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Winnemucca Statue Brings Total to 99

Congressional officials dedicated the 99th piece of the National Statuary Hall Collection on Wednesday with the formal unveiling of a statue depicting Nevadan Sarah Winnemucca.

The bronze sculpture is Nevada’s second submission to the collection, in which each state is allowed to provide two statues. Only New Mexico has yet to present its second statue, but officials have commissioned a sculpture of San Juan Indian Popé.

“It is a wonderful tribute to a native Nevadan and a Native American,” Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) said during the formal ceremony in the Rotunda, where the statue will remain on display for six months before it is moved elsewhere in the Capitol.

The Winnemucca statue, crafted by artist Benjamin Victor — at 26, the youngest artist to create a work included in the collection — depicts the Northern Paiute Indian as a young woman with a book under her arm and a shell flower in her right hand.

“The statue encompasses a sense of movement in order to signify the energy that Sarah Winnemucca had throughout her life,” Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) noted on the House floor earlier this month.

Winnemucca, the eighth woman depicted in the collection, traveled the country as an advocate for American Indians during the 19th century, giving hundreds of speeches and meeting with government officials in an attempt to improve living conditions on the reservations.

During her lifetime, Winnemucca also served as an interpreter for the Army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs — she had learned five languages before her 14th birthday, including several Indian dialects, Spanish and English. During the Bannock War of 1878 in Idaho, she worked as an aide to Gen. Oliver Howard.

Winnemucca released her autobiography, “Life Among the Paiutes,” in 1883, making her the first American Indian woman to write and publish a book in English.

Later, she also established Nevada’s first school for Paiute children, near Lovelock. She died from tuberculosis Oct. 17, 1891.

“We have helped ensure her legacy lives on for generations to come,” stated Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Nevada Assemblywoman Marcia de Braga (D) spurred the movement to add Winnemucca to the Statuary Hall collection, and the state Legislature approved the measure in 2001.

The Nevada’s Women’s History Project, working with the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, led fundraising efforts for the $150,000 project. Those funds were also used to provide a copy of the statue for display in Carson City, the state capital.

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