Zanjani writes new book on Sarah Winemucca, supports statue for U.S. Capitol
Anyone who reads Sally Zanjani’s new book, “Sarah Winnemucca,” will know why a statue of the 19th century Paiute woman belongs in Washington, D.C., the author says.
The Nevada Women’s History Project is behind the move to install a statue of Winnemucca in the U. S. Capitol Statuary Hall of Fame. It would be the second of the two statues allowed for Nevada and would be the only likeness of a minority woman in the hall.
Each state may install two statues to people considered important to the state’s history.
Zanjani maintains that the Paiute leader “towers over the Great Basin like Mt. Everest.”
“Really, she is the most important person Nevada has ever produced,” Zanjani said.
Her new book details Winnemucca’s life and offers new information about her and her family that Zanjani researched in Northern Nevada newspapers of the period that were only recently indexed.
“It was exciting,” Zanjani said of her research. “It gives you a sense of discovery.”
Zanjani said that the new information made it important that another book about Winnemucca be published. The last one was released 18 years ago.
“It was time for a new look at a Nevada heroine,” she said.
Winnemucca was an interpreter and messenger for the U.S. Army during the Bannock War in the 1870s and worked tirelessly for justice for the Paiute people. She fought hard to obtain the freedom of a number of Paiutes who were banished to Yakama, Wash.
Winnemucca spoke five languages and was one of the few Native Americans at the time to read and write.
She gave lectures on the East and West coasts and harshly criticized the reservation system. Her lectures were very popular at the time. She published her autobiography, the first by a Nevada woman and the first by an Indian West of the Rockies. She went to Washington to plead for the cause of her people.
She started a school and helped win the land for the McDermit reservation, even though she disliked the reservation system, and, as Zanjani wrote, preserved the heritage of her people in her book.
In the epilogue of “Sarah Winnemucca,” Zanjani writes, “The causes Sarah championed showed her wisdom and courage. In view of the forces arrayed against her, the losses seem scarcely surprising, and the marvel is that she achieved so much. She gave voice to the voiceless. She made the plight of an obscure Indian tribe a matter of public concern. By her example, she disproved the racist notion that Indians were subhuman and could not be taught.”
The bill to authorize a statue of Sarah Winnemucca has been introduced into the Assembly and last week was revised by the Ways and Means Committee.
“Sarah Winnemucca” was published by the University of Nebraska Press and is available through bookstores.
Zanjani’s mother Sallie Springmeyer lives in Carson Valley and was recently selected to be a Distinguished Nevadan by the Board of Regents of the University and Community College System of Nevada.