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"I would rather be with my people, but not to live with them as they live".

Cultural Liminality and Double Consciousness in Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins's Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims

In Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (1883), Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins recalls the Paiutes' initial contact with Whites, when her Grandfather Truckee introduced the tribe to written language, his "rag-friend." To Grandfather Truckee, the "rag-friend"--a letter of commendation signed by General John Fremont documenting Chief Truckee's service in the war against Mexico--is the means to achieve his dream of community and cooperation with Whites. As Truckee relates, the "rag-friend" "can talk to all our white brothers, and our white sisters, and their children.... The paper can travel like the wind, and it can go and talk with their fathers and brothers and sisters, and come back to tell what they are doing, and whether they are well or sick."(1) It represents within his oral community the possibility for open communication that defies time, space, and cultural prejudice. Like the "rag-friend," Hopkins's autobiography intercedes between Whites and Native Americans and portrays her life liminally situated between Paiutes, Bannocks, and encroaching Anglo Americans on the frontiers.

Since both of Hopkins's parents were Paiutes, her liminality is not a function of mixed cultural ancestry but of her role in frontier politics. Hopkins worked as a translator and interpreter for military personnel and reservation agents and as a scout for the United States army during the Bannock War. After the war, she traveled to Washington DC with her father and brother and requested of Carl Schurz, the Secretary of the Interior, that he return Paiutes displaced on the Yakima Reservation to their homeland. In addition, Hopkins lectured on the East Coast to White audiences about federal Indian policies and reservation corruption. Her autobiography was written for political purposes: to inform her White audience about the injustices of the reservation system and to raise money for the impoverished Paiutes. As a newly literate member of a predominantly oral culture, Hopkins discovers that the survival of the Paiutes depends on her literacy skills. Like Grandfather Truckee, I am interested in how Hopkins's "rag-friend" talks to her White brothers and sisters. I will explore how liminality in Hopkins's frontier autobiography gives rise to double consciousness and how her double consciousness is manifested in the complex rhetorical strategies she uses to convince her White audience of the civil wrongs done to the Paiutes on the reservation, and the legal claims she makes on their behalf.

Double consciousness is the result of Hopkins's frontier, liminal existence as a translator and mediator between cultures. Annette Kolodny has proposed for literary studies a redefinition of the frontier "as a specifiable first moment on that liminal borderland between distinct cultures" and an understanding of frontier texts as "multilingual, polyvocal, and newly inter-textual and multicultural."(2) The major theorist of liminality is anthropologist Victor Turner, whose theories were inspired by Arnold van Gennep's Rites de Passage (1918) in which Gennep distinguishes between three stages in rites of passage: separation, limen, and reaggregation. According to Gennep, the individual separates from and eventually returns to the original society in a rite of passage.(3) Between separation and reaggregation, the individual occupies the limen, a realm unlike his past or future state. As Turner explains, liminal beings exist in no well defined cultural space; rather, they are "necessarily ambiguous" and can "slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space." Hence, liminal initiands are "neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial."(4) In her autobiography, Hopkins portrays her liminal existence as author, activist, and historical agent "betwixt and between" Native and encroaching Anglo American civilizations.

Turner finds that the liminal state for initiands functions critically, epistemically, and creatively. Because the liminal being is removed from the status quo, the liminal state is "potentially a period of scrutinization of the central values and axioms of the culture in which it occurs."(5) Liminality, claims Turner, incites one to "speculation and criticism" of the social structure.(6) This thesis challenged the conservatism of functionalist theories of ritual, according to Ronald Grimes: "Ritual had been portrayed as the most backward-looking, foot-dragging of cultural forms. It was hardly capable of acting on society; rather, it was a `repository' or `reflection' of it. Always it was passive, inert. Turner painted another picture, that of a cultural `agent,' energetic, subversive, creative, socially critical."(7) Liminal states are not only "subversive" and "socially critical," but according to Turner, they are "seedbeds of cultural creativity"; liminal beings experience "an instant of pure potentiality, when everything trembles in the balance."(8) On the border between cultures, Hopkins finds herself in the "pure potentiality" of the limen, scrutinizing the social milieu she confronts.

In important ways, though, Hopkins's social milieu differs from the one posited by Turner in his ritual theory. Turner's theories of rites of passage arise from his investigation of homogeneous tribes in which initiands separate from and return to the same tribal status quo. On the frontier the limen is the space between disparate, heterogeneous social orders. Native Americans experiencing the frontier return not to their homogeneous social structures but are further immersed in antistructure--conflict, chaos, and inequality--as they are incorporated into Anglo American hegemony. The frontier/limen is a zone of arbitration from which Hopkins grapples with the problems of Americanization as she separates from her original culture and faces a new culture that threatens the fate of her people. A liminal writer, Hopkins analyzes the strengths and limitations of Anglo and Paiute cultures and critiques the alternatives--that reservationism, assimilation, and allotment--her people are forced to confront.(9)

Many critics place Hopkins's narrative within the tradition of "bicultural composite composition," a term Arnold Krupat attributes to most nineteenth-century Native American autobiographies. Hopkins authored her autobiography with the guidance of her patrons, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, the famous transcendentalist, and Peabody's sister Mary Peabody Mann, the wife of the educator Horace Mann. Although Hopkins's narrative is mainly a "self-written" autobiography, Mann assisted Hopkins in editing her manuscript, and Peabody served as Hopkins's benefactor, publisher, and fund-raiser.(10) Because of this collaboration, Hopkins's narrative exists between White and Native American cultures. Krupat suggests by mirroring in their origins the meeting of cultures, bicultural compositions are the "textual equivalent of the frontier."(11)

I use the term liminal to discuss Hopkins's text because I wish to distinguish between her formal biculturalism and rhetorical liminality. Among recent studies of Native American autobiography, two main analyses of biculturalism have emerged. Some scholars consider biculturalism in terms of assimilation, tracing the development of the narrator's identity through his or her adoption of White and Native American elements.(12) Others focus on the bicultural collaboration process and the coexistence of White and Native voices in a narrative. Critics often view these voices in "contradictive relationship" or "struggling against each other to be heard."(13) One scholar finds that as Native and White voices contend, "dominant culture forms and interpretations overpower the indigenous narrative style."(14) Hence, many critics view White and Native voices in bicultural compositions as separate and distinct entities that are divided and conflicting.

Ultimately, the concept of liminality allows more cultural activity and dynamism than does biculturalism. Hopkins is not just one of two contending voices in her autobiography. As an ambiguous subject, she incorporates White and Native voices and sets them in dialogue with each other. James Ruppert has remarked that much criticism from the 1970s written about Native American literature focuses on "the agony of native peoples existing between two worlds."(15) More than agonizing, Hopkins finds rhetorically powerful her position between cultures, from which she functions as a politically savvy mediator.

Hopkins's dialogic manipulation of Native American and White perspectives is a manifestation of her double consciousness. Analyzing the psychic predicament of African descendants in America, W. E. B. DuBois develops the concept of double consciousness; however, his concept is also applicable to Native Americans. Double consciousness, he asserts, is the African American's legacy from the "American world--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world." Given the multiple liminal contexts through which the autobiography is constructed, Hopkins constantly confronts the "revelation[s]" of two (or more) worlds. Double consciousness, which allows one to "see himself through the revelation of the other world," is a state of psychosocial oppression, the experience of "two warring ideals in one dark body." This notion is reminiscent of the divided, contradicting voices in the bicultural composition. But, as DuBois maintains, double consciousness is also a "gift" of "second-sight in this American world," one that necessarily provides access to the dominant White consciousness.(16) As a result, double consciousness may occasion manipulating, conversing with, or signifying on the dominant order. For example, the genre of autoethnography, as defined by Mary Louise Pratt, presupposes double consciousness, since "autoethnographic texts are those the others construct in response to or in dialogue with" European ethnographic representations of subjugated others.(17)

Henry Louis Gates's theory of signifying suggests strategies of response or dialogue, ways in which discursive "double-voicedness" can be an empowering exploitation of double consciousness. Signifying is a type of verbal play in which authors adopt the forms and/or themes of other discourses and then revise those discourses. Building on Bakhtin's theory of double-voiced discourses, Gates defines two forms of signifying: parody and hidden polemic. In parody the author employs the speech act of another, strips it of its original intention, and invests it with an opposite meaning so that the original speech act serves different aims. In hidden polemic the writer's speech act alludes to and is crafted into a polemical attack against an outside speech act.(18) Viewing herself through "the revelation of the other world," Hopkins employs parody and hidden polemic to transform double consciousness into empowered double-voicedness.

By applying the concept of double consciousness to a non-African American writer, I do not seek to essentialize the experience of all non-White Americans. An author's double consciousness is not a static phenomenon; rather, it manifests itself in particular ways depending on the author, text, and context. Hopkins's double consciousness arises from her position as translator on the frontier and is exhibited in her simultaneous cultural attraction to Whites and her moral quest to help the beleaguered Paiutes. Yet she is also cognizant of the ways in which Whites view Native Americans, and she uses that insight into the White psyche rhetorically, to persuade her audience. It goes without saying that an author's intentionality can never be proven; in Hopkins's case the issue of intentionality is even more complicated by the fact that the narrative is a bicultural collaboration, and Hopkins, at times, treats her subject matter with unconscious irony.(19) Nevertheless, I will argue that Hopkins is aware of how Whites view Paiutes, and she often consciously critiques and rejects some of the same White stereotypes of Native Americans that she and her family exploit in the tableaux vivants they performed for a White audience. Hopkins uses hidden polemic and parody throughout the narrative as she deftly creates a double-voiced text to attract her audience to her cause. In manipulating her double consciousness, Hopkins critiques White and Native American frontier relations and suggests alternatives to reservationism, including allotment and assimilation. Although assimilation usually anticipates the conquest of "savagery" by "civilization," Hopkins redefines assimilation to preserve the frontier by sustaining contact between cultures.

Because the Paiutes were threatened with starvation and poverty on the reservation, Hopkins advocates allowing the military control of allocating government rations to the Paiutes, granting the tribe allotment in severalty, and bestowing on them rights as citizens. Hence, the autobiography is centered more on depicting tribal life than on rendering Hopkins's personal and individual life. In part the communal focus of the text is a function of Hopkins's political agenda, but also autobiography was not a literary form indigenous to Native American culture. In her eight chapters of narrative, Hopkins unfolds the story of a communal life. The autobiography begins with the fearful and comprehending child Sarah recounting the initial contact between Paiutes and Whites. The adult Hopkins narrates the rest of the autobiography in which she describes Paiute culture as a civilization; discusses the difficulties and wasted possibilities of the reservation system; and details the climactic Bannock War and its aftermath, including the transfer of some of her people away from tribal lands and onto Yakima Reservation. In addition, the autobiography contains an editor's preface and appendix of validating letters.

Both the content and the context of the autobiography reveal Hopkins's difficulty finding a voice with which to write and to speak. Her collaboration with Mann and Peabody makes the issue of the speaking subject problematic, and at the same time assures the very existence of the autobiography. Although Mann downplays her editorial role in Hopkins's manuscript, it is wrong to assume narrative authenticity in a bicultural collaboration, as many scholars have pointed out. In the book's preface, Mann asserts that the extent of her editing has been "copying the original manuscript in correct orthography and punctuation, with occasional emendations by the author" (editor's preface). Mann justifies her lack of editorial intrusion in the name of preserving authenticity: "In fighting with her literary deficiencies [Hopkins] loses some of the fervid eloquence which her extraordinary colloquial command of the English language enables her to utter, but I am confident that no one would desire that her own original words should be altered." Ironically, that the text is Hopkins's "own original words" is moot even before one considers Mann's assistance. If the writer of autobiography fashions "her life and its cultural context through language,"(20) in writing about Paiute life in English, Hopkins already loses much of the cultural context that her own words, her native language, would embody. At the same time, the speaking subject is understood to be the creation of Hopkins and her collaborators.

While bicultural collaboration necessarily compromises the authenticity of the autobiographical subject, Mann and Peabody were responsible for establishing the narrator's reliability. Given Hopkins's dispute with The Council Fire and Arbitrator, the newspaper for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mann and Peabody insisted that Hopkins include an appendix of validating letters in her autobiography.(21) These letters, written by various military personnel, attest to her good character and verify and compliment her performance as scout, guide, interpreter, and mediator during the Bannock War. Also, in order to prove her identity, she includes the letter appointing her as interpreter for the Paiutes at the Malheur Reservation, as well as one requesting descriptions of Paiute ceremonies, and another congratulating her on her marriage. A number of letters document the Paiutes' escape from Yakima Reservation and issue orders for the military to bring them back. The appendix ends with editorials from the Boston Transcript and the Silver State defending Hopkins's character in light of the libelous accusations made against her by The Council Fire and Arbitrator.

Hopkins incited a quarrel with The Council Fire and Arbitrator when she traveled to Washington to complain about reservation corruption and to argue for the transfer of power on the reservation from the agents to the military.(22) Because Hopkins argued for a military reservation agency, The Council Fire and Arbitrator attacked her by publishing affidavits that Hopkins's nemesis, agent W. V. Rinehart, had collected against her when she complained in Washington about his treatment of the Paiutes. These documents accused her of dishonesty and wanton conduct with officers.(23) As a defense against the Indian Bureau's libelous publication, Mann and Peabody encouraged Hopkins to include the appendix of valorizing letters in her book. While The Council Fire and Arbitrator stereotypes Hopkins as a lascivious "squaw," Mann and Peabody recoup her character (and, undoubtedly, shield themselves from social reproach) by using the letters--written mainly by military personnel--to filter Hopkins's tarnished image through the prism of polite, White society. As a result, her subjectivity is constructed by crediting and discrediting agencies.

Hopkins's difficulty in finding a voice with which to write mirrors her dramatized struggle as translator to reclaim her personal and individual voice. Her bilingual utterance itself embraces the limen because in and with her voice she mediates between Native and Anglo American cultures. As Hopkins shows herself to be less a facilitator than a destroyer of communication, her self-portrayal echoes her depiction of the "half-breed" mediator.

In the nineteenth century, Whites responded to "half-breeds" mainly with ambivalence. Some viewed the half-breed as a "tragic figure, a marginal person caught between two cultures and often rejected by both." The more liberal minded saw in half-breeds the possibility for an "integrated society."(24) To many, half-breeds were outsiders, receiving neither social position nor respect from either culture to which they belonged.(25) One of the traditional, racist myths about them is that because of biological intermixing, half-breeds suffer from "blood poisoning" that manifests itself in "physical deterioration ... mental inferiority ... immorality and cultural degeneracy."(26) Hopkins ironically echoes this ideology when she comments about half-breed interpreters in general who "easily get corrupted, and can be hired by the agents to do or say anything.... My people are very reasonable and want to understand everything, and be sure that there is fair play" (p. 91).

With unconscious irony, Hopkins in her self-depiction likens herself to the half-breed interpreter whose words cannot be trusted and who threatens standards of fair play. Hopkins's self-association with half-breed interpreters arises because the United States Government uses her voice to transmit lies to the Paiutes. After the Bannock War, the soldiers renege on an agreement to return her people to Malheur Reservation, and they direct Hopkins to inform the Paiutes that they must move away from their sacred homeland to Yakima Reservation. However, she has already assured them that the soldiers would prevent their being sent away. Hopkins then worries that the Paiutes "will say [she and her cousin Mattie] are working against them and are getting money for all this" (p. 204). In another instance, Hopkins guides her people to Lovelocks to collect tents promised them by the government, only to learn that instead they must journey to Malheur Reservation in waist-high snow. Again she fears that rather than viewing her as the government's pawn, her people will accuse her of deception and trickery. When the Paiutes denounce her for earning money by betraying them, her reply articulates the dilemma of the linguistic half-breed: "You have a right to say I have sold you. It looks so. I have told you many things which are not my own words, but the words of the agents and the soldiers. I know I have told you more lies than I have hair on my head. I tell you, my dear children, I have never told you my own words; they were the words of the white people, not mine" (p. 236). Although she is paid by the United States Government to speak on its behalf to Paiutes, her purpose as author of the autobiography and actor in its plot is to agitate for Paiute tribal rights. However, her people are suspicious of her supposed loyalty to them because she is linguistically of both nations. Hopkins struggles to dissociate "the words of the white people" from her own, and to extricate herself from the White nation. By repeating "I have told you" (as opposed to "I said"), Hopkins suggests that she is relating tales to them rather than partaking in genuine self-expression. Yet her people consider any incongruity between her words and government actions as corruption on her part. Moral degeneracy, then, is implied of the bilingual as it is of the biological half-breed. Her acting as translator results in the distortion of her voice: Hopkins cannot disengage herself from the false language forced upon her by the White government.

As a translator of the Paiute language to Whites, Hopkins uses her bilingualism to enact her resistance to the reservation system. The requirement that she speak for Whites and not to them is implicit in her role as interpreter for the United States Government. When she accompanies Chief Egan and Chief Oytes to Camp Harney to report to the soldiers the physical and economic abuses suffered by the Paiutes at the hands of Agent Rinehart, Rinehart quickly dismisses her from her duties as interpreter (p. 142). In another instance, she travels to Washington to state her complaints to Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz, the liberal reformer who rejected reservation concentration and supported allotment and assimilation for Native Americans. When Hopkins alerts Schurz to the unscrupulous Agent Rinehart and the displaced Paiutes' desire to return to their homeland, Malheur Reservation, he promises: "The government is going to do right by your people now. Don't lecture now; go home and get your people on the reservation--get them located properly; and then, if you want to come back, write to us, and tell us you want to come back and lecture, and we will pay your way here and back again" (p. 221). Early in the narrative Hopkins portrays the promise of Grandfather Truckee's "rag-friend," the hope that the written word will bring about communication and compromise between Whites and Paiutes. However, Schurz fails to fulfill his promise to remove Agent Rinehart from Malheur Reservation, and Hopkins learns the limitations of the written word as Schurz offers "in writing, promises which, like the wind, we heard no more" (p. 221). In turn, Schurz reveals his fear of Hopkins's voice of resistance and his dire need to silence it.(27) In a statement in the appendix, Hopkins muses: "It is true that my people sometimes distrust me, but that is because words have been put into my mouth which have turned out to be nothing but idle wind. Promises have been made to me in high places that have not been kept and I have had to suffer for this in the loss of my people's confidence" (p. 258). As a bilingual, Hopkins is a threat to both nations for whom she translates. In the context of frontier intercultural relations, Hopkins unfolds her growing awareness that language, rather than being concrete and binding, is malleable, insubstantial, and as transitory as the "idle wind."

Because her voice of resistance could not be silenced, and Hopkins continued to lecture on Native American abuses and rights, The Council Fire and Arbitrator represents Hopkins as a degenerate, uncreditable, half-breed squaw. One article charges that Hopkins "is so notorious for her untruthfulness as to be wholly unreliable. She is known ... to have been a common camp follower, consorting with common soldiers. It is a great outrage on the respectable people of Boston for General Howard or any other officer of the army to foist such a woman of any race upon them."(28) Ironically, not only as a translator to Paiutes but as a speaker to Whites, Hopkins is accused of deceiving her audience.(29) Both her image as a linguistic half-breed and as a lascivious squaw threaten to render Hopkins silent by discrediting her words as falsehoods. In his work on slave narratives, Robert Stepto observes that silence and self-effacement are also the fate of the slave narrator who is removed from the "primary authenticating documents and strategy" within his own text. Such a removal "weakens his control of the narrative and ... relegates him to a posture of partial literacy."(30) However, Hopkins's voice intercedes in the appendix to control the reader's perceptions of the validating documents. In the midst of all the letters, Hopkins interjects a personal statement in which she laments, "Every one knows what a woman must suffer who undertakes to act against bad men. My reputation has been assailed, and it is done so cunningly that I cannot prove it to be unjust"; and she maintains, "It is true that my people sometimes distrust me, but that is because words have been put into my mouth which have turned out to be nothing but idle wind" (p. 258). The authenticating mechanism does not aim to weaken her control of her voice and assign her to partial literacy; rather, the letters seek to reverse the damage done by extraliterary sources like The Council Fire and Arbitrator and by political enemies like Agent Rinehart. Mann's and Peabody's suggestion that she create an appendix of vindicating letters in her book represents their effort to reempower by validating her voice. While Hopkins struggles to be heard even as her voice is compromised, the letters reclaim and consolidate that voice.

Though variously mediated, the voice Hopkins attains is politically astute within a complex rhetorical context. As Hopkins writes to an audience that is neither herself nor of her tribe, she translates her Native American culture to accommodate the understanding of a non-Native audience.(31) As a Paiute activist, she must petition an audience with doubts about her cause, harboring their own fears and prejudices about Native Americans. In addition, her purpose is not benignly to inform; rather, in an effort to rescue her tribe from destruction, she seeks to persuade her White audience that Paiutes are mistreated by Whites on the frontier. Her autobiography ends with a note from Mann asking patrons to sign a petition to Congress on behalf of the Paiutes, as well as to reproduce and disseminate the petition to others "in the hope that it will help to shape aright the new Indian policy" (p. 247). The petition foreshadows the General Allotment Act in requesting that the displaced Paiutes be returned to their homeland, that the head of each family be given individual parcels of tribal land to cultivate, and that the annuities granted to the tribe by the government be disbursed by the military.(32) The politically conflicted Hopkins is faced with the challenge of finessing the prejudices of her audience and obtaining their support for her cause.

In order to accomplish both of these aims, Hopkins employs double consciousness as a tool. In an interview from 1870, she makes a personal disclosure: "I like the Indian life tolerably well; however, my only object in staying with these people is that I may do them good. I would rather be with my people, but not to live with them as they live. I was not raised so; ... my happiest life has been spent in Santa Clara while at school and living among the whites."(33) The double consciousness that pervades Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims reverberates in this quote: Morally and politically Hopkins sides with her people as she advocates their cause; culturally, however, she prefers many Anglo American customs.(34)

Hopkins appeals to Anglo-American culture by espousing an assimilationist philosophy, rather than a nationalist one. For instance, she draws on a Paiute origin story as a tribal precedent to sanction her attraction to White culture. Subverting the stereotype of Native Americans as bloodthirsty savages reveling in the massacre of Whites--a stereotype that implies they are as informed by the ideology of otherness as Whites--Hopkins describes her Grandfather Truckee's excitement about the first contact with Whites. As Chief of the Paiutes, Truckee communicates his hopes to the tribe by recounting an origin story about the first woman and man and their four children--a dark boy and girl, and a light boy and girl. The four children quarrel incessantly until their parents finally send the light children across the sea. Believing the Whites have come to "heal all the old trouble" (p. 7), Truckee trusts that the frontier meeting will rectify the tragedy in the origin story. He declares to his people, "I want to love them as I love all of you" (p. 7). Perhaps this is an example of what Jarold Ramsay calls "conservatism": "the tendency of myth, when it is still an active mediating force in peoples' lives, to imaginatively transform `real events,' no matter how strange, according to its system, so that the people can assimilate such events, and `believe' in them."(35) The tale prescribes early in the autobiography the tribe's commitment--one deeply embedded in the mythic structure of their culture--to reunion and cooperation with their long-lost White brothers and sisters. Ironically, what instead occurs in the narrative is another enforced separation of Whites and Native Americans by the reservation system whose administrators, like the first man and woman, hold that segregation is the means of ending interracial violence between Paiutes and Whites.

Hopkins's double consciousness is exhibited not only in her concomitant attraction and repulsion from Anglo culture but also in her ability to see herself "through the revelation of the other world." But is Hopkins aware of her "gift of second sight"? And to what extent are Hopkins's rhetorical strategies deliberate? The chapter "Domestic and Social Moralities" reveals that Hopkins is keenly aware of how Whites view Native Americans. In the midst of that chapter depicting Paiute culture, character, and relationships, she laments: "But the whites have not waited to find out how good the Indians were, and what ideas they had of God, just like those of Jesus" (p. 51). Hopkins expresses her realization that Whites have not taken time to understand Native American values, which Hopkins likens to Christian beliefs. She complains of the government's crop of reservation agents: "the government does not take care to send the good men" who "would take pains to see and understand the chiefs and learn their characters, and their good will to whites" (p. 51). Hopkins reveals that the images that Whites have of Native Americans are mistaken, and she blames the misunderstanding on the government, which fails to send good men as emissaries to the frontier.

Aware that Whites misjudge Paiute people and culture, Hopkins makes her chapter on "Domestic and Social Moralities" a commentary on stereotypical representations of Paiutes by Whites. In a footnote, Mary Mann quotes Indian rights activist William B. Ogden as stating that "it was the stereotyped lie of the fur-traders ... that they [Native Americans] could not be civilized" (p. 52). In direct response to "stereotyped lies," Hopkins explains: "There is nothing cruel about our people. They never scalped a human being" (p. 54). And "the Piutes, and other tribes west of the Rocky Mountains, are not fond of going to war. I never saw a war dance but once. It is always the whites that begin the wars, for their own selfish purposes" (p. 51). Hence, Hopkins uses her double consciousness to enlighten her White audience and correct their misconceptions and prejudices about Paiutes.

Interestingly, even before she wrote her autobiography, Hopkins, her father, and her sister Elma exploited their double consciousness and drew on stereotyped representations in performing tableaux vivants for White audiences. As a female acquaintance of the Paiutes wrote in an editorial, their "object in so doing is to raise money to buy food and blankets for his people." The stage show was shaped to entertain, not to depict the reality of Paiute life.(36) The tableaux vivants indicate that the Winnemuccas were cognizant of their White audience's assumptions regarding Native Americans and used that knowledge to create profitable entertainment.

Prior to the tableaux vivants, the Winnemuccas would appear on the street as "Indian royalty." Chief Winnemucca wore a "crown of feathers and on his shoulders brass epaulets," symbols of his martial and ruling powers. Sarah rode beside and Elma behind him on his horse. His entourage of braves held a red, white, and blue crescent over his head. The royal family and their braves made a grand entrance into the theater hall where they held the actual performance. The tableaux vivants consisted of "The Indian Camp," "The Message of War," "The War Council," "The War Dance," "The Capture of a Bannock Spy," "Scalping the Prisoner," "Grand Scalp Dance," "Scalping of an Emigrant Girl by a Bannock Scout," "The Wounded Warrior," "The Coyote Dance," and five scenarios portraying Pocahontas saving John Smith's life. The show ended with a speech by Chief Winnemucca, delivered in his native tongue, and translated by Sarah.(37)

The tableaux vivants of the Winnemucca troupe reproduced the images of the "noble" and "primitive" savages inherent in nineteenth-century racial ideology. On the one hand, they replicated the noble savage in the royal Winnemuccas and in their dramatization of the story of the most legendary American "noble savage," Pocahontas. Of course, Pocahontas was not a Paiute, and so the inclusion of her story in the performance betrays an overt rhetorical and ideological purpose. Pocahontas, John Smith relates, laid her head over his to prevent her father's men from smashing his skull. As the legend goes, she then befriended him and taught him the secrets of the wilderness. When he rejected her love, she converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe. There is no way of knowing how much of the legend the Winnemucca troupe dramatized, but it does depict, consistent with Hopkins's agenda, the assimilability of the Native Americans and their peaceful coexistence with Whites in the New World.

On the other hand, the tableaux vivants depict "primitive savages" by portraying warfare and scalping as definitive cultural activities. In other words, the Winnemuccas exploited the very racial ideologies that threatened the extinction of Native Americans in order to earn money to sustain their dying tribe. As I have shown, Hopkins later repudiates the stereotype of scalping and warlike Indians in her autobiography. Throughout her autobiography, Hopkins taps into Anglo images of Native America and signifies on them through hidden polemic and parody.(38) The goal of signification for Hopkins is to undermine the current reservation system--ironically, a system intended, at its origin, to prevent the extinction of tribes--and impede the impoverishment and physical devastation of tribes on the reservations.

For example, by evoking in a story the opposition between White "civilizers" and Native American "cannibals," Hopkins signifies on categories of difference. As Grandfather Truckee makes the origin story of the light and dark races speak to Paiutes, Hopkins makes the Paiute historical narrative speak to Whites. Through hidden polemic, she justifies Native Americans' assimilation into white culture and institutes guidelines for managing interracial violence. As Hopkins relates, "many hundred years ago," when a group of barbarians lived near them along the Humboldt River, Paiutes were forced to become "Say-do-carah," "conqueror" or "enemy" (p. 75). These barbarians would capture, kill, and eat their foes, as well as exhume and then eat their own dead. Although the Paiutes were intolerant of these barbarous cultural practices, instead of immediately attacking the enemy, they "took some of them into their own families, but they could not make them like themselves" (p. 74). Consequently, the Paiutes made war on them for three years and killed many of the cannibal tribe. Hopkins explains, "My people would ask them if they would be like us, and not eat people like coyotes or beasts ... but they would not give up" (p. 74). Ultimately, the Paiutes conquered and killed the entire tribe.(39)

Hopkins's polemic is shaped as she echoes, though with qualifications, the imperialist ideology of European colonizers. First, the "civilized" conquerors demand cultural assimilation by the "barbarous" tribe. Should they refuse to accommodate to more "civilized" ways, then tribal genocide, the story suggests, is both necessary and justified. The implied difference between Paiute and Anglo conquerors is that Paiutes offered the barbarian tribe an opportunity to assimilate before killing them. Insinuating that the Anglo conquerors should offer the Paiutes the same opportunity, Hopkins seeks to ensure their survival on the frontier.

However, her autobiography criticizes the fact that while Paiutes continually accept White cultural practices, they are systematically denied the opportunity to assimilate. At one time, they are managed by an ethical reservation agent, Sam Parrish, who teaches farming, carpentry, and blacksmithing to the adults, and educates the youth in a White school. Parrish professes to the tribe, "I want to teach you all to do like white people" (p. 107). Hopkins describes how all but the belligerent villain Oytes cooperate with Parrish and, as a result, enjoy communal productivity and material plenty. To the reader Hopkins insists that it will not take "two or three generations to civilize my people" (p. 89). She advises her audience to "take interest in teaching us" and stop "sending us such agents ... who do nothing but fill their pockets" (p. 89). On behalf of her people, she invites Whites to "teach" and "civilize" her tribe. Using Agent Parrish as a model of the ideal "civilizer," she supports the institution of an agency system that is administered justly.

Conversely, Hopkins's central political critique is that most agents deny the naturally cooperative Paiutes fair and just chances to accommodate White culture. Instead, they are victims of the laissez-faire ideals of the American government and the self-interest of the reservation agents. Historically, through the reservation system, the American government nominally enjoined the assimilation of Native Americans by educating them, issuing the clothing of White culture, and instructing them in industries like farming.(40) Yet situated emotionally and geographically distant from the frontier, the government did little to enforce the administration of these goals by reservation agents. While mandatory and enforced assimilation is an abuse in itself, Hopkins intimates that in guaranteeing the physical survival of her people, it is less pernicious than the treatment the Paiutes suffer from White frontier groups with interests that preclude the "civilization" of tribes. In the autobiography she incisively depicts how the agents' self-interest would inevitably result in the extermination of the Paiutes.

Agent Parrish's successor on Malheur Reservation, Agent Rinehart, is a tyrannous master who seeks to exploit rather than assimilate the Native Americans. Under his administration, the Paiutes' relationship to the land is radically altered. Rinehart informs them, "This land which you are living on is government land. If you do well and are willing to work for government, government will give you work. Yes, government will do more than that. It will pay you one dollar per day; both men and women will get the same" (p. 124). Officially, the policy concerning land ownership on reservations was ambiguous at the time of Hopkins's writing. In the Trade and Intercourse Acts passed between 1790 and 1834, the government set aside for tribes certain lands that were off limits to Whites, shaped a detailed definition of "Indian country," and granted the president powers to prohibit when necessary the sale of liquor on reservations.(41) Yet the various tribes were not given title to reservation lands. Agent Parrish liberally accords the Paiutes "ownership" of the reservation. He tells them, "The reservation is all yours. The government has given it all to you and your children" (p. 106). Through Agent Parrish's successful governing of the reservation, Hopkins illustrates the potential triumphs of allotment.

In contrast, under Rinehart's rule, the Paiutes are no longer landowners but dispossessed, underpaid government "wards." Rinehart not only controls the yield of the land but the cash flow on the reservation. He reneges on his agreement to pay them a dollar a day and instead offers them their salary in overpriced government rations which he is supposed to issue freely. Further, he thwarts the Paiutes' plan to buy rations at cheaper prices from the soldier's store by refusing to grant them any cash. In this way Rinehart contains the wealth on the reservation and financially prospers while the Paiutes are deprived of clothing, food, and blankets.

Given the mercenary behavior of reservation agents, the ideology of otherness that is implicit in Whites' conception of the "savage, red man," and the greed for land on the part of frontiersmen, any efforts to convert tribes to White culture and values were doomed to failure.(42) However, contrary to Hopkins's account, Paiutes may have actively resisted assimilation to White culture. Two contemporary ethnohistorians, Martha C. Knack and Omer C. Stewart, maintain that the Paiutes "refused to accept wholesale the values which Anglos sought to impose upon them," and explain how they circumvented the intrusions of Whites into their culture. Paiutes were gatherers who traveled widely in the northwest region of the United States, searching for fish, wild game, and plants. Their mobility threatened Whites, who consequently instituted the agency system to contain threats of violence by converting them to Anglo ways--educating them in White schools, teaching them how to farm, etc. Paiutes, however, used cash not to make purchases at White trading posts, but to gamble, which had been a part of their culture for thousands of years. Also, when Whites tried to enforce individualism as a value by instructing Paiutes to work for personal gain, they resorted instead to their communal economy.(43)

Whether the Paiutes as a tribe supported assimilation or not, Hopkins apparently did. Krupat asserts that Hopkins's autobiography is synecdochic because through the "collective experience" of the tribe the reader comes to understand her life; I find that through her subjectivity Hopkins filters tribal and frontier politics.(44) Although Hopkins emerges as an empowered spokesperson for her tribe, the apparent ease with which she relinquishes her culture is disconcerting. Still, for Hopkins the physical survival of the Paiutes is of immediate importance.

A case in point illustrating the importance for Hopkins of physical survival is her explanation of the Bannock War. Some historical accounts attribute the war to Native Americans' growing frustration over White encroachment.(45) Supposedly, Native American tensions rose when American settlers allowed their livestock to feed on camas roots, a major staple of local tribes' diets. An implication, then, is that the war originated over issues of cultural power: Native Americans, refusing to adopt White food customs, incited the war.

Although this explanation speaks to the ethnocentrism of Whites, Hopkins attributes the Bannock War to a far more insidious cause. She narrates that two Bannocks "got drunk and went and shot two white men. One of the Indians had a sister out digging some roots, and these white men went to the women who were digging, and caught this poor girl, and used her shamefully. The other women ran away and left this girl to the mercy of those white men, and it was on her account that her brother went and shot them" (p. 139). By inverting cause and effect in this passage, Hopkins challenges any prejudiced assumptions of her readers. Exploiting her awareness of a familiar stereotype, she first presents the reader with the image of an uncontrollable, drunken "Indian" killing two White men. She then jolts the reader when she assigns a cause to this behavior--the two Bannocks were avenging the rape of a tribeswoman. To Hopkins, then, the real drama of the frontier for Native Americans is the struggle not for cultural integrity, but for physical survival.

But to what extent did Hopkins perceive assimilation to be a threat to Paiute cultural integrity? Did assimilation connote detribalization for Hopkins? On the one hand, she is seemingly resigned to the conventional theme of western autobiography, the conquest of the "savage" by the "civilized."(46) On the other, she is ambivalent as she disparages and critiques the White civilization to which she seeks admission. Double consciousness reveals to Hopkins the image of "Indians" as "savages," but rather than accepting such representations, she responds to and revises them through parody. By decolonizing the terms "savage" and "civilized" and investing them with her own meaning, Hopkins challenges nineteenth-century ideology, which sought to "prove savagism, progress, and the manifest destiny of American civilization" and dismantles the argument that "savage life and civilized life are realms apart."(47) For example, she divorces signifier from signified when she declares, "It is the way we savages do when we meet each other; we cry with joy and gladness" (p. 101); and "Although we are savages, we love one another as well as the fairest of the land" (p. 129). Coyly, she recognizes her people as "savage" but then enacts resistance to that signifier by imbuing it with another meaning--joyful, humane, and loving. In so doing she calls into question cultural binaries that reduce groups to stereotypes.

Another rhetorical strategy Hopkins uses to dismantle the category of "civilized" is the irony of repetition. She relates to the reader her complaint to the soldiers about Agent Rinehart who confiscates Paiute land, starves the Paiute people, and withholds government rations.
   We told the commanding officer everything about our Christian agent's
   doings, and he told me to write to Washington, and he would do the same. I
   did as I was told; and when I had written it all the head men of my people
   signed it, and then our Christian agent discharged me from my office as
   interpreter .... My cousin, Jarry, had not spoken to me all that time, and
   I too went away, and had to leave my stove, for which I had given fifty
   dollars. Mr. Reinhard [sic] used it all the time, for which I tried to get
   paid; but I had to lose it, because he was a Christian man. (p. 135)

Three times Hopkins repeats "Christian" to describe Rinehart; each time the signifier becomes more ludicrous, more distant from the signified. As with the term "savage," "civilized" is emptied of its standard meaning and, instead, signifies its antithesis--thieving, self-serving, abusive, dishonest. Ironically, while in her narrative Hopkins anticipates the triumph of White over Native American cultures, she does not envision the victory of civilization over savagery.

As she closes the space between savagery and civilization, she keeps open the possibility for continued contact between Anglo and Native American frontier cultures. If "savage" and "civilized" are not oppositional signifiers, then assimilation to White customs does not necessarily demand the destruction of tribal ways. Ultimately, Hopkins is not a radical assimilationist seeking detribalization in an effort to bring about cultural melting. She extols Paiute traditions, offering parallels between Paiute and Anglo culture: "We have a republic as well as you. The council-tent is our Congress." (p. 53). Hopkins also fought to send the displaced Paiutes back to their ancestral lands from the Yakima Reservation, and she opposed Native American boarding schools administered by Whites. Her language implies that assimilation would not necessarily obliterate Native American culture, because Native and Anglo America share commonalities. Further, in deconstructing "savage" and "civilized," she carves out a safe haven for her people; if her White audience can cease viewing her people as "savage," they can empathize with the abuses they suffer. From the position of mutual empathy, constructive intercultural contact may occur.

Rather than being agonized by her double consciousness, Hopkins uses it to finesse her audience. Liminally situated between Paiute and Anglo cultures, she "engage[s] with the colonizer's own terms"(48) in her autobiography through such double voiced strategies as parody and hidden polemic. Skillfully manipulating those techniques, she signifies upon stereotypes of Native Americans to modify and rebuild their image. Hopkins exploits the "pure potentiality" of the limen when she seeks to salvage Paiute culture by preventing the reservation system from destroying the tribe and by redefining assimilation to preserve the frontier, the border where cultures meet. Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims reveals that cultural liminality is implicit in the frontier experience, and double consciousness in its various manifestations defines the subjectivity of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins as she writes from the borderlands.


(1.) Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims (Bishop, CA: Sierra Media, 1969), 19. All subsequent references to this work will be cited parenthetically within the text.

(2.) Annette Kolodny, "Letting Go Our Grand Obsessions: Notes toward a New Literary History of the Frontiers," American Literature 64 (1992): 11-12.

(3.) Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage, trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960), 11; Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1969), 94-95.

(4.) Turner, Ritual Process, 95.

(5.) Ibid., 167.

(6.) Victor Turner, From Ritual to Theatre.. The Human Seriousness of Play (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982), 47.

(7.) Ronald L. Grimes, "Victor Turner's Definition, Theory, and Sense of Ritual," in Victor Turner and the Construction of Cultural Criticism, ed. Kathleen Ashley (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990), 144.

(8.) Turner, Ritual Process, 128.

(9.) While Turner's ritual process is most often applied to individuals who undergo a transformation within a culture, Turner himself socializes and historicizes rites of passage when he asserts that there are "phases of history that are in many respects `homologous' to the liminal periods of important rituals in stable and repetitive societies, when major groups or social categories in those societies are passing from one cultural state to another." Ibid., 112.

(10.) Arnold Krupat, Ethnocriticism (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1992), 219; Kathleen Mullen Sands, "Indian Women's Personal Narrative: Voices Past and Present," in American Women's Autobiograpby: Fea(s)ts of Memory, ed. Margo Culley (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 272.

(11.) Arnold Krupat, For Those Who Come After. A Study of Native American Autobiography (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985), 31, 33.

(12.) Ruoff explores biculturalism in John Joseph Mathews's Talking to the Moon, arguing that for its form and content the text draws on Thoreau's Walden and John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra, as well as Osage traditions and history. See A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, "John Joseph Mathews's Talking to the Moon: Literary and Osage Contexts," in Multicultural Autobiography: American Lives, ed. Robert Payne (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1992), 1-31.

(13.) Bernd C. Peyer, "Autobiographical Works Written by Native Americans," Amerikastudien 26 (1981): 390; David Murray, Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing, and Representation in North American Indian Texts (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1991), 69.

(14.) Sands, 271.

(15.) James Ruppert, Mediation in Contemporary Native American Fiction (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1995), vii.

(16.) W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968), 3.

(17.) Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York: Routledge, 1992), 7.

(18.) Henry Louis Gates, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 51.

(19.) Rather than use the more unwieldy phrase "Hopkins and her collaborators," I will refer to the author as "Hopkins" throughout this essay.

(20.) Sands, 271.

(21.) Gae Whitney Canfield, Sarah Winnemucca of the Northern Paiutes (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1983), 204.

(22.) President Ulysses S. Grant wanted to place the army in charge of reservations in 1871 after he dismantled the treaty system. He reasoned that commissioned army agents would not be swayed by politics but are bound by military honor, which places the good of the nation foremost in their minds. Military agents, according to Grant, would create peace and restore integrity to dealings with Native Americans. In 1870 Congress prohibited employing army officers as agents and, instead, supported the "Quaker Policy." The Quakers advocated having Christian sects nominate good men for the posts as agents. See Brian Dippie, The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1982), 145-47.

(23.) Canfield, 204.

(24.) Dippie, 262.

(25.) Edward Byron Reuter, The Mulatto in the United States (New York: Haskell House Publishers, 1969), 328.

(26.) James Davis, Who Is Black? (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1991), 25.

(27.) Far from being permanently perturbed by Schurz's rebuff, Hopkins lectured extensively not only in San Francisco, but also in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. For information on Hopkins's career as a lecturer, see Canfield, chaps. 15 and 19.

(28.) Quoted in Canfield, 204.

(29.) My point here is not to arbitrate the debate between Hopkins and The Council Fire and Arbitrator. Instead, I wish to focus on The Council Fire and Arbitrator's use of the argumentum ad bominem and Hopkins's strategies to undermine the paper's arguments against her.

(30.) Robert B. Stepto, From behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1979), 10.

(31.) Hertha D. Wong, "Pre-Literate Native American Autobiography: Forms of Personal Narrative," MELUS 14 (Spring 1987): 9.

(32.) Canfield, 214. In 1884 Hopkins appeared with her petition before a senate subcommittee, chaired by Senator Henry L. Dawes, the creator of the General Allotment Act. A bill was passed to give the Paiutes land in severalty in Camp McDermitt. However, General Sheridan countermanded the decision and, instead, Leggin's and Winnemucca's bands received 160 acres for each head of the family at Pyramid Lake. The Paiutes regarded this a loss because they already nominally owned land on Pyramid Lake and many foreigners were settled there on the choice lands. They feared that there was not room enough for 500 displaced Paiutes on Pyramid Lake.

(33.) Quoted in Canfield, 65.

(34.) Hopkins was exposed to the White culture from a young age. She attended a White convent school until the parents of some of the students complained about their daughters being educated with Indians. In Life Among the Piutes, she claims to have attended the San Jose school for only three weeks. In an 1873 interview, however, she maintains that she attended the Convent of Notre Dame in San Jose for three years. She also relates that she lived with a Mrs. Roach of Stockton at one time. Further, as described in her narrative, in 1857 she and her sister Elma lived with Major William Ormsby and his wife and young daughter. At their home, she helped with the chores and learned English and the rudiments of reading and writing. Canfield states that many Paiute children were adopted into settlers' homes at this time. See Canfield, 31, 33.

(35.) Jarold Ramsay, Reading the Fire: Essays in the Traditional Indian Literatures of the Far West (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1983), 126.

(36.) Quoted in Canfield, 42, 39.

(37.) Ibid., 39-41.

(38.) Of course, the Winnemuccas might have been responding to conventional images of the Native American in their tableaux vivants, but there is no record detailing the script of these performances.

(39.) David Brumble interprets this tale as a "refutation of the charge that the Paiutes are bloodthirsty savages" and as an "analogue for one of the first groups of whites the Paiutes came to know--the Donner party." The Donner party is the infamous group of pioneers whose imminent deaths by starvation in winter reduced them to cannibalism. See Brumble, American Indian Autobiography (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), 71.

(40.) Martha C. Knack and Omer C. Stewart, As Long As the River Shall Run: An Ethnohistory of Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1984), 88.

(41.) Dippie, 50.

(42.) Roy Harvey Pearce asserts that although White men viewed the Native Americans as barbarous, they still believed that they could be civilized. However, "hope to civilize the Indians was being dashed by the onrush of civilization itself." See Pearce, Savagism and Civilization (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1965), 73.

(43.) Knack and Stewart, 109.

(44.) Krupat, Ethnocriticism, 229. Other critics assert that Hopkins retains a "tribal sense of self'; see Brumble, 71; Brigitte Georgi-Findlay, "The Frontiers of Native American Women's Writing: Sarah Winnemucca's Life Among the Piutes," in New Voices in Native American Literary Criticism, ed. Arnold Krupat (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), 237.

Don J. Kraemer Jr. rejects the persistent pedagogical perspective that the student writer of the gendered autobiographical essay "sets up a synecdoche; a writer belongs, is contained, is caused by, a group." Rather, he encourages reading "conventional acts" not for "predictable motives" but as "loci of motives." See Kraemer, "Gender and the Autobiographical Essay: A Critical Extension of the Research," College Composition and Communication 43 (1992): 334-35. Along these lines I am suggesting that Hopkins's self is not so much subsumed in the tribe--although collective concerns outweigh personal ones in her autobiography--but motivates her political agenda for the Paiutes.

(45.) Patricia Stewart, "Sarah Winnemucca," Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 14 (1971): 28. Other reasons historians cite for the start of the war include revenge for the theft of a Native American's horse, and simply "unmotivated ... [Paiute] aggression." See Knack and Stewart, 71.

(46.) Arnold Krupat, "American Autobiography: The Western Tradition," The Georgia Review 35 (1981): 314.

(47.) Pearce, 103, 107.

(48.) Pratt, 7.

Noreen Groover Lape is an assistant professor of American literature at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. This article is a version of a chapter from her manuscript West of the Border: The Multicultural Literature of the Western American Frontiers.
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Author:Lape, Noreen Groover
Publication:The American Indian Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1998
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