camped there Captain Winters got a telegram from Washington, telling him he must take Leggins’ band too. So we had to wait for them to overtake us. While we were waiting, our dear good father and mother, Mr. Charles W. Parrish, came with his wife and children to see us. My people threw their arms round him and his wife, crying, “Oh, our father and mother, if you had staid with us we would not suffer this.”

Poor Mrs. Parrish could not stop her tears at seeing the people who once loved her, the children whom she had taught,—yes, the savage children who once called her their white-lily mother, the children who used to bring her wild flowers, with happy faces, now ragged, no clothes whatever. They all cried out to him and his wife, saying, “Oh, good father and mother, talk for us! Don’t let them take us away; take us back to our home!” He told them he could do nothing for them. They asked him where his brother, Sam Parrish, was. He told them he was a long way off; and then they bade us good-by, and that was the last they saw of him.

While we were waiting for Leggins, it snowed all the time. In two days the rest of my people overtook us. It was so very cold some of them had to be left on the road; but they came in later. That night an old man was left in the road in a wagon. The next morning they went back to get the wagon, and found the old man frozen to death. The citizen who owned the wagon did not bring him to the camp; but threw him out of his wagon and left him! I thought it was the most fearful thing I ever saw in my life.

Early the next morning, the captain sent me to tell Leggins that he wanted him to help the soldiers guard the prisoners and see that none of them got away. He said the Big Father in Washington wanted him to do this, and then he and his people could come back in the spring. I went to tell Leggins; but he would not speak to me, neither would my brother Lee. I told him all and went away. When I got back, the captain asked me what he said. I told him he would not speak to me.

“Did you tell him what I told you to?”

“I did.”

“Go and tell the prisoners to be ready to march in half an hour.”

We travelled all day. It snowed all day long. We camped, and that night a woman became a mother; and during the night the baby died, and was put under the snow. The next morning the mother was put into the wagon. She was almost dead when we went into camp. That night she too was gone, and left on the roadside, her poor body not even covered with the snow.

In five days three more children were frozen to death, and another woman became a mother. Her child lived three days, but the mother lived. We then crossed Columbia River.

All the time my poor dear little Mattie was dying little by little.

''Father'' Wilbur, Indian Agent at Yakima Indian Reservation, stole from the Paiutes for personal enrichment
“Father” Wilbur, a Methodist minister and Indian Agent at Yakima Indian Reservation, stole from the Paiutes for personal enrichment
(not in original book)
At last we arrived in Yakima on the last day of the month. Father Wilbur and the chief of the Yakima Indians came to meet us. We came into camp about thirty miles from where the agency buildings are, and staid at this place for ten days. Another one of my people died here, but oh, thanks be to the Good Father in the Spirit-land, he was buried as if he were a man. At the end of the ten days we were turned over to Father Wilbur and his civilized Indians, as he called them. Well, as I was saying, we were turned over to him as if we were so many horses or cattle. After he received us he had some of his civilized Indians come with their wagons to take us up to Fort Simcoe. They did not come because they loved us, or because they were Christians. No; they were just like all civilized people; they came to take us up there because they were to be paid for it. They had a kind of shed made to put us in. You know what kind of shed you make for your stock in winter time. It was of that kind. Oh, how we did suffer with cold. There was no wood, and the snow was waist-deep, and many died off just as cattle or horses do after travelling so long in the cold.

All my people were dressed well in soldiers’ clothes. Almost all the men had beautiful blue overcoats; they looked like a company of soldiers, but we had not been with these civilized people long before they had won all my people’s clothes from them. Some would give them one buckskin for an overcoat and pants, and some of them got little ponies for their clothes, but the ponies would disappear, and could not be found in the country afterwards. Leggins had a great many good horses, which were lost in the same way. My people would go and tell the agent, Wilbur, about the way his people were treating them, and the loss of their horses; but he would tell them their horses were all right on the reservation somewhere, only we could not find them. My people would ask him to tell his people to tell us if they saw our horses, so that we might go and get them. He told his Christian and civilized Indians, but none of them came to tell us where our horses were. The civilized Indians would tell my people not to go far away, for the white people would kill them; but my cousin, Frank Winnemucca, and his sister’s son, who was named after our good agent, Samuel Parrish, were out hunting their horses. They were gone eight days. They travelled along the Yakima River, and saw an island between Yakima City and the reservation. They swam across to it, and there they found their horses, and two of the Christian Yakima Indians watching them. They brought them back. After that it was worse than ever. All our best horses were gone which we never did find. My Meride was found three months afterwards. They were using my horse as a pack-horse. It was so lean the back was sore. I took it to Mrs. Wilbur to show her what the Yakima Indians were doing to our horses. I asked her if I could turn the horse into their lot. She told me I could, but the horse was gone again, and I have never seen it since.

We had another talk with Father Wilbur about our horses, but he kindly told us he did not wish to be troubled by us about our horses. Then my people said,—

“We have lost all our clothes and our horses, and our father says he does not want to be troubled by us.” My people said everything that was bad about these people.

Now came the working time. My people were set to work clearing land; both men and women went to work, and boys too. They cleared sixty acres of land for wheat. They had it all cleared in about ten days. Father Wilbur hired six civilized Indians to plough it for them; these Indians got three dollars a day for their work, because they were civilized and Christian.

It was now about the last of April. I was told to tell my people that he had sent for clothes for them, and it was already at the Dalles. He was going to send seventeen wagons down, and have them brought right off. I told my people what he said, and I assure you they were very glad indeed, for they were almost naked. No money,—no, nothing. Now our clothing came; everything you could wish or think of came for my poor, dear people—blankets of all kinds, shawls, woollen goods, calicoes, and everything beautiful.

Issuing day came. It was in May. Poor Mattie was so sick, I had to go by myself to issue to my people. Oh, such a heart-sickening issue! There were twenty-eight little shawls given out, and dress-goods that you white people would sift flour through, from two to three yards to each woman. The largest issue was to a woman who had six children. It was six yards, and I was told to say to her she must make clothes for the children out of what was left after she had made her own! At this my people all laughed. Some of the men who worked hardest got blankets, some got nothing at all; a few of the hats were issued, and the good minister, Father Wilbur, told me to say he would issue again later in the fall, that is, blankets. After the issue was over, my people talked and said,—

“Another Reinhard!—don’t you see he is the same? He looks up into the sky and says something, just like Reinhard.” They said, “All white people like that are bad.” Every night some of them would come and take blankets off from sleeping men and women until all were gone. All this was told to the agent, but he would not help my poor people, and Father Wilbur’s civilized Indians would say most shameful things about my people. They would tell him that they were knocking their doors in, and killing their horses for food, and stealing clothes. At one time they said my people killed a little child. Their Indian minister, whose name was George Waters, told me one of my women had been seen killing the child. He said the child’s head was cut to pieces. I said to brother Lee,—

“We will go and see the child.”

I asked the white doctor to go with us to see it. I told him what had been said. They had him all wrapped up, and said they did not want anybody to see him. George was there. I said,—

“We must see him. You said our people had killed him, and that his head is cut in pieces.” So the doctor took off all the blankets that were wound round him. There was no sign of anything on him. He had fallen into the river and had been drowned.

On May 29, my poor little sister Mattie died. Oh, how she did suffer before she died! And I was left all alone. During this time, all the goods that were brought for us were sold to whoever had money. All the civilized Indians bought the best of everything.

Father Wilbur said to my people the very same thing that Reinhard did. He told them he would pay them one dollar a day. My people worked the same, and they were paid in clothes, and little money was paid to them. They were told not to go anywhere else to buy but to this store. At this, my people asked him why he told them that the clothes were theirs. At this Mrs. Wilbur said they had to sell them in order to hold their position. This is the way all the agents issue clothing to the people. Every Indian on that reservation had to pay for everything.

For all the wagons they ever got they were to pay one hundred and twenty-five dollars, if it took ten years to pay it. I know this is true, because the agent told me to tell my brother Lee so, and he told Leggins the same if he wanted wagons, and that they could pay him little by little until they had paid it all.

We had the finest wheat that ever was raised on the reservation, for my people pulled out all the cockle and smut. The civilized Indians were so lazy they would not clean their field, and their wheat was so bad that after it was made into bread it was as black as dirt. I am sorry to say that Father Wilbur kept our wheat for his white friends, and gave us the bad wheat, and the bad wheat was ground just as you would grind it for your hogs. The bad flour made us all sick. My poor people died off very fast. At first Father Wilbur and his Christian Indians told us we could bury our dead in their graveyard; but they soon got tired of us, and said we could not bury them there any more.

Doctor Kuykendall could not cure any of my people, or he did not try. When I would go to him for medicine for them, he would say, “Well, Sarah, I will give you a little sugar and rice, or a little tea for him or her”; he would say laughing, “give them something good to eat before they die.” This is the way the agent treated us, and then they dare to say that they are doing all they can for my people. I say, my dear friends, the minister who is called agent, says there will be or there is a time coming when every one is going to give an account of all he does in this life. I am a little afraid the agent will have to give an account of himself, and say, “I have filled my pockets with that worthless thing called money. I am not worthy to go to heaven.” That is, if that book you civilized people call the Holy Bible is true. In that, it says he who steals and tells lies will go to hell. Well, I am afraid this book is true, as your agents say; and I am sure they will never see heaven, for I am sure there is hardly an agent but what steals a little, and they all know that if there is a God above us, they can’t deny it before Him who is called God. This was in July, 1879.

We were now going to have a camp-meeting, and some visitors were coming from the East. Bishop Haven and his son and daughter were coming. The agent told me to be sure and keep my people away, as they were very poorly dressed. I did not do as I was told. My poor people were almost as naked as they were born into the world; for the seventeen wagons of supplies were not issued to them.

When the time came, I came with all my people, and camped near the agent’s house, and during the meeting I made them all come and sit down on the benches that Father Wilbur made for his civilized and Christian Indians. I wanted all to see how well we were treated by Christian people.

Day after day my people were begging me to go east and talk for them. I told them I had no money to go with just then; but I would as soon as I got some, for I had a little money coming to me from the military government.

The military authority is the only authority that ever paid me well for my interpreting. Their pay to interpreters is from sixty-five dollars to seventy-five dollars, and the lowest is sixty dollars per month. For this pay one could live. All the agents pay to interpreters is from thirty dollars to forty dollars. One has to live out of this money, and there is nothing left.

I always had to pay sixty dollars a month for my board (or fifteen dollars a week) when I was working for an agent. When I was working for the government they gave me my rations, the same as they did to the soldiers. My last appointment was given me at Washington in 1879. It was to be very small pay. I wrote to the Secretary of the interior (Mr. Schurz), telling him I could not pay my board with that; but he never answered my letter, and so it stands that way to this day, and I never got a cent of it. But their pet, Reinhard, without an Indian on the reservation, could be paid three or four years. I have worked all the time among my people, and never been paid for my work. At last my military money came. I told Father Wilbur I wanted to go back to see my people. At first he said I could not go; he stood a minute, and then said,—

“Well, Sarah, I can’t keep you if you want to go. Who is to talk for your people?”

I said, “Brother Lee can talk well enough.”

Then he said, “You can go after the camp-meeting is over.”

Now commenced our meetings every day. I went and got all the little children and came with them myself, and sat down, and then went into the pulpit and interpreted the sermon to my people. Right here, my dear reader, you will see how much Father Wilbur’s Indians are civilized and Christianized. He had to have interpreters. If they were so much civilized, why did he have interpreters to talk to them? In eighteen years could he not have taught them some English? I was there twelve months, and I never heard an Indian man or woman speak the English language except the three interpreters and some half-breeds. Could he not have had the young people taught in all that time? A great many white people came to see the Indians. Of course one who did not know them might think they were educated when they heard them sing English songs, but I assure you they did not know what they sang any more than I know about logarithms. So I went away in November, and stopped at Vancouver, Washington Territory, to see General O. O. Howard. I told him all that Father Wilbur was doing to my people, and that I should try to go to Washington. Then he gave me a letter to some of his friends in Washington. I went straight from Vancouver to San Francisco. My brother Natchez and others met me there and we staid and talked about the agents, and none of them came forward to say, “Sarah is telling lies.” If they ever do I shall say more. I was lecturing in San Francisco when Reinhard tried so hard to get my brother Natchez to send some of our people to the Malheur Agency. Yes, he offered much money for each one he would bring to the reservation, but my brother told him he did not want his people to starve, and he was never going to tell them to go there. When Reinhard could get no Indian to go there he got the very man whose life my brother saved during the Bannock war. Because my brother had saved his life he thought he had nothing to do but go and get all my people to go to the Malheur Reservation. He told them that Mr. Reinhard had everything for them on the agency.

My people told him to ask Reinhard why he did not give these good things to them before, then Oytes would not have gone with the Bannocks. This was just before I lectured in San Francisco. I was lecturing one evening, and this very man came to me and said, “Sarah, I would like to have you help me get some of your people to go with me to the Malheur Agency. I will pay you well for it. Here are thirty dollars.” He handed it to me. I thought to myself, “The white people are better than I am. They make money any way and every way they can. Why not I? I have not any. I will take it.” So I did, for which I have been sorry ever since,—many times.

Well, while I was lecturing in San Francisco, a great deal was said about it through the Western country. The papers said I was coming East to lecture. I was getting ready to come, and was at Lovelocks, Nevada, with brother Natchez.1 There came a telegram to me there from a man named Hayworth, saying, “Sarah, the President wants you and your father and brother Natchez and any other chiefs, four in number, to go to Washington with me. I am sent to go with you.” I answered, “Come here, we wish to see you.” In two days he came, and we told him everything about the doings of the agent. Not only we told him, but the white people told him also. We asked him to go to Camp McDermitt and to the Pyramid Lake Reservation and down the Humboldt River, that he might see for himself, and then he could help us tell the Big Father in Washington.

1See appendix for the letters given her by General Howard and many other officers, and Mr. Roger Sherman Day, in 1878, in furtherance of this plan. Mrs. Hopkins has not told in the text of the very great impression made by her lectures in San Francisco, showing up the iniquity of the agent Reinhard. It was, doubtless, the rumor of the excitement she caused which led to her being sent for to Washington. Reinhard could not contradict her there, where he and she were so well known, and therefore he probably wrote to Washington and told some story for himself.


He did so, and when we were ready we started for Washington with him. It took us one week to get to Washington. We stopped at the Fremont House. As soon as we got into the house a doctor was sent to vaccinate us, for fear we would take small-pox. We were told not to go out anywhere without the man who brought us. The next day, at about ten o’clock, we were taken to the office of the Secretary of the Interior. As soon as we entered, the man there looked at me and said,—

“So you are on the lecturing tour, are you?” I said, “Yes, sir.”

“So you think you can make a great deal of money by it, do you?”

“No, sir; I do not wish to lecture for that.”

“What, then?”

“I have come to plead for my poor people, who are dying off with broken hearts, because they are separated from their children and husbands and wives and sons.”

“But they are bad people; they have killed and scalped many innocent people.”

“Not so; my people who are over there at Yakima did not do so any more than you have scalped people. There are only a few who went with the Bannocks who did wrong. I have given up those who were bad; the soldiers have them prisoners at Vancouver Barracks, Washington Territory. I have not come to plead for the bad ones. I have done my work faithfully. I told the officers if they would surrender I would give up all the bad ones, which I did, and I ask you only to return to their home all that have helped the white people. Yes, sir; the very man who killed Buffalo Horn was sent to the Yakima Reservation.” 1

1 See Appendices A and B.

The tears were running down my face while I was talking, and the heartless man began to laugh at me. He then said,—

“I don’t think we can do anything about it.”

Just at this moment Mr. Hayworth came in, and said Secretary Schurz was ready to see us. “Sarah,” he said to me, “you must not lecture here.”

Charles Schurz, Secretary of Interior, 1877-1881
Charles Schurz,
Secretary of Interior,
(not in original book)
Secretary Schurz received us kindly, not like the man we had just left. Secretary Schurz said,—

“I want you to tell me from the first beginning of the Bannock war,” which we did.

Then he told Mr. Hayworth to take us everywhere to see everything; to have a carriage and take us round; and when we left him he said,—

“Come again to-morrow, at the same hour.”

We had a great many callers who wanted to see us, but the man Hayworth was with us every minute, for fear I would say something. We were taken somewhere every day, only to come in and get our meals. Reporters would come and say, “We want you to tell us where you are going to lecture, that we can put it into our papers.” But Hayworth would not let us talk to them. The next day we were again taken to Secretary Schurz. My brother talked this time, and I interpreted for him. My brother said,—

“You, Great Father of the Mighty Nation, my people have all heard of you. We think you are the mightiest Father that lives, and to hear your own people talk, there is nothing you can’t do if you wish to; and, therefore, we one and all, pray of you to give us back what is of no value to you or your people. Oh, good Father, it is not your gold, nor your silver, horses, cattle, lands, mountains we ask for. We beg of you to give us back our people. who are dying off like so many cattle, or beasts, at the Yakima Reservation. Oh, good Father, have you wife or child? Do you love them? If you love them, think how you would feel if they were taken away from you, where you could not go to see them, nor they come to you. For what are they to be kept there? When the Bannocks came to our people with their guns, my father and I said to them everything that we could, telling them not to fight. We had a talk three days, and only one man got up and said he would go with them. That was Oytes, with about twenty-five or thirty men. Oytes is a Harney Lake Piute. We Piutes never had much of anything. The Bannocks took everything we had from us. They were going to kill me, with three white men, who were living near by. I feared I could not get away, but thanks to Him who lives above us, I did get away with the three white men. They followed us about twenty miles as fast as their horses could run. My horse fell down and died. I cried out to Jack Scott, and he let me jump up behind him, but he left me and rode on. I ran a little way till I came to a creek, up which I ran, and in that manner I got away. So you see, good Father, we have always been good friends to your people. If you will return our people whom you sent away to Yakima Reservation, let them come to the Malheur Reservation, and make the bad ones stay where they are. In time I and my people will go there too, to make us homes; and, also, send away Mr. Reinhard, whom we hate.”

This is what my brother said to Secretary Schurz, and I am surprised to see that in their own Report1 they say, “In the winter of 1878-9 a self-constituted delegation, consisting of the Chief Winnemucca and others of his band visited this city, and while here made an agreement, etc., to remove to Malheur, and receive allotments of one hundred and sixty acres to each head of a family, and each adult male; they were to cultivate the lands so allotted, and as soon as the law would enable it, patents therefor in fee-simple were to be issued to each allottee,” etc.

1Ex. Doc. No. 121, Message of the President of the United States.

I say we did not come on of ourselves; we were sent for, and neither my father or brother made any agreement to go to Malheur until those who belonged there could come back from Yakima, and till Reinhard should be sent away.

I said one day I was going to lecture, as the people wanted me to, and try to get a little money to buy something for my father. Mr Hayworth told what I said, and we were all sent for to go to the office of the Interior. We went in and sat down. Secretary Schurz said to me,—

“Sarah, so you are bound to lecture.”

I said, “People want me to.”

“I don’t think it will be right for you to lecture here after the government has sent for you, and your father and brother, and paid your way here. The government is going to do right by your people now. Don’t lecture now; go home and get your people on the reservation—get them located properly; and then, if you want to come back, write to us, and tell us you want to come back and lecture, and we will pay your way here and back again. He told me they would grant all I asked of them for my people, which they did; yes, in their minds, I mean in writing, promises which, like the wind, were heard no more. They asked where I was going to stop after I got home. “We want to know, so that we can send you some canvas for tents for your people. You can issue it to them. Can you not?”

I said “Yes, if it comes.”

“We will send enough to make your people one hundred tents. You can issue it, and give the names of each head of the families, and send them back here.”

I said, “I shall be at Lovelock’s in Nevada.” “We will send it as soon as you get home.”

My poor father and brother said, “All right.”

The secretary then told Mr. Hayworth to take us to the store and get father a suit of clothes, which father got; but brother and I did not get a pin’s worth from any one. We never did get anything from the government, or government officials.

Poor father! he gave his clothes away after he got home, saying, “This is all I got from the Big Father in Washington. I am the only one who got anything; I don’t care for them. If they had been given me by the good soldier-fathers I would keep them.”

On Saturday we were taken to the White House to see the President. We were shown all over the place before we saw him. A great many ladies were there to see us. At last he walked in and shook hands with us, then he said,—

“Did you get all you want for your people?”

I said, “Yes, sir, as far as I know.”

“That is well,” he said, and went out again. That is all we saw of him. That was President Hayes.

We went back to the hotel. In the afternoon Mr. Meacham came with a carriage to take us to the Soldiers’ Home, but we did not go. My father and brother were feeling badly because I told them I was going to New York to lecture, and I would come home by-and-by. I only did this to make the man who was with us angry, because he was forever listening to what I was saying. The Soldiers’ Home is the only place we did not see while we were in Washington.

Sunday evening we were to start for home. Mr. Meacham said to me the last minute,—

“Sarah, stop and give a lecture before you go. They can’t stop you. This is a free country. If you stop we will see you through.”

Oh, if he had lived I know I would have a good friend to help in my work, not like the one who has the charge of his work now. That is Dr. Bland.

“Well, if the government pets are to be the ones to condemn me, I have no fear whatever. I am not going into their private life, because I am not to condemn any one. I am only telling what the agents are doing. I think it is better for the government to keep the money than to give it to agents.”

We were now ready to start, and the man who brought us to Washington was going with us. I said to him,—

“I am not going as I came here.”

“All right; you shall have a sleeping-car.”

We had been on the road two days when a lady joined us. She was going to Duck Valley Agency to her husband, who was an agent there. She had a Bible with her. Ah! ah! What do you think the Bible was? Why it was a pack of cards. She would sit every day and play cards with men, and every evening, too. She was an Indian agent’s wife.

Mr. Hayworth went as far as Omaha with us. He came to me there and said, “Sarah, I am going back.”

I ran to the car where my father and brother were to tell them. He came in and bade them good-bye, and gave brother three dollars to provide us all with eating on our way,—more than a thousand miles.

This is a copy of the order Secretary Schurz gave me. I have the original in my possession now.

Department of the Interior,
                Washington, D.C.,
July 20, 1880.

The Pi-Utes, heretofore entitled to live on the Malheur Reservation, their primeval home, are to have lands allotted to them in severalty, at the rate of one hundred and sixty acres to each head of a family, and each adult male. Such lands they are to cultivate for their own benefit. The allotment will be made under instructions of their agent. As soon as enabled by law to do so, this department is to give to the Indians patents for each tract of land conveying to each occupant the fee-simple in the lot he occupies.

Those of the Pi-Utes, who in consequence of the Bannock war, went to the Yakima Reservation, and whoever may desire to rejoin their relatives, are at liberty to do so, without expense to the government for transportation. Those who desire to stay upon the Yakima Reservation and become permanently settled there will not be disturbed.

None of the Pi-Utes now living among the whites, and earning wages by their own work will be compelled to go to the Malheur Reservation. They are at perfect liberty to continue working for wages for their own benefit, as they are now doing.

It is well understood that those who settle on the Malheur Reservation will not be supported by the government in idleness. They will be aided in starting their farms and promoting their civilization, but the support given them by the government will, according to law, depend upon their intelligence and efficiency in working for themselves.

C. Schurz,      
Secretary of the Interior.

When we got home we told our people to go to Lovelocks, and be ready to receive some tents that were to be sent there for them. They came from far and near to hear of the wonderful father we had seen, how he looked and all about him. While we were waiting we almost starved. I wrote to the Secretary of the Interior for God’s sake to send us something to eat. He answered my letter telling me to take my people to the Malheur Agency. Just think of my taking my people, who were already starving, to go three hundred miles through snow waist-deep. I told my people what the letter said. They all laughed and said,

“We are not disappointed. We always said that the Big Father was just like all the white people.”

What could we say? We were only ashamed because we came and told them lies which the white people had told us.

“You must make that up yourselves,” they said, “for you have been to the white people’s country, and all the white people say the Big Father at Washington never tells a lie.”

My father rose and told his people he did not blame them for talking as they did.

“I say, my dear children, every word we have told you was said to us. Yes, they have said or done more than this. They have given us a paper which your mother will tell you of.”

Then he called me and said,—

“Read the paper; your brother will interpret for you.”

I did as I was told. I read very slowly. My brother did nicely, and after it was over my uncle, Captain John, rose and spoke, saying, “My dear people, I have lived many years with white people. Yes, it is over thirty years, and I know a great many of them. I have never known one of them do what they promised. I think they mean it just at the time, but I tell you they are very forgetful. It seems to me, sometimes, that their memory is not good, and since I have understood them, if they say they will do so and so for me, I would say to them, now or never, and if they don’t, why it is because they never meant to do, but only to say so. These are your white brothers’ ways, and they are a weak people.” Some of them said,

“Oh, maybe he will send back our people.” Others said, “Time will tell.” Just then my sister-in-law, brother Natchez’ wife, said, “There comes a white man. Oh, it is Mr. Emory.”

He came up and gave me a letter. It was my appointment to act as interpreter for my people at the Malheur Agency.

After this, my people went away from Lovelocks.

Then I went from place to place, trying to get my people to go to the Malheur Agency; but they told me to go and get those who were at Yakima to come back there, then they would go.

So I took my sister and started for Yakima on the 1st of April. Just think how happy I was! to go for my poor, sick-hearted people. Yes, armed with a paper signed by Secretary Schurz. I thought I would not have anything to do but to go there and get them, because they told me at Washington that they would send a letter to Mr. Wilbur, telling him what to do. I told them in Washington that my people would be afraid to go back to Malheur alone. They told me that Father Wilbur would see that they were taken back all right. If he thought we should need an escort of soldiers he would see to that.

So you see I never once thought I was going to have any trouble, and I travelled three days without seeing any one. We had nothing to eat but hard-bread. Our horses were better off than we were. That was better than all, for I would rather any time have nothing to eat than have my horse go without anything.

We had travelled four days, it was very late in the evening, and we rode up to a house. The men all ran out to see us. I said to sister, “I am afraid.” Sister said,

“I know them. About one year ago, father and others camped here, and they were very kind to father. They killed beef for us, and we camped here a long time.”

To my great joy there came up two of our people. One was my own cousin, Joe Winnemucca. Oh, how glad he was to see us.

“Is your father coming, too?” he asked.

“No, we are all alone.”

“What! You don’t say you have come all the way from the reservation alone, have you?”

“That is just what I mean, and that is not all. We are going a long way.”

“That can’t be, you two women, all alone.”

“That is what we are going to do.”

The white man came up to us and said,

“Who are you? Where did you come from?”

I said, “Sir, I am Sarah Winnemucca, and this is my sister, and we came from Pyramid Lake Reservation.”

“Oh, how do you do? I have heard of you so many times! Oh, how I wish my wife was here to welcome you. She would be glad to see you. But, however, you are welcome. Won’t you come in?”

Then he called one of his men to come and get our horses and take them to the stable.

I said, “Sir, this man is my cousin and I want to talk to him first.”

I told my cousin where we were going, and what for. How I was going to have our people back again at Malheur, and about the beautiful paper that the Great Father gave me, and what beautiful things they were going to do for us. Oh! how glad my poor cousin was, for his brother, Frank Winnemucca, was at Yakima.

Now the man came for us to go to supper. I told the white man the same after supper, and showed him the beautiful letter that Secretary Schurz gave me.

He said, “I am so glad, for your people are good workers, and the government ought to do something for them. I have lived here over twenty years. I never lost anything by your people, and whenever they came I always gave them something to eat. The last time your father was here I killed beef for him and the few who were with him.”

We staid here three days, because it snowed so hard we could not travel. At last it cleared off, and my cousin was going with us to the next place. He said there were very bad men there. Sometimes they would throw a rope over our women, and do fearful things to them.

“Oh, my poor cousins,” he said, “my heart aches for you, for I am afraid they will do something fearful to you. They do not care for anything. They do most terrible outrageous things to our women.”

I thought within myself, “If such an outrageous thing is to happen to me, it will not be done by one man or two, while there are two women with knives, for I know what an Indian woman can do. She can never be outraged by one man; but she may by two.” It is something an Indian woman dare not say till she has been overcome by one man, for there is no man living that can do anything to a woman if she does not wish him to. My dear reader, I have not lived in this world for over thirty or forty years for nothing, and I know what I am talking about.

We did not get to the horrible place till the second day. We got there very late in the afternoon. As we rode up to the house, I heard one of the men say, “Why, there is Sarah Winnemucca!” Oh, how glad I was to hear my name spoken by some one that knew me. I knew I was all right. He came up to me and said,—

“Why, Sarah, what in the world are you doing away out here at this time of the year?”

He helped me off my horse. Sister jumped off hers, and he told my cousin to take our horses to the stable. I had known this man for some time. He used to live in Carson City, Nevada. His name is Crowles. I was glad to see him. We staid all night and were treated beautifully. I offered to pay for our supper and breakfast, and for our horses, too, but they would not take anything. So I thanked them, and we went on, and cousin went a little ways with us, and then said good-bye to us and went back. We had travelled about ten miles, when we looked back and saw three men coming after us as fast as they could ride. This Mr. Crowles had some Spanish boarders, who were living near the house, and they saw us there. Well, we saw it was war then. I said, “Dear sister, we must ride for our dear lives.”

Away we went, and they after us like wild men. We rode on till our horses seemed to drop from under us. At last we stopped, and I told sister what to do if the whole three of them overtook us. We could not do very much, but we must die fighting. If there were only two we were all right,—we would kill them; if only one we would see what he would do. If he lassoed me she was to jump off her horse and cut the rope, and if he lassoed her I was to do the same. If he got off his horse and came at me she was to cut him, and I would do the same for her. Now we were ready for our work. They were a long way back yet. We kept looking back to see how far off they were. Every time we would get out of sight, we would rest our horses, and at last, to our great joy, we only saw one coming. He will not dare to do us any harm. By-and-by he overtook us.

“How do you do?” he said.

We did not speak to him. He said, “I know your brother Natchez well, and your father, too.”

I was so angry, I said to him, “Clear out, you mean, hateful man; we do not wish to talk.” He said again, “What made you run your horses so?”

I said, “What made you bad men run after us?”

We came to where there were two roads, one going to Camp C. F. Smith, and one to Camp Harney. We took the Camp Harney road. We could see a house across the valley, about five miles off. He said,—

“Come with me to that place. I will give you fresh horses, for you have a long way to go.”

I did not speak, nor did sister. When he saw we would not talk to him, he turned his horse and went across the valley towards the house. So we were once more left to ourselves. We rode about five miles, and stopped to rest our horses an hour or so, and went on again. At about two o’clock we came to a warm spring, and stopped and had a bath. Dear sister and I had a good time, and were refreshed, and rode on till about five o’clock, when one of our horses gave out. We had quite a time getting the horse along, so it was very late when we got to the place where we were to go for the night. It was at Mr. James Beby’s, who was married to one of my cousins on the south end of Stein’s mountains, and at last we got there. My cousin’s wife was glad to see us; but he was not at home. We stopped there three days to see him. I knew if he was at home we could get some horses to go on to the next place, where we could take the stage to Camp Harney. I told my cousin we would go on. She said,—

“Dear, take fresh horses, and leave them at Mr. Abbot’s. He will go for them when he gets home.”

I said, “No, dear, I am afraid he would not like it, and he may get angry with you. I think we can make it nicely to-day,” which we did.

The next morning we were ready to go on with a man by the name of Smith, whose father was killed during the Bannock war. We left one of our horses there, and rode in his wagon to Mr. Anderson’s place. I knew everybody on that road. No white women on all the places where we stopped,—all men,—yet we were treated kindly by all of them, so far. We did not know what kind of a place Mr. Anderson’s place was now, but before the Bannock war none of my people would go there for years and years. But we had to go there now. We got there about four o’clock in the afternoon. I had known Mr. Anderson for a number of years. He was a United States mail-contractor, and always had many cow-boys at his place over night. Sure enough, there were eight of them this night. There was only one room in the house with a fireplace. He was kind to us. I told him what I had told others. After supper I felt like crying, and said to sister,—

“What shall we do? Where shall we sleep? We have no blankets.”

We could sleep out of doors, but there was snow on the ground. Oh, how badly I felt that night! It was hard to keep back the tears. At last they began to make their beds here, there, and everywhere on the floor. Mr. Anderson said to the stage-driver,—

“You and I must give up our bed to Miss Winnemucca to-night, and go in with some of the boys.”

Nothing more was said, and they went to bed with some of them, and by-and-by we lay down.

I said to sister, “Oh, how my heart jumps. Something is going to happen to us, dear.”

“I feel that way too,” sister said. We sat a long time, but it was very cold, and at last we lay down and I soon fell asleep.

Some one laid a hand on me and said, “Sarah!”

I jumped up with fright and gave him such a blow right in the face. I said, “Go away, or I will cut you to pieces, you mean man!” He ran out of the house, and Mr. Anderson got up and lighted a candle. There was blood on the side of the bed, and on my hands and the floor. He said,—

“Oh, Sarah, what have you done? Did you cut him?”

“No, I did not cut him; I wish I had. I only struck him with my hand.”

He said, “Well, a man who will do such a thing needs killing. Who was it?” He looked round, but the man was gone. Mr. Anderson did not blow out the light. The man did not come in, but some of the men went out to look for him. When they came in they said he was gone, and had taken his horse. Some of them said they guessed he was ashamed, and had gone off. Mr. Anderson said, “The big fool! He ought to be ashamed.”

I never said a word more, and we did not sleep any more that night. Mr. Anderson got up a four o’clock breakfast, for we were to start at five. We had to make Camp Harney that day, sixty miles. I still took my horse with me. We arrived at Camp Harney about six o’clock, and Captain Drury, then commanding officer, received us very kindly. There were only three ladies at the post. The captain’s wife and the other officers’ wives were kind to me while I stayed there. We staid ten days, because we could not get over the Blue Mountains, the snow was so deep. I had no money, and I tried to sell my horse, but could not. I went and talked with Mr. Stevens, who was a store-keeper at Camp Harney for many years. I showed him my appointment as interpreter, and, thanks be to my Father in Spirit-Land, this man gave me a hundred dollars. He thought I was good for it; that is, I would get paid for my work and pay him. So we got ready to go on with the government mail-carrier. Captain Drury was so kind as to let me have a government horse to ride as far as Canyon City, and the mail-carrier was to bring it back. Oh, such a time as we had going over! The snow was soft—our horses would go down and up again. If we walked we would go down too. It rained some during the day. It was ten o’clock before we got to a place called Soda Springs. The next morning it snowed, but we did not mind it, and we got to Canyon City at three o’clock in the afternoon, almost frozen to death. We had to swim our horses at one place. We stayed there three days, because the stage goes only twice a week, and we had to wait for it. Here I tried again to sell my horse, but could not. I got a man named Mr. More to take him and put him on his farm until I should come back. The man sold him because I did not come, and that was the last of my horse. Here I saw Mr. C. W. Parrish again. I showed him the papers which I got from Secretary Schurz for my people, and told him of my visit to Washington. He was so glad, and said, “Sarah, your people will be happy to get back.” I told him the girls and boys that used to love his wife and children were all dead. I told him the names of many of them, so that he could tell his wife. She gave them all names when she had them at school.

A reporter also called on me, and I told all he asked me. He gave me his address and said he would help me, and put any thing into his paper that I wished him to. I thanked him for his kindness. Mr. Parrish told me I had better see to my stage passage the first thing, or some one might get ahead of me. It was not a stage, but a little wagon called buckboard, and would carry only two persons besides the driver. So I went and paid my fare and’ my sister’s, fifty dollars. It went at six o’clock in the evening, and it took two days and nights to go to the Dalles. We were to start that same evening. We had a very hard ride, arrived all right, found brother Lee waiting for us, stayed in Dalles two days, and hired horses from Father Wilbur’s Christian Indians. It took us two days to get to Fort Simcoe, which we reached on the eighth of May. Father Wilbur was glad to see me. I did not say anything for four days, but brother Lee went and told everything to our people. They came every day to see me. I told them about our people in Nevada, but did not say anything about my visit to Washington. At last I went to see Father Wilbur, armed with my letters. I said, “Father, I have come to talk to you.” He said, “Come in.” I went in and sat down. I said, “Did you get a letter from Washington?” He said, “No.”

“Well, that is strange,—they told me they would write.”


“The Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Schurz.”

“Why, what makes you think they would write to me?”

“Father, they told me they would write right off while I was there. It was about my people.”

He said, “We have not heard from them.”

“Father, I have a letter here, which Secretary Schurz gave me.” I gave it to him to read. He read it and gave it back to me. I saw he was angry.

“Sarah,” he said, “your people are doing well here, and I don’t want you to tell them of this paper or to read it to them. They are the best workers I ever saw. If you will not tell them, I will give you fifty dollars, and I will write to Washington, and see if they will keep you here as interpreter.”

I said, “How is it that I am not paid for interpreting here so long? Was I not turned over to you as an interpreter for my people? I have worked at everything while I was here. I helped in the school-house, and preached on Sundays for you,—I mean I interpreted the sermons.” I told him I thought he ought to pay me something.

He said he would if I would not tell my people about Schurz’s letter. I did not promise, and went away. I did not say anything for five or six days. At last my people came and demanded of me to come to them. Brother and I went to them.

Leggins got up and said to his people,—

“My dear children, you all see that we have no friend. You all see that our mother has sold us to Father Wilbur. You see that she does not want to let us know what our father Winnemucca has done for us. We are all told that she has a paper, which has been given to her by the mighty Big Father in Washington, and she has burnt it or hid it, so we won’t know it. That way she has made her money, by selling us. She first sold us to the soldiers and had us brought here, and now she has sold us to this bad man to starve us. Oh, we shall never see our friends any more! Our paper is all gone, there is nobody to talk for us, we are all alone, we shall never get back to our sweet country.

The tears ran down his face as he talked, and women cried. Brother could not stand it any longer. He jumped up and cried aloud, saying,—

“For shame! What are you talking about? Are you mad? Why don’t you ask before you talk?”

I had told Lee what Father Wilbur had said to me.

“Go and talk to Father Wilbur, not to my sister. It is he who has sold us, not sister; it is he who don’t want us to go back.”

Some of the women cried out,—

“That’s what we told them last night when they were abusing our mother. We knew she would not do such a thing.”

Some of them came and laid their hands on my head, and cried, saying,—

“Oh, mother, forgive us for thinking badly of you. Oh, tell us, can we hope we shall see our husbands, our children, our daughters?”

I got up and held up the paper over my head, and said,—

“My dear children, may the Great Father in the Spirit-land, will it so that you may see your husbands, and your children, and your daughters. I have said everything I could in your behalf, so did father and brother. I have suffered everything but death to come here with this paper. I don’t know whether it speaks truth or not. You can say what you like about me. You have a right to say I have sold you. It looks so. I have told you many things which are not my own words, but the words of the agents and the soldiers. I know I have told you more lies than I have hair on my head. I tell you, my dear children, I have never told you my own words; they were the words of the white people, not mine. Of course, you don’t know, and I don’t blame you for thinking as you do. You will never know until you go to the Spirit-land. This which I hold in my hand is our only hope. It came right from the Big Father you hear so much of. We will see what his words are if what the people say about him is truth. If it is truth we will see our people in fifty days. It is not my own making up; it came right from him, and I will read it just as it is, so that you can all judge for yourselves.”

After I had read it through, they all forgot they were grown people. They jumped about and cried, “Oh, we shall be happy again.” The little girls said, “We shall sing, we shall play in our own play-ground.” Men and women were all like children running to me with outstretched hands, saying, “Mother, forgive us for thinking bad of you.”

Leggins said, “Now, you have heard what our mother has told us, we will get ready to go at once, and all that want to can go with me, and all that want to can stay. Step aside, so I may know who are going with me, and then we can go and find our Father Wilbur, so he can go with us, or send for soldiers to go with us.”

Every one cried, “Why ask us? We are all dying off here. Who wants to stay here? We will all go,—yes, we will all go, if we have to crawl on our hands and knees.”

All but Oytes, he sat with his hands over his face, crying. Paddy says to Oytes, “Why do you hang your head? Have you turned into a woman? You were first on your horse when the Bannocks came. You got us all into trouble, and only for you we had been in our own country. You are the cause of all our suffering. Now it is no time to cry. I felt like crying when you got up and said, ‘Come, my men, get your arms, we will help the Bannocks,’ At that time there was only one who got up and said, ‘Men, what are you all thinking about? Don’t you all hear your Chief talking to you, telling you not to go with the Bannocks, or you will all be killed? He is telling you good things, and you dare to cry war?’”

As Paddy talked he pointed and said, “That old woman sits there who said these things. She knew what our Chief Natchez was saying to us. We had ears to hear, and knew what was said was truth. If we had listened to what was said to us then we would not have lost so many of our friends, and now they have done more for us than we deserved, —yea, more than we would do for them. I am as bad as you have been. They went so far to talk in your behalf, and because our mother has come with good news from the Big Father, you have to cry. Stop your crying, and tell us what you are going to do.”

Oytes got up and said, “Dear brother,” but broke down again and could not speak. He stood a little while. He looked up to me and said, “Mother, pity me. Give me your hand. Help me. I am just as Paddy says—‘ I am a woman;’ I shall be while I live,” and then he cried out to Leggins, “Oh, brother, ask me to go with you to our dear Mother Earth, where we can lie alongside our father’s bones. Just say, ‘Come,’ I will be only too glad to go with you.”

I then said, “This paper says all that want to go can go. I say for one, Oytes, come, go with us, but all who want to can go.”

Then Leggins said, “Oytes, I have no right to say to you, ‘You have done wrong and you can’t go to your own country.’ No, I am only too glad to hear you talk as you do. We will all go back and be happy once more in our native land.”

Then they all said, “We will all go. Why leave one here?”

Then the head men said to me and to brother Lee, “We will go and see Father Wilbur right off, and tell him to send for soldiers to go with us, to keep the white men from killing us.”

So we all started up to see our good Father Wilbur. Our father did not want to talk to us. My people came every day to see him for four days. During the time there came some goods for my people. The storehouse was full of goods of all kinds. He came to me and said, “Sarah, I had some forty of your people working for me since you went away, some women, too. I want you to tell them to come and I will pay them right off. I have to pay them in clothing.”

I went and told them. My people said, “Now is the time to talk to him,” but he did not want to talk to them. Some got blankets, some calico for their wives. Some said, “I worked two months. Some three months. We ought to get more pay.” These words were not listened to by Father Wilbur. Eighteen men got paid and six women, and the doors were shut. My people tried to talk to him. I went to him and said, “My people want to talk to you.” He did not answer me. I went back to them. They all began to laugh at me, saying, “Ah! ah! Your father talks every Sunday saying we must not get mad or do anything that is not right.” “Now, he is the first to get mad at me,” said Leggins. They all laughed again and went to their camps. The next morning the agent sent for me. I sent for Leggins and some of the head men, and went to his home. He gave me a chair to sit down in. Dr. Kirkendorff and the head farmer, Mr. Fairchild, were there. My sister ran off and told them I was sent for and they had better go quickly. Then he began on me by saying, “I am sorry you are putting the devil into your people’s heads; they were all doing so well while you were away, and I was so pleased with them. You are talking against me all the time, and if you don’t look out I will have you put in irons and in prison.” Here I jumped on my war-horse. I mean I said, “Mr. Wilbur, you forget that you are a Christian when you can talk so to me. You have not got the first part of a Christian principle about you, or you would leave everything and see that my poor, broken-hearted people get home. You know how they are treated by your Christian Indians. You are welcome to put me in prison. You are starving my people here, and you are selling the clothes which were sent to them, and it is my money in your pocket; that is why you want to keep us here, not because you love us. I say, Mr. Wilbur, everybody in Yakima City knows what you are doing, and hell is full of just such Christians as you are.”

“Stop talking, or I will have you locked up.”

“I don’t care how soon you have it done. My people are saying I have sold them to you, and get money from you to keep them here. I am abused by you and by my own people, too. You never were the man to give me anything for my work, and I have to pay for everything I have to eat. Mr. Wilbur, you will not get off as easily as you think you will. I will go to Yakima City and lecture. I will tell them all how you are selling my people the clothes which were sent here for them.”

I had my say, and got up and went away. He tried to keep me, but I walked away. That is the last I saw of Father Wilbur. I almost wished he would put me in prison, for that would have made my people see that I had not sold them. He sent the doctor to talk to me, and to tell me if I wanted to go home he would send his own team down with me to the Dalles. I told him to tell Wilbur I was going to Yakima City first.

“Oh, Sarah, you had better not. The Yakimas have been telling Father Wilbur lies about you, through Oytes.” I said, “I have had my say.” We all talked the thing over, and they said I had better go to the Dalles and send a telegram to the Big Father in Washington, and then come for them. My brother Lee thought so too. Later the doctor came again and said, “Lee, Father Wilbur wants to see you.” He did not want to go. “I am afraid he will put me in irons, too.” “Don’t be afraid; go and see what he wants with you.” He again said to me, “Well, Sarah, do you want to go to the Dalles? I will take you down myself, if you will say you will go.” I did not talk to him, but got up and went away until brother came back. He came back laughing. At last he said, “Oh, sister, I am rich. I am going to have some land, and I am going to have a wagon, and I am going to have my own time to pay for it. It will only take one hundred and twenty-five years for me to pay for my wagon. He wants me to stay here, not to go away. Yes, I see myself staying here. Leggins, Oytes, Paddy, come and have supper with us.” Just as we sat down the doctor came and said, “Sarah, Mrs. Young is going down to-morrow.”

“Doctor, I am not going till I get ready; not until then, and when I want to have you take me down I will let you know.”

We had another talk, and then I promised my people that I would work for them while there was life in my body. I told them I would telegraph to the Big Father in Washington, as soon as I got to the Dalles. I then told Lee to go to the doctor and say I would go. He came over himself to see me. We got to Dalles the second day. I went to the telegraph office, and sent the telegram, as I said I would.

The two army reports will go in this book, where my readers will see how many were against me. I then wrote to General Howard, telling him I was so poor I did not know what to do. I told him Father Wilbur never gave me a cent for the work I had done for him. I did not have money enough to go down to Vancouver, where General Howard was. Oh, thanks be to my Spirit-Father, General Howard sent for me. They appointed me interpreter and teacher at that place. There were fifty Indians, called the Sheep-Eaters, and some others. I taught their children how to read, and they learned very fast, because they knew what they were learning. During this time I received the five hundred dollars, which I dearly earned during the Bannock war, after working two years for it. I then paid Mr. Stevens what he gave me at Camp Harney. While we were doing so well, there came an order that these Sheep-Eaters and Weisers must go to Fort Hill Reservation. Lieutenant Mills and I took them there, and I left them there. I paid thirty-five dollars which they ought to have paid for me. I wrote to General Howard about it, and he told me how to get it. I did as he told me to; but as in other cases, I never heard from it. I wrote to my school-children afterwards. The head man, who called himself War Jack, got some one to write to me, saying my children had forgotten what they had learned, as they were not going to school any more. That is the last I heard from them, and my work at Vancouver for the military government may be my last work, as I am talking against the government officials; and I am assured I never shall get an appointment as interpreter. I do have a little hope if the army takes care of my people that they will give me a place, either as teacher or interpreter. I tell you, my dear readers, the agents don’t want anybody but their own brothers and sisters, or fathers and mothers, wives, cousins, or aunts. If they do have an interpreter, they get one that is so ignorant he does not know what is said. Yes, one that can’t read, one that is always ready to sign any kind of letter that suits his own purpose. My people have been signing papers for the last twenty-three years. They don’t know what they sign. The interpreter tells them it is for blankets, coats, pants, shoes, socks, woollen shirts, calicoes, unbleached muslin. So they put their names to it, while it is only a report of the issues he has already made. He knows well enough that if they were told it was the report of an issue they would not sign it. This kind of thing goes on, on all the reservations; and if any white man writes to Washington in our behalf, the agent goes to work with letters and gets his men, and his aunts and cousins to help him, and they get any kind of Indians to sign the letters, and they are sent on to Washington. Yes, General Crook tells the truth about the agents stealing from the Indians, and whoever tells this truth is abused by the agent. He calls him nobody, and the agent is believed, because he is a Christian. So it goes on year after year. Oh, when will it stop? I pray of you, I implore of you, I beseech of you, hear our pitiful cry to you, sweep away the agency system; give us homes to live in, for God’s sake and for humanity’s sake. I left my poor people in despair, I knew I had so many against me. While I was in Vancouver, Mr. Chapman, the interpreter, was sent over to Yakima to see if he could help my people. He met with the same success I had had. He came back and told me my people were really starving. He said he never saw people in the condition they were in. He said he went into their tents to see if they had anything hidden away. He did not find anything; but he said he did it because Father Wilbur told him the people had plenty to eat. Sometimes they went four or five days without having a thing to eat, nor had they any clothes. Poor man! the tears ran down his cheeks as he told me, and of course I cried.

Just then Colonel Wilkinson came up and said,—

“Why, Sarah, what are you crying about? You are only an Indian woman. Why, Indian women never cry.”

Ah, my dear friends, he is another one who makes people believe he is working for Indians. He is at Forest Grove. He is another one that started a school for the Indians, something like Hampton School; but people will not send to him, because they have not confidence in him. He is the man that used to preach in the streets in Portland, Oregon. I tell you the world is full of such people. I see that all who say they are working for Indians are against me. I know their feeling pretty well. They know if the Indians are turned over to the army, they will lose their living. In another sense they ought to be glad to have Indians (I mean all my people, who are Indian nations) under the military care, for then if we kill white people, the soldiers can just kill us right there, and not have to go all over the country to find us! For shame! for shame! You dare to cry out Liberty, when you hold us in places against our will, driving us from place to place as if we were beasts. Ah, there is one thing you cannot say of the Indian. You call him savage, and everything that is bad but one; but, thanks be to God, I am so proud to say that my people have never outraged your women, or have even insulted them by looks or words. Can you say the same of the negroes or the whites? They do commit some most horrible outrages on your women, but you do not drive them round like dogs. Oh, my dear readers, talk for us, and if the white people will treat us like human beings, we will behave like a people; but if we are treated by white savages as if we are savages, we are relentless and desperate; yet no more so than any other badly treated people. Oh, dear friends, I am pleading for God and for humanity.

I sent the following letter to the Honorable Secretary of the Interior:—

Vancouver Barracks, March 28, 1881.

Dear Sir,—I take this matter in hand in behalf of the Indians who are prisoners here at this place. There are fifty-three (53) in all. Of this number thirteen are men, twenty-one women, eleven girls from three to fourteen years of age, and eight boys from three to sixteen. Twenty-three of the number belong to the Sheep-Eaters, thirteen belong to the Weisers’ tribe, and seven from Boise. These belong to Fort Hall. This is the second winter they have been here, and they have been provided for entirely by the military here. They receive government rations. But the only way they have to provide for the women is by what they make out of selling the savings of some of their rations, and from what castaway clothing I can collect from employes here. I am employed here as an interpreter, and have been teaching them to read. I commenced last July. I have twelve girls and six boys in school. When I commenced to teach them they knew nothing,—never had been to school. They are learning fast. They can all read pretty well, and are desirous to learn. What I want to ask is to have them stay here. They seem to be contented. Most of them would rather stay here than to go elsewhere, but in order to make them more contented and useful it would be well to help them. If they could have a place, or a bit of land given them to use for themselves, yes, a place for their own benefit, and where they could work for themselves, I would teach them habits of industry, and it would help much in supporting them; and it is necessary that there should be, at least for the present, some appropriation made for them, in order to provide clothing for the women and children, and a proper place to live in. At present they are living in tents. The men are working for the military here in improving the post, and they all have an interest in them for their work, and I think a little help from your department, as above mentioned, would be better for them than to turn them loose again to wander in idleness or learn evil, or go back to bad habits again. I think it would he the best that could be done for them in the way of enlightening and Christianizing them. They would all rather be under the military authority. They say they are not cheated here, and they can see that the officers are doing all they can for them. Hoping you will give this a careful consideration, I am, sir, very respectfully,

“Your obedient servant,
                “Sarah Winnemucca.”

I never had any answer to this letter, nor to any of the letters I wrote to Washington, and nothing was ever done to fulfil the promise of Secretary Schurz’s paper, nor was any canvas ever sent for tents. Gen. McDowell, in the last army report1 issued before he was retired from the service in California, and which he sent to me after I arrived in Boston, wrote an urgent appeal to the government to do justice to these my suffering people, who had been snatched from their homes against their wills.

1Oct. 14, 1882. See Appendix.

Lucy (Webb) Hayes, wife of Rutherford Hayes President Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881
President Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881
and wife Lucy Webb Hayes
(not in original book)
Among the letters from the officers, in the Army Report, are two or three from Father Wilbur. He says he should be much relieved if the Piutes were not on his reservation. They have been the cause of much labor and anxiety to him. Yet he does all he can to prevent their going away. What can be the meaning of this? Is it not plain that they are a source of riches to him? He starves them and sells their supplies. He does not say much against me, but he does say that if my influence was removed my people would be contented there. This is as untrue as it was in Reinhard to say they would not stay on the Malheur Reservation. While I was in Vancouver, President Hayes and his wife came there, and I went to see them. I spoke to him as I had done in Washington to the Secretary, and said to him, “You are a husband and father, and you know how you would suffer to be separated from your wife and children by force, as my people still are, husbands from wives, parents from children, notwithstanding Secretary Schurz’s order.” Mrs. Hayes cried all the time I was talking, and he said, “I will see about it.” But nothing was ever done that I ever heard of.

Finding it impossible to do any thing for my people I did not return to Yakima, but after I left Vancouver Barracks I went to my sister in Montana. After my marriage to Mr. Hopkins I visited my people once more at Pyramid Lake Reservation, and they urged me again to come to the East and talk for them, and so I have come.

Note. —Mrs. Hopkins has met with so much intelligent sympathy and furtherance that she has been encouraged to make the following petition to the next Congress, which a Massachusetts representative will present in the hope that it will help to shape aright the new Indian policy, by means of the discussion it will receive:—

“Whereas, the tribe of Piute Indians that formerly occupied the greater part of Nevada, and now diminished by its sufferings and wrongs to one-third of its original number, has always kept its promise of peace and friendliness to the whites since they first entered their country, and has of late been deprived of the Malheur Reservation decreed to them by President Grant:

“I, Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, grand-daughter of Captain Truckee, who promised friendship for his tribe to General Fremont, whom he guided into California, and served through the Mexican war,—together with the undersigned friends who sympathize in the cause of my people,—do petition the Honorable Congress of the United States to restore to them said Malheur Reservation, which is well watered and timbered, and large enough to afford homes and support for them all, where they can enjoy lands in severalty without losing their tribal relations, so essential to their happiness and good character, and where their citizenship, implied in this distribution of land, will defend them from the encroachments of the white settlers, so detrimental to their interests and their virtues. And especially do we petition for the return of that portion of the tribe arbitrarily removed from the Malheur Reservation, after the Bannock war, to the Yakima Reservation on Columbia River, in which removal families were ruthlessly separated, and have never ceased to pine for husbands, wives, and children, which restoration was pledged to them by the Secretary of the Interior in 1880, but has not been fulfilled.”


Whoever shall be interested by this little book or by Mrs. Hopkins’s living word, will help to the end by copying the petition and getting signatures to it, and sending the lists before the first of December to my care, 54 Bowdoin street, Boston. For the weight of a petition is generally measured by its length. Several hundred names have already been sent in.

The last three pages of the Appendix will show that the friends of the agents she criticizes are active to discredit her; but it has been ascertained that every definite charge made to the Indian office has no better endorsement than the name of Reinhard, who is characterized, to my personal knowledge, by some of the army officers who have known of his proceedings, as “a thoroughly wicked and unscrupulous man.”

Mary Mann.

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