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Another Appeal for “My People”

December 3, 1879 — Platt’s Hall, San Francisco CA


An Argument

The Chinese sometimes do fearful things, and commit horrible murders, but you search for those men for two or three years until you catch them, and when they are caught you punish them. You don’t attack all the Chinese who are with you. No, you let them live with you. You take all the natives of the earth to your bosom but the poor Indian, who is born of the soil of your land and who has lived for generations on the lands which the good God has given to them, and you say he must be exterminated. The proverb says the big fish eat up the little fishes, and we Indians are the little fish and you eat us all up and drive us from home. Where can we poor Indians go, if the Government will not help us? If your people will help us, and you have good hearts, and can if you will, I will promise to educate my people and make them law-abiding citizens of the United States. It can be done — it can be done. My father, Winnemucca, pleads with you that the guilty shall be punished, but that the innocent be permitted to dwell into our midst to teach us instead of men; they would at least give us half instead of none. We want you to try us for four years, and if at the end of that time we don’t learn, or don’t work, or don’t become good citizens, then you can do what you please.

Give Us a Chance

What chances have we had? None! 

[She then spoke of the grand results obtained by Captain Smith, at Warm Springs, Washoe, where, after ten years teaching among the Flat Heads, the Indians could read, speak and reach beautiful sermons in their own tongue, and were caviled. There were other tribes, too, which were wealthy, possessed horses and carriages, and had melodeons in their houses; and why? Because they had a true Christian among them. She then praised the efforts of, and the results obtained by, the Rev. James Wilbur and the white ladies among other tribes who were now also civilized. All these roved that the Indians, especially the children, could be educated and civilized. She spoke of a camp meeting at which 62 were baptized. She appealed for the same chances for her own people, and closed with such an earnest and eloquent appeal that the house shook with applause. As she retired, she laughingly said:]

If I were to take off these things and put on tights, and a . . .  and twirl round and caper like this [imitating the ballet], you would all come to see me, but as I come to appeal for my people, you don’t care to listen to me.”



Source: Daily Alta California, December 4, 1879, 1, col. 3.


Also: The Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864-1891, ed. Cari M. Carpenter and Carolyn Sorisio (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press) 2015, pp. 99-100.