The story of “How the West Was Won” (ie. how native people were pushed into tiny corners of the North American continent or exterminated) has many unexpected elements as well as true clichés. We’ll explore one small but symbolic episode of that history in this episode, drawing (in part) on a very unusual source: the autobiography of a native woman that learned to read and write English, survived war, and became a famous speaker for her people.
For Further Awesome Reading…
This is truly “history as story” and a great place to start for people who want to get deeper into the characters and events of this episode before exploring primary sources.
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins has a controversial legacy. On the one hand, she mastered American language and culture enough to become a famous vocal advocate for her people, despite losing loved ones in war with the United States. On the other, she assisted the US Army in its war and advocated the assimilation of her people into modern American life, abandoning many of their cultural traditions in the process. Either way, this writing is a sort of Holy Grail in the history of the American West: the primary source written purely from the perspective of a native woman. If you want to know something important about this period in American history, this is essential reading.
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