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Title: Sarah Winnemucca's Practical Solution of the Indian Problem - A Letter to Dr. Lyman Abbot of the "Christian Union"
Author: Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer, Winnemucca, Sarah
Language: English
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  University Press.


TO DR. LYMAN ABBOT, _Editor of the Christian Union_:--

Because you so cordially announced Sarah Winnemucca’s “NEW DEPARTURE,”
a year or more ago, as the Christian Union’s solution of the Indian
problem, I send you this Report that I am now desirous to make
to the public, _unofficial_ and _official_, of her progress. The
distinguishing characteristic of this New Departure is that, instead of
being, as usual, a passive reception of civilizing influences proffered
by white men who look down upon the Indian as a spiritual, moral, and
intellectual inferior, it is a spontaneous movement, made by the Indian
himself, _from himself_, in full consciousness of free agency, for the
education that is to civilize him.

Sarah Winnemucca’s idea is an inheritance from that remarkable chief
of the Piutes, Captain Truckee, who in 1848, for the first time,
discovered that there were white men in the world! In the first
chapter of her “Life among the Piutes”[1] Sarah tells of his meeting
with General (then Captain) Fremont in the mountains of Nevada, who
accepted his proffered guidance on the unaccustomed way, and with
whom he and a dozen of his braves went down to California, where the
wonders of civilization burst upon him, firing his imagination, before
his self-respect had been wounded and his heart discouraged, as is the
usual Indian experience, with an unquenchable ardor to share these

He and his braves were able to do Fremont service in the affair of
Mariposa and the immediately following conquest of California, for
which they were decorated, and so respectfully and kindly treated by
Fremont that the old chief’s heart was completely won; and he clung to
his “white brothers,” as he pathetically called them, to the end of
his life, although immediately on his return to Nevada he was told of
those terrible emigrations that had rushed across it “like a roaring
lion,” as Sarah phrases it, striking terror into the souls of the
women and even of the brave men, who could not understand the wanton
and unprovoked cruelty with which these white savages shot all Indians
down as soon as they were seen, as if they were wild beasts. But he
persisted in calling them _exceptions_ to the end of his life.

The artless autobiography of the first chapters of Sarah’s book
gives the key to her career as reconciling mediator for the mutual
understanding of the two races. She was educated for it by her
grandfather. That she has actually become this, is shown by an article
from the “Daily Alta California,” of July 24, which I have just
received; and I beg that you will insert every word of it here:--

  “We have referred already to the school for Indian children
  established in Nevada by the Piute woman, Princess Sarah Winnemucca.
  Her efforts have seemed to us to deserve encouragement. Travellers
  through Nevada who have seen the squalid crowds of Indian children
  at the stations taking eagerly scraps of food offered them at the
  car windows, may think that the regeneration of those people is
  impossible. To change this opinion it is only necessary to consider
  the case of Sarah Winnemucca, who, when her childhood was long past,
  first had opportunities for education, and improved them so well that
  her attainments command the respect of all white people who know
  her. What education has done for her it may do for a majority of the
  children of that tribe in which she was born a Princess, a Chief’s
  daughter. She is very active for her people, and loses no opportunity
  to urge them forward in the path to civilization. Recently she sent a
  message to those Indians living in Inyo County, in this State, urging
  them to send their children to school. A copy of this letter was sent
  to the School Trustees of Inyo, and we invite the attention of our
  readers to it. She says:--

  “‘BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Hearing that you are about to start a school
  to educate your children, I want to say a word about it. You all know
  me; many of you are my aunts or cousins. We are of one race,--your
  blood is my blood,--so I speak to you for your good. I can speak
  five tongues,--three Indian tongues, English, and Spanish. I can
  read and write, and am a school teacher. Now, I do not say this to
  boast, but simply to show you what can be done. When I was a little
  girl there were no Indian schools; I learned under great difficulty.
  Your children can learn much more than I know, and much easier; and
  it is your duty to see that they go to school. There is no excuse
  for ignorance. Schools are being built here and there, and you can
  have as many as you need; all they ask you to do is to send your
  children. You are not asked to give money or horses,--only to send
  your children to school. The teacher will do the rest. He or she will
  fit your little ones for the battle of life, so that they can attend
  to their own affairs instead of having to call in a white man. A few
  years ago you owned this great country; to-day the white man owns it
  all, and you own nothing. Do you know what did it? Education. You see
  the miles and miles of railroad, the locomotive, the Mint in Carson,
  where they make money. Education has done it all. Now, what it has
  done for one man it will do for another. You have brains same as the
  Whites, your children have brains, and it will be your fault if they
  grow up as you have. I entreat you to take hold of this school, and
  give your support by sending your children, old and young, to it; and
  when they grow up to manhood and womanhood they will bless you.’

  “It is hard to find in all the literature of pedagogics a stronger
  appeal to a primitive or any other people to avail themselves of the
  benefits of education. Exceptionally good in its language and logical
  in its presentation of reasons, it constitutes not only advice to
  her own tribe, but it is the finest of all the genuine proofs of
  the capacity of the Indian intellect. We cannot help feeling that
  such a woman deserves help, and that her work should command support
  far beyond the lines of her own State. If each of the tribes could
  furnish only one such woman, of equal culture, sincerity, and energy,
  their joint influence upon the future of our Indians would be greater
  than all the armies that can be put in the field. The Federal
  Government should consider her and her work. She has defended her
  people against the rascally treatment of its agents, but with a rare
  discretion has never, therefore, inflamed them against the whites.
  She has constantly pointed to civilization as desirable above all
  things, and has taught them that return to their old ways is forever

  “We believe that the Indian Department should found an Indian
  school in Nevada and put Sarah at the head of it. The cost would
  be small compared with the value of the experiment, and surely it
  would command the sympathy of all right-minded people. She has
  ample culture, and she knows the Indian character thoroughly, while
  it is easy to believe that her example will be of great value in
  encouraging her pupils. When Indians have a white teacher there must
  naturally seem a great gulf between them. The pupils must often
  despair of ever approximating the learning which they believe came
  as naturally to the white man as the color of his skin. But when an
  Indian teacher like Sarah can say to them, ‘I learned this, I am an
  Indian, and you are as good as I am; what I learned is as possible
  and as easy to you,’ there must be in it a superior encouragement. We
  do not know whether there is on this coast any organization that is
  charged with the interests of these humble people. We believe Mrs.
  John Bidwell has done something in her vicinity toward advancing
  them, and she may be known to the East for her good work. If there
  be an organization it should bring this matter to the attention of
  the Government, to the end that this Indian woman may have facilities
  equal to her energy and to her noble spirit. It won’t hurt the whites
  any to give their gentle and philanthropic sentiments free play in a
  matter that is full of interest and of genuine Christianity.”

Without stopping to tell of the circumstances of her life, inward
and outward, that have brought her to the point of her present
undertaking,--though to do so would give new meaning and interest
to it,--I hasten to say that a year and a half ago, when it seemed
as if the conditions she craved were to be despaired of, Senator
Leland Stanford, who came into relation with the Piutes in 1863 and
personally knew their exceptional character, spontaneously deeded to
Sarah’s brother, Chief Natches, one hundred and sixty acres of land
near Lovelocks; and a few of the friends of Sarah at the East, to whom
she had fully communicated her idea and what she wished to do, advanced
from their own private resources barely sufficient capital to enable
Natches to get his land surveyed and in part fenced and planted, and
Sarah to open her school for his children, and those of some other
Piutes wandering in the neighborhood seeking chance jobs of work. She
began instructing them in the English language, which she had grown up
speaking in her equal intercourse with both races.

Our idea in giving this aid, without which the land would have been no
boon, was to give Sarah the chance to begin her experiment independent
of the agency at Pyramid Lake, which, like the large majority of Indian
agencies, prevents civilization by insulting and repressing that
creative self-respect and conscious freedom to act, from which alone
any vital human improvement can spring. We wanted that there should be
no pretext of favors received, for the agent, who naturally enough is
her personal enemy, to interfere or meddle while she, with a few of her
people, began a self-supporting, self-directed life on the ground of
their inherited domestic moralities, which, in the case of the Piutes
at least, are very pure, as she had demonstrated to us in her lectures
and by her own remarkable personality, thus making a healthy wild
stock of natural religion on which to graft a Christian civilization
worthy of the name, which might rebuke and correct that which certainly
disgraces it now on our frontiers. But all that we did for her still
left her with broken health and numberless hardships to contend with,
which would have crushed any less heroic spirit.

She began her school in a brush arbor, teaching gospel hymns and songs
of labor, that she interpreted in Piute; and as soon as the children
could speak and understand some English she began to teach them to
read and write it, also to draw and even to cipher, sending us through
the post-office specimens of their work and of their sewing. And in
February we were surprised with the following letter, which came soon
after one from herself, in which she described the unexpected visit,
and said that Captain Cook made a speech to the children (which she
interpreted to them in Piute), telling them that when he was a boy
he had not such advantages of education as they were enjoying. This
letter I immediately sent to the editor of the “Boston Transcript,” who
published it with his own indorsement as follows:--


  Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody has had her heart cheered--not that it has
  ever faltered in that generous trust of which only noble natures are
  capable--with the following unexpected testimony to the faithfulness
  of the Piute “Princess” Winnemucca to the cause of uplifting her
  people. Other friends of the Indian have turned against her, but
  Miss Peabody has persevered in supporting this most remarkable woman
  through every kind of cruel and scandalous assault upon her character
  by those interested in having the poor, dispossessed remnants of
  the peaceful Piutes left naked to their enemies. This is surely
  trustworthy testimony:--

                                               LOVELOCKS, Feb. 25, 1886.

  MISS PEABODY,--A few of the principal residents of Lovelocks, having
  heard so frequently of the Piute school and the aspirations of the
  Princess, concluded, after very little cogitation, to verify in
  person the truth of these prodigious reports. As a few of the party
  were unable to attend during the week, the children were kindly
  retained on Saturday for our enjoyment.

  The site of the school building is about two miles from the town; and
  so unpretentious is it in appearance that a stroller would look upon
  it as a quiet rural home instead of the labor field of your worthy
  beneficiary. When we neared the school shouts of merry laughter
  rang upon our ears, and little dark and sunburnt faces smiled a dim
  approval of our visitation. After a brief conversation with the
  Princess, we seated ourselves comfortably, evidently feeling that

                “Come what come may,
  Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”

  Speaking in her native tongue, the Princess requested the children
  to name all the visible objects, repeat the days of the week and
  months of the year, and calculate to thousands, which they did in a
  most exemplary manner. Then she asked them to give a manifestation
  of their knowledge upon the blackboard, each in turn printing his
  name and spelling aloud. It is needless to say, Miss Peabody, that
  we were spellbound at the disclosure. Nothing but the most assiduous
  labor could have accomplished this work. But most amazingly did I
  rudely stare (and most of our party were guilty of the same sin)
  when these seemingly ragged and untutored beings began singing
  _gospel hymns_ with precise melody, accurate time, and distinct
  pronunciation. The blending of their voices in unison was grand,
  and an exceedingly sweet treat. We look upon it as a marvellous
  progression; and so gratified were we that we concluded to send this
  testimonial containing the names of those present, in order that
  you may know of the good work the Princess is trying to consummate.
  Considering that only six weeks have been consumed in effecting this
  much [it is six weeks since the house was completed; the school out
  of doors had existed longer.--E. P. P.], we feel that any further
  assistance would be well deserved and profitably expended by Sarah.
  One of our party, Captain Cook by name, addressed the children upon
  the usefulness of knowledge and its power in the world. When the
  Princess had made proper interpretation of this speech, their bright
  eyes seemed to say in response, “We are, though still in the bud, the
  flowers of the coming dawn which perfume the golden mosses of the

                                 I remain very respectfully,

                                                          LOUISA MARZEN.

  Signed by each--

      MRS. H. C. EMMONS,
      T. H. WORKMAN,

Sarah wrote also that she had asked these people to write and tell me
of their approbation, because it was I that had given the schoolhouse.
But in doing this, and also by subsequently naming her school the
“Peabody Institute,” which is painted on the outside, there has grown
up a false impression, as if _I_ were the originator and prevailing
influence of the school. This is diametrically opposite to the fact;
for the very point I would make most prominent is that the whole thing
is an Indian idea and an Indian plan; and the reason that she feels me
to be her mainstay is that I do not bother her with my suggestions, but
wait to see what it is her impulse to do, because I see that she knows,
as I cannot, how the Indian mind is to be approached and set at work
for that self-development which is the only real education. I owe to
her a conviction, which has grown upon me continually for three years,
that the only vital education for the Indian as for every child is
Froebel’s method of keeping an equipoise of doing and thinking.

Soon after receiving the above letter I had several newspapers sent me
from Nevada, Utah, and California, from which I will extract specimen
paragraphs. One from a Lovelocks correspondent of the “Silver State”

  “The Princess Sarah is making her school for young Piutes a
  success. The attendance is large, and little Indians may be seen
  on our streets every morning with their lunches, wending their
  way to school, a mile and a half off. She keeps excellent order,
  and conducts the school as systematically as any experienced

There is a very certain proof that neither Sarah nor her brother
suggested this article, in the seven words we put in italics in another
paragraph of it; for Piutes have never been known to handle “tomahawk
or scalping-knife,”--never took a scalp, though they have been scalped
themselves by whites, of which Sarah told several pathetic instances in
her lectures when she was here.

  “Chief Natches has _put aside the tomahawk and scalping-knife_, and
  taken hold of the plough and grubbing-hoe. He has cleared about forty
  acres of the one hundred and sixty given him by Governor Stanford.
  He will sow thirty acres of wheat, and put the rest in barley and
  vegetables. He has a dozen or more Indians working with him upon a
  dam belonging to his white neighbors, who pay him by allowing him
  water for his ranch, this season.”

Another says:--

  “Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins has erected a schoolhouse for her people,
  and has about twenty-five pupils, all little Piutes. They learn
  rapidly; and though the school has been housed only about six
  weeks, some of them can read and write already. The school is free
  to all Piute children in this county, _provided their parents make
  arrangements to board them_. This is the only drawback to the
  school, that Princess Sallie has not means to feed the children, and
  she could not have built the schoolhouse had it not been for the
  assistance given her by philanthropic people in the East.”

Another quotes from the “Daily Alta California” the first notice it
made, as early as March (referred to on page 4):--

   “Out in Nevada is proceeding an experiment that deserves the
  respectful sympathy of the world. Princess Sarah, daughter of
  Winnemucca, late chief of the Piutes, has opened a school for the
  Indian children, and the young of her tribe are flocking to it for
  instruction. In this effort to reclaim her primitive people this
  Indian woman rises to a nobility that puts her in line with the best
  of the superior [?] race.”

When I wrote to Sarah for an explanation of the “drawback,” she said
that the Piute parents who had been doing job-work for the people of
Lovelocks in the winter, must go on their summer hunt for subsistence
and winter stores, and take their children with them, and already
some of her best scholars had gone; for which she was sorry, as she
had hoped that when Senator Stanford should go home from Congress at
midsummer, he would stop and see them, and be so pleased with what
Natches had done with the land and what she had done in the school,
that he would demand, from the fund in the Indian Office appropriated
for Indian education, money enough to make her school a boarding-school
during the summers. She said the poor parents had assembled in council
in her schoolroom, and expressed their grief that they could not
pay her themselves for their children’s board; and they compared
this school, where the children were so happy in learning, to the
Reservation schools, where they were _whipped_ and taught nothing, but
on which the Government wasted millions of dollars every year.

Now I (together with other intimate friends of Sarah) was desirous
that the Government should not be solicited to help, but that her own
work, seen in contrast with the work of the agency, should command its
sympathetic co-operation; and I put into the “Boston Transcript” of
April 21 the following article:--


  _To the Editor of the Transcript_: I was much obliged to you for
  your sympathetic introduction to the letter from those seven people
  in Lovelocks who wrote me about Sarah Winnemucca’s school, whose
  success under such hard conditions as she is in (starving on pine
  nuts, without bread or meat) is such a very important fact with
  respect to Indian education, which hitherto has been necessarily so
  imperfect, because conducted by instructors who did not know any
  Indian language. This is the first instance on record of an Indian
  school taught by a full-blooded Indian who grew up with both races,
  speaking both languages, and inspired from her infancy with the idea
  of civilizing her people by making English also their vernacular,
  and preparing the scholars in their turn to teach English to their
  companions and their parents, as children can best do.

Then, after inserting the above-given slips from the Western papers, I
added this paragraph:--

  If I can raise $100 a month this summer, the calamity of having this
  _real_ school scattered may be averted. Within a week I have raised
  nearly a hundred for April; and if promissory notes to be paid in
  May, June, July, and August, can be sent me _at once_, I can send her
  a telegram to _keep her scholars, for their board will be paid_. Any
  sums from one dollar to a hundred may be sent to me at Jamaica Plain,
  4 Cheshire Street, in these promissory notes, for which I shall not
  demand payment unless the school goes on.

                                                   ELIZABETH P. PEABODY.

This appeal immediately brought $400 in sums from one dollar to
fifty dollars, and a promise of another $100 for August; and I sent
word to her to keep her scholars. This was a great proof of the
moral impression she had made of herself in the summer of 1883, for
already all the organized sympathy for the Indians in the East was
pre-engaged;--as, before the Piutes were heard of, all the funds to be
raised by the women’s associations were pledged to their own missionary
work; while General Armstrong came every year and carried off thousands
of dollars for Hampton School and Carlisle, and Bishop Hare did the
same for Dakota.

But I see that I am transcending the limits you prescribed for my
article, and must hasten to tell of a month’s visit made to Sarah,
beginning July 18, by a lady who has been for twenty years engaged
practically in public and private education West and East, and who
became acquainted with Sarah in the summer of 1883, and then promised
her, if she recovered Malheur, that she would go out and renew with
her the school that Sarah and Mrs. Charles Parish had kept, under the
auspices of the only good agent among seventeen that ever were sent
out to the Piutes; and it may be seen, by reading the sixth chapter of
“Life among the Piutes,” that nothing is wanted to solve the Indian
problem practically (at least among the Piutes) but good faith on the
part of the Government agents in giving them the white man’s chances
without discounting their earnings in the agents’ interest. For the
last year this lady has been the teacher of methods in a normal school
in Wisconsin; and she offered to go out at her own expense, if provided
with free passes, and report to me concerning the school. In quite a
voluminous correspondence with me she has given a history of the _statu
quo_, comprehending an account of the state of things both inside and
outside of the ranch, having found that the half had not been told
her of the difficulties attending such an attempt as Sarah’s, arising
from the general hostility of the frontiersmen to Indians, and their
disposition to crush their attempts at self-subsistence, intensified
by every degree of Indian success. She found Sarah personally also in
circumstances of infinitely greater discomfort than she had imagined,
and in addition to the chronic rheumatism and neuralgia from which
she knew she had been suffering for two years, prostrated every other
day with chills and fever, so that the first thing she set herself to
doing was to cure her with quinine, which she effected. But this makes
more striking her testimony to the character and quality of Sarah’s
teaching, which is directed to making the children understand and speak
English and then to read and write it. She found the pupils in the
Second Reader, and she said every lesson was read in English and in
Piute; and in Sarah’s reading to them (from the Bible for instance),
there was the same use made of both languages, and the conversation
upon the subject matter that accompanied it was extremely animated.
Comparing the classes with those with which she was familiar in the
United States schools of children of the same age, Sarah’s scholars
were decidedly superior. In their writing and drawing, of which she
sent me a dozen or more specimens, the superiority was marked, and
made more marvellous by the fact that there was no school furniture
but benches without backs, which, when they wrote, drew, or ciphered,
they used as tables, sitting or kneeling on the floor, and sometimes,
making the floor their table, they lay on it to write or cipher. But
the children were so interested and zealous to learn that they were
perfectly obedient, and when out of the specific school hours,--which
were, at the time she arrived there, diminished from the four hours
that had been the rule, by the pressure of the industrial work
connected with the agriculture and housekeeping (for this school of
Sarah’s comprehends all their life),--she found the boys digging
a cellar, and the girls assisting Sarah about the cooking and the
cleaning, everything being scrupulously neat both in schoolroom and
tent. The ages of the children ranged between six and sixteen, and the
individuality of each child was described, with those points in which
they severally excelled. Within its range, in short, the education was
superior, instead of inferior, to the average white education in our
primary schools, being upon the method of the “New Education,” in which
doing leads thinking, and gives definite meaning to every word used.

I wish I could induce your readers to look into the volume published
by Carleton & Co., of New York, named “The Hidden Power,” written by
Mr. Tibbles, the white husband of the Ponca Bright Eyes, every word of
which, as he told me, is fact, except the proper names.

It is utterly impossible to begin to do justice to any such movement as
Sarah Winnemucca’s unless the century-long action of the Indian Ring is
understood. This subtle power, which dates with the organization of the
Fur-traders’ companies, has come to govern this country as completely
as for a time did the Slaveocracy, and still defeats everything
proposed to be done; and this explains why in these last few years
so little has been accomplished by Indian Rights’ associations, and
the enlightened plan of Mr. Dawes and others for division of lands in
severalty to Indians.


Here ends the article I prepared for the “Christian Union,” but which,
proving too long for a newspaper, you have advised me to print in a
pamphlet; and I conclude to make it an appeal to the UNOFFICIAL people
of the United States, instead of to the Government, as I first thought
of doing.

For, notwithstanding the good intentions of the new administration, I
see it is effectually hindered (_how_, it does not itself realize) from
doing justice to the Indian, as its first act with respect to the Crow
Creek tribe promised would be its policy.

I mentioned that the satisfactory testimony respecting the character of
Sarah Winnemucca’s school, with which I closed the above report of it,
was extracted from “voluminous letters,” overflowing with details of
the innumerable difficulties Sarah had to contend with, of which some
idea may be obtained from the following extract of a letter which my
correspondent addressed at the same date to an Indianapolis newspaper:--

  “Natches wanted land of his own; and for a wonder, he got it.
  Senator Stanford gave him one hundred and sixty acres. Where cattle
  range, land must be fenced. Lumber is very high, as it comes from a
  distance. Miss Peabody sent him $200 to fence it. Water comes next.
  Nevada is a desert without irrigation. By agreeing to pay them out
  of his crop, Natches furnished thirteen men (Indians and himself)
  one month, to work on the dam and ditches, to pay for his water, but
  gets no paper to show how long. Eastern people help him to a wagon,
  plough, spade, hoe, and axe. He already has horses, and he gets in
  sixty-eight acres of nice wheat. As the wheat grows and tempts the
  cattle, the water-power people tell him he must leave the gate open
  so they can get to their ditches, some of which they put on his land
  without permission. The white men on each side of him have gates, and
  keep them shut, although their land is used only for grazing. I go to
  town, find they have no right to say anything about it, and the gate
  is put up, and the old uncle who has camped by it to keep out the
  cows and save the wheat can do something else. The wheat gets ripe;
  he can hire a machine to cut it at $1.75 per acre, cash. He has no
  cash; he must hire Indian women at $5 per acre, and pay in wheat.

  “The next time I go to town, I am told that the water company has
  decided not to let Natches have any more water, because ‘Indians are
  so lazy, they don’t want them around,’ and, for illustration, point
  to that old man who sat all day by the hole in Natches fence. I tried
  to explain; but it is not permitted to explain things here.

  “At all the railway stations along the road, one sees Indians sitting
  on the shady side of the house or walking along the track, sometimes
  begging. I talked with one of them of the loafing and card-playing
  that is so common. She admitted and regretted it, and added: ‘Let me
  disguise you as an Indian, and go to the reservation where all these
  Indians have been trained. Stay a few weeks as an Indian, and learn
  to enjoy work as we have to do it, and see if you think our young men
  can see any good in it, or have any motive for doing it. You know
  children,--see what you think the same training would do for a white

It is plain that jealousy and opposition were excited to madness by the
very success of Sarah’s unexampled enterprise, which has also aroused
the attention of Agent Gibson, whose intrigues form the subjects of
other letters.

The week before she arrived, an official from Washington, who was an
intimate friend of Gibson, had appeared, and told Sarah that unless
Natches would surrender his independent possession of the land, and she
the direction of her school, to the authorized agent of Pyramid Lake,
no aid would be given to the boarding-school from the reserved fund for
Indian Education. Sarah, however, had indignantly refused to accept any
aid on such destructive conditions.

I must confess I was not surprised or very sorry for this final
demonstration that the only effectual thing to be done to help the
Indian _to come up from himself_ (to use a happy expression of Mr.
Dawes’, that exactly describes what Sarah is intent upon doing), is to
proposed by Mr. Painter, at the late Mohunk Conference; for it is the
most effectual instrumentality of a formidable RING, composed of the
still unreformed civil service on the frontiers, and of the majority of
the frontier population, who deprecate Indian civilization, and work
against it with an immense mercantile interest scattered all over the
Union, that fattens on the CONTRACTS FOR SUPPLIES, which is the breath
of life to this well-named “Hidden Power.”

It has been suggested that the preliminary step to such abolition
must be to make public the history of this Ring, whose action from its
beginning has been for the general removal of the tribes from their
several original localities; revealing the secret of the Florida War,
and other operations,--among its most subtle ones being its apparently
friendly co-operation and hypocritical flatteries of the various
organizations for educating and christianizing Indians. Such a history
would explain their motives in making Sarah Winnemucca “a suspect”
in the eyes of just those who should have received in generous faith
this champion of her people’s right and opportunity _freely to select_
the best things in civilization,--the principal one being, as she
intuitively saw and everybody is at length convinced, the individual
_versus_ communal tenure of land,--while they are also free to retain
whatever of the inherited tribal customs she also sees intuitively are
necessary to preserve their social life heart-whole, though open to
inspiration for individual self-development.

In her “Life among the Piutes,” which every one should make it a matter
of conscience to read before making up his mind upon the character and
aims of this most remarkable woman, it will be seen how naturally and
inevitably she incurred the enmity of the several agents to whom has
been traced directly every slander, especially that of Rinehart.

The sixth chapter of that book gives an appreciative account of the
only agent among seventeen that had been sent out to the Piutes since
they were known to the whites, who was not a calamity to them. This
man, Samuel Parish by name, by his disinterestedness, honesty, and the
simple humanity of his arrangements, demonstrated that there need be
no difficulty with the Indians if they are treated fairly, and that
with the same chances the Piutes at least can become as prosperous
and rich as the white settlers, instead of being the burden that
all Indians have seemed to be during the “Century of Dishonor,” so
faithfully represented by “H. H.” in the book of that name, and later
in the wonderful story of “Ramona,” which is gradually doing for the
Indian what “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” did for the negro. But it would take a
volume even larger than Mr. Tibbles’ book upon the “Hidden Power” to
give in detail even the history of this persecution of Sarah, which
has been traced out in all its subtleties by many of her friends, who
consist, I may truly say, of all the hundreds of audiences whom her
artless addresses took captive, between her arrival at Boston in the
spring of 1883 and her departure to the West from Baltimore in the
August of 1884. I have never seen or heard of one person of all those
who themselves heard her speak in public (after the first lecture that
she gave in Boston),[2] who was in the slightest degree affected by
accusations that answered themselves in every person’s mind who had
been under the spell of the simple statement of facts that she made
with names and dates, and defied the world to prove one of them false.
I myself heard her speak in public in Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania as many as thirty times, in
which she never repeated or contradicted herself once, though it was
obvious that except in the choice of some particular subject to be made
her theme, she took no previous thought as to what she should say, but
trusted that the right words would be given her by the “Spirit Father,”
whose special messenger she believed herself to be, and impressed her
audiences to believe that she was.

She got thousands of signatures to her petitions, made friends for
herself, and interested the most excellent members of Congress to
present her petitions, and the Senate did, on July 6, 1884, pass a
bill which by implication abolished the agency of Pyramid Lake,--for
it proposed to give the reservation to Winnemucca’s and Leggins’ bands
in severalty of lands. And so I content myself with what will give to
any person of common sense and candid heart the above hints by which
they may estimate the intrinsic worth, or rather worthlessness, of the
slanderous rumors which Gibson has lately succeeded in impressing upon
the minds of a few persons who ought to be her coadjutors, and whom
she could aid in her turn in carrying out their own good intentions to
the Indians, if it were not for the unhappy misconception of her which
prevented their making acquaintance with herself personally. “There
is nothing so sad in the records of experience as that the children of
light should misunderstand each other;” nor is anything so disastrous
as a mistake made by the _good-intentioned_, because their impressions
are not questioned but swallowed incontinently, without investigation.
Could I have had a personal interview with those persons, I feel sure
they never would have given publicity to their mistake, for which I
hold only Gibson morally responsible; but this interview they did not
seek, having jumped to the conclusion that I was passively deluded.
They did not know that I had been a student of Indian history for
more than seventy years, having, as early as seven years old, taken
my first impression from my own mother’s enthusiasm for another
“Indian princess” whom a great-uncle of mine, one of the generals in
our Revolutionary War, married in Northern Michigan, where he went to
settle after the war, and whose half-breed descendants, by the name of
Hunt, are valuable citizens of that State. It was the first impression
of the noble domestic education this Indian princess gave her children,
followed up by hearing my father read to my mother, before I was ten
years old, the Moravian Heckerwelder’s “History of the North American
Indians,” which goes into the details of the tribal mode of training
the children to habits of reverence for elders, truthfulness with
each other, and a majestic self-respect, that gave me a key to the
characteristic Indian virtues, and enabled me to read “Hubbard’s Indian
Wars,” with open eyes to see that the white race was more responsible
than the Indians for the cruelties which transpired on both sides.
Ever after I was an omnivorous reader of everything I could find about
Indians, whether from ethnologists or travellers or residents, among
them,--like Catlin, for instance; so that H. H.’s “Century of Dishonor”
told me nothing that I did not know before. Besides this, I learned
from William B. Ogden[3] the history of the origin and action of the
Indian Ring from its beginning with the fur-traders; and studied the
secret history of the Florida war, with officers of the army engaged
in it, who revealed to me its persistence in the interests of the
civil service under Governor Duval. All this, and acquaintance with
the half-breed Chippewa missionary Tanner, who thirty years ago made
in Boston precisely the same explanatory criticism on the vicious
principle of all the missionary work for Indians that Sarah Winnemucca
does,[4] prepared me to appreciate and understand the first lecture I
heard from her, which she addressed “exclusively to women,” in which
she unfolded the domestic education given by the grandmothers of the
Piute tribe to the youth of both sexes, with respect to their relations
with each other both before and after marriage,--a lecture which never
failed to excite the moral enthusiasm of every woman that heard it, and
seal their confidence in her own purity of character and purpose.

The faith that she then inspired in me has grown by everything else I
have known her to say and do in a more than three years’ intimacy in
which my life has been bound up in hers; yet my faith and confidence
in her do not rest exclusively on her own eloquent _ipse dixit_
and practical consistency with it, far less on my own subjective
impressions, which I am fully aware can be no evidence to other people,
but on collateral evidence that has been continually pouring in upon
me, that I am ready to give _viva voce_ to other people, but much of
which cannot, with propriety, be put into public print, as it involves
a story of private trials of her own that are sacred to those who know
them in all their particulars. This collateral evidence consisted,
in addition to what is published in the Appendix to “Life among the
Piutes” (see the “Letter of Roger Sherman Day, unsolicited”), of the
testimony of persons unknown to Sarah Winnemucca, who unexpectedly
arose in her audiences to confirm what she said and declare it was
not exaggerated,--such persons as the Rev. Edwin Brown of the first
Church in Providence, Professor Brewer of New Haven, Father Hughes of
St. Jerome Convent in New York, and a French priest for whom he spoke,
and who he said was in Yakima when she was, all of whom gave personal
indorsement to her statements; also correspondents of mine in Nevada
and California, one of whom furnished the following slips from the
California newspapers of 1879, confirming her statements about Rinehart
and Scott.

  “In addition to what Princess Sarah Winnemucca said during her
  lecture the other evening about one Rinehart (the Indian agent at
  the Malheur Reservation), to the effect that not an Indian remains
  on the reservation at that place, additional statements come by way
  of Walla Walla. These reports say that there has not been a single
  Indian at that agency for over a year, and yet supplies are being
  constantly sent thither by the Government. The agent (Rinehart)
  himself has tried, and sent his emissaries all over the country, even
  unto Nevada, to bribe the Piutes to return. But in vain. Those poor
  Indians have had a taste of his brutality, and they want no more of
  it. So it seems that Sarah knew what she was talking about, and knew
  the facts. She said that this pet of the Indian Ring had promised pay
  to the Indians for working; and when they applied for their wages,
  his course toward them was such that they declined further peonage of
  that kind.

  “Then he assumed the character of the bully, and with pistol in
  hand attempted to force them to work for him. Now, allowing the one
  concession that the Piutes are men, it is perfectly natural that
  they should have left him and the reservation. Had he been a man
  of honesty and honor, he would have informed the Government of the
  exact condition of things, and thus have prevented the Government
  from still forwarding supplies for that agency. Not an Indian is
  within two hundred miles of the agency, and not one can be bribed to
  return. Yet the Government still sends the supplies. What becomes
  of them? Perhaps Rinehart could tell; and perhaps Commissioner
  Hoyt could tell--if he would. Under such circumstances, no wonder
  the question is asked why Rinehart is still kept in office under
  salary, for performing duties that do not exist. It is suggested that
  the reservation lands be sold for the benefit of the Indians. The
  question is asked, says the despatch, for what Indians? There are
  none within two hundred miles.”

Here is another newspaper slip of this date, headed “A Model
Representative of the Indian Bureau:”

   “Two or three weeks since, a fellow named J. W. Scott, who pretends
  to be acting for the Interior Department, arrived here from Oregon.
  His threats created considerable alarm among the Indians, who
  congregated here from all parts of the country to hear what he had
  to say. Natches and Winnemucca say that at the time of the outbreak
  at the Malheur Reservation, a year ago last summer, this man Scott,
  who they state had a beef contract at the reservation, had a talk
  with the Indians at Crowley’s ranch. They told him that if he would
  state their grievances on paper and send the document to Washington,
  they would return to the reservation. The chiefs dictated and Natches
  interpreted what he should write. When they finished, not having very
  much confidence in his integrity, they took the paper from him and
  gave it to G. B. Crowley to read. In this way they ascertained that
  he had not written what they dictated, and instead of stating the
  fact that they were being starved at the reservation and were driven
  to desperation by the treatment they received, he painted the Indians
  as demons and the agent as an angel. This infuriated the savages, and
  Natches and Winnemucca could hardly restrain the reservation Indians
  from scalping Scott right then and there. Knowing that he had played
  the Indians false at that time, Natches and Winnemucca were afraid
  to trust him at the council held here upon his arrival from Malheur
  a short time ago, and they asked a few white men--among them the
  writer--to be present. What occurred at the council was truthfully
  reported in these columns at the time. Scott, it appears, does not
  like the truth; so he reported to Natches yesterday that the ‘Silver
  State’ stated a few days ago that he (Natches) and Jerry Long, the
  interpreter, were the most notorious liars in the country. What
  object the fellow could have in telling such a lie to the Indians,
  the writer cannot surmise, unless it was for the purpose of making
  them distrustful of those who tell the truth about the Malheur
  Agency. An acquaintance of many years with many of the Piutes of
  Humboldt County warrants the writer in saying that so far as his
  experience extends, they are generally truthful and reliable; while
  respectable white men who knew Scott in Plumas County, California,
  before he went to Malheur, say the records of the courts in that
  county will show that decent men testified that they would not
  believe him under oath. Surely the Interior Department ought to send
  a man with a better reputation as its representative to hold councils
  with the Indians, and keep Mr. Scott at Malheur to take the census of
  the Indians and make affidavit to the quantity of beef and blankets
  distributed at a reservation where there has not been an Indian since
  a year ago last June.”

To these slips I might add most curious letters that I have received
from both Democrats and Republicans of Virginia City and Reno, who,
supposing me to be sister of the millionnaire banker, wrote to induce
me to serve their political interests with money and influence,--some
praising and some abusing Sarah, and both enlightening me.

Hoping that I shall be pardoned for the inevitable egotism of making
this special plea for my reliability as a witness in this case, I
conclude to add to the report of the claims of her school what has
transpired even since I began writing this Postscript.

With her last letter acknowledging the last money subscribed for her
boarding-school in August, came a notice that the literary exercises of
the school were suspended for a month, on account of her need of rest,
and in order that the children might assist in harvesting the splendid
crop, some of which, as it had been agreed upon beforehand, was to pay
the eleven men who had labored with Natches in the winter to buy water
from the water company for the year’s irrigation, and some was to pay
the fifteen laborers, men and women, who were to help in the reaping,
while the rest of the wheat, sold at the current market price of $30
per ton, would provide for the ensuing year’s maintenance, besides
affording food and seed corn for another year’s planting.

I must confess I was rather surprised at her letter’s not containing a
pæan of joy on this impending happy consummation, but only a painfully
earnest expression of anxiety that _I_ should now rest from my labors
for her, and be content if she only went on in future with the day
school. But I ascribed her subdued tone to the exhaustion produced by
the long strain she had been under of body and mind. It was, however,
explained by her next letter, when she enclosed to me a letter she had
received from a mistaken friend of mine telling her that Miss Peabody
had sent her all the money that had been provided for her own old age,
and had been working for her to get the $100 a month, harder than she
(Sarah) had ever worked in her life. I need not say that this was
accompanied with a passionate entreaty that I would never send her
another cent, and suspend all further care for her work. Of course I
replied, _instanter_, that this letter was false in every point; that
the provision for my old age was untouched, and that the work I was
doing for her was the greatest pleasure I had ever enjoyed in my life.
But before she could get my reply (for it takes six days for a letter
to go from Boston to Lovelocks), another short missive came, saying
that I must not write to her again till she should send word of her new
whereabouts; for, “on account of our ill luck,” Natches and herself
were going away to earn some money,--she to get work in some kitchen
for at least her board. But not a word of explanation of the “ill
luck,” which I could not divine.

I have therefore kept back this paper from the press till I should
hear again. And another letter has at last come, after a fortnight of
dreadful silence, acknowledging my letters that she had just found, on
her return to Lovelocks after a fortnight’s service in the kitchen of a
Mrs. Mary Wash, of Rye Beach, where she had earned her board, and had
less than a dollar in money; and in this letter she explains the “ill
luck.” Some of her inimical white neighbors had told her people, who
had agreed to take pay for their work from the wheat, that Miss Peabody
was sending her out $100 a month _for them_, and thus put them up to
demanding their pay in money at once! “If we could have borrowed $200
for two months,” she says, “we could have paid them in money, and then
sold the rest of the crop for $30 a ton. But it was the game to force
us to sell the crop to the store-keepers for $17 a ton, which (thanks
to the Spirit Father for so much) paid all our debts, but left nothing
over; and I could not feed on love, so could not renew the school;
and I was perfectly discouraged and worn out.” Add to this, her dear
niece Delia had just died, who had been in a consumption ever since
the death of the elder son of Natches, which took place when they were
all so sick of pneumonia at Winnemucca just before Mr. Stanford gave
them the ranch. She rejoices that “she is safe in heaven;” she hopes
the “Spirit Father may soon let me die.” When she has fixed up her
winter clothes she says she shall go and seek more work for her board;
and adds in closing, “So, darling, do not talk any more on my behalf,
but let my name die out and be forgotten; only, don’t you forget me,
but write to me sometimes, and I will write to you while I live.” Of
course I have replied to this wail, that while I do not wonder at
her despair for the moment, I by no means accept it as the finale of
our great endeavor,--that it is a natural but temporary reaction of
her nerves, and I see that she is still her whole noble self in this
energetic action for personal independence, which I shall make known
at once to all her friends, sure that it will challenge them to help
her through another year until another harvest. Meantime I believe that
the entire change of work will prove a recreative rest, and her people
will plainly see by it that it is not true that she had been living
irrespective of them on the $100 a month, and that her enthusiastic
scholars will not fail to bring their parents back to their confidence
and gratitude to her.[5] I tell her that I have found at the
bookbinder’s two hundred copies of her book, which I shall at once
begin to sell for her again, offering to send one, postpaid, to whoever
sends me $1.00, and thus make the nest egg of a new fund to enable her
to renew her grand enterprise of making a Normal School (for that is
what she was doing) of Indian teachers of English, for all the tribes
whose languages she knows, and who will, in their turn, give their
scholars, together with the civilizing English language, the industrial
education that they have at the same time received, while helping in
the housekeeping and on the ranch.

And with this implied appeal to the multitudes of individuals in the
United States who, I am certain, are earnestly desirous to do something
for our Indian brothers, but do not know exactly what to do, I send
forth this pamphlet in the faith that has brought millions of dollars,
unsolicited except in prayer, to George Muller’s Orphanage in Bristol,
old England, and created the Consumptives’ Home and the asylum for
incurable cancer patients in New England.

                                                   ELIZABETH P. PEABODY.



[1] For sale by T. Y. Crowell, 13 Lafayette Place, New York.

[2] In that first lecture she offended, by her story of the conduct
of the Methodist agent Wilbur, a Methodist lady, who endeavored to
bribe her to say no more about him, by promising her hospitality and
other assistance. But Sarah was obliged to tell her she had nothing
else to tell but just such actions of agents as his. This started
an opposition against herself at once, that succeeded in making the
Woman’s Association turn a cold shoulder to her.

[3] William B. Ogden--sometimes called “King of the West,” the founder
of its capital, Chicago--was brought up near the Indians of Central New
York, and did not abandon, until the last part of his life, a plan he
formed early, to go into Congress and agitate to gather Indians into
States to be represented in Congress, to which he thought they would
give a needed predominating moral element. This opinion was formed from
long and intimate acquaintance with individual Indians, East and West,
and sympathized with by those who had it in their power to send him to
Congress. He thought to give ten years to the agitation of the subject;
but the pecuniary responsibilities for others, whose property he had
advised them to invest in Chicago, and which was imperilled by the
panics of 1837 and 1857, obliged him to put it off till death mocked
his great purpose. A great purpose must be executed in the first fervor
of its conception, or it never will be.

[4] This “vicious principle” is admirably set forth in Frederic Denison
Maurice’s “Religions of the World,” and their relation to Christianity,
which ought to be a manual for missionaries to the Indians especially,
they are so apt to forget, with the exception perhaps of Quaker
missionaries in the spirit of William Penn, that God reveals himself to
every soul of man.

[5] It may seem strange that her own people could be so influenced by
the settlers even for a time. It shows their demoralization. It was
one of Sarah’s acutest trials to find, when she went out to Nevada,
in August, 1884, how the last seven years of homelessness depriving
her people of all opportunity for family councils and the hereditary
domestic discipline, had told on their morals. She found them divided
into small squads scratching for mere bread under captains elected
for their _smartness in getting along_, instead of their goodness, as
when the fatherly chief appointed them; and that they had partially
lost their old confidence in her as their faithful “Mother,” though
she could not blame them for it, as she said she had been made the
mouthpiece of so many lying promises. The same want of confidence had
transpired temporarily in 1880, when the Indian Office failed to send
the canvas for the hundred tents to Lovelocks that it spontaneously
promised her father when they were in Washington in 1879; and the
Secretary of the Interior also failed to follow up the written order he
gave her to show her people and Agent Wilbur of Yakima. But that had
proved a transient spasm of doubt, and she had come East on her mission
in 1883, at their entreaty. She had begun to feel, however, since
commencing her school, that it would prove a rallying-point of union,
and with the exception of the interpreter and the other virtual slaves
of the agent on the Reservation, that they would be brought into unity
with her, notwithstanding the unceasing intrigues of Gibson against
her, and which were undoubtedly excited by the fact that her school was
attracting even the Piutes on the Reservation, who wanted to send to
her their children.

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