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Tocmectone "Shell Flower" Winnemucca


Each week when we choose a woman to tell you about in our “Sharing Her Light” series, we focus on women who may not be well known to most of us.


Telling women’s stories is important because when unknown or forgotten altogether, we miss out on the brilliance, tenacity and wisdom that can inspire us in our own lives. Plus, by writing their stories, we honor each woman, as though bringing her into the present, and thanking her for her contributions.


Tocmectone Winnemucca, also known by her American-given names Sarah or Sally Winnemucca, was born in what is now Nevada in 1844. In addition to being an educator, lecturer and author of Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, she was also a tribal leader and peacemaker.


Tocmectone Winnemucca’s writings described the life and insights of the Northern Paiute (a North American Indian group of 17,000 hunters and gatherers who spoke the language of the Uto-Aztecan) and how the arrival of white settlers impacted them.


Much can be said about colonization in what is now the U.S., but never can we truly understand the pain of having cultures, traditions and customs torn away and discarded. Overtaking existing cultures when new settlers arrived has happened in many parts of the world--and until we understand the impact of these tragedies and cease doing it, we can never heal and evolve. Knowing the stories is one step in that direction.


Tocmectone Winnemucca, who spoke English, Spanish and her native language, suffered the loss of several family members in the many clashes between Native Americans and whites. She became a peacemaker and interpreter, and then went on to lecture in San Francisco, attracting the attention of President Rutherford B. Hayes.


Though many promises were made to have her people returned and given an allotment of land when it had been taken from them, those promises were never kept. This did not stop her and she continued on throughout her life to restore respect and freedom to her people.


We thank Tocmectone Winnemucca for her tireless efforts and hope that by sharing her story, we have brought awareness and honor to her life.

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