Shelle C. Wilson Bryant and Patrick W. Bryant
Born in 1844 near Humboldt Lake in what is now Nevada, Thocmetony or "Shell Flower" is known to history as Sarah Winnemucca--a spokesperson for her people, the Piute Indians of the Great Basin. Sarah was born the fourth child and second daughter of Old Winnemucca (so called to distinguish him from Sarah's cousin Young Winnemucca). Highly regarded by his people, he became, with Sarah's help, "Big Chief of the Piutes," as she recognized an opportunity in the white emigrants' desire to deal with only a few leaders with the authority to speak for her people ( Canfield4). Her mother, Tuboitonie, died at the Pyramid Lake Reservation in the spring of 1865 and does not figure prominently in Sarah's autobiography or other accounts of her life. Sarah's father and her maternal grandfather, Captain Truckee, however, were prominent figures in her life and the life of the Piutes. Captain Truckee, for whom the Truckee Rivers in California and Nevada are named, is said to have been an early guide to the emigrants who crossed the Great Basin (specifically, the Stevens-Townsend- Murphy party of 1844 and Captain Joseph Aram in 1846).
Captain Truckee fought with Fremont against the Mexicans and was known for his desire to live peaceably with the whites. He returned from his many travels to California with guns and ammunition and tales of the great towns and houses built by the white man. Sarah, however, who often heard stories of the violence of whites, developed an intense fear of them ( Winnemucca, Life11). Her fears were reinforced by a traumatic childhood experience. Rumors of approaching whites sent her tribe on the run. Burdened by two young children, Sarah's mother and aunt could not keep up, so they buried the children up to their necks in the sand and covered their heads with brush to protect them from
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Publication information: Book title: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers:A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Contributors: Denise D. Knight - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 241.