Senate Democrats

Reid Speech at Sarah Winnemucca Statue Dedication

Washington, D.C. – Nevada’s second statue in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall was dedicated today. The Sarah Winnemucca Statue will join Nevada’s other statue of Patrick A. McCarran as the two statues contributed by the Silver State.

Reid delivered the following speech at the dedication ceremony:

“Sarah Winnemucca is Nevada’s second statue in the Capitol. Our other statue, Senator McCarran, has been here for 45 years – which I believe marks the first time Sarah Winnemucca ever came in second to anyone.

“Sarah’s life is a story of firsts.

“She was the first female Native American to write a book. She set up Nevada’s first school for Native American children. And she was one of the first individuals to navigate between her own culture and the settlers.

“As someone who showed so much courage in charting a new course, Sarah’s statue fits in well among other “first” Americans in the Capitol, individuals like our first President George Washington….and the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Jeanette Rankin.

“And with Sarah’s statue, we experience another sort of “first” today.

“Sculptor Benjamin Victor becomes the youngest artist ever to complete a work for the National Statuary Hall Collection.

“None of us knew Sarah Winnemucca, but because of this 26 year-old man, we can get a glimpse of who she was – as will thousands of visitors to our nation’s Capitol each year. And when they see this work, they will get a sense of Nevada’s history…and our country’s history.

“One week ago, many of us gathered in this same spot to present Jackie Robinson’s widow with the Congressional Gold Medal. We praised Jackie for breaking the color barrier not just in baseball, but in minds across the country.

“It is praise we can equally lavish on Sarah Winnemucca for the work she did on behalf of Native Americans over 125 years ago.

“Disillusioned by the treatment and relocation of the Paiute people, Sarah became an activist – – in addition to the many other roles she held, which included teacher, author and translator.

“Sarah traveled across the country, introducing Americans to her people and the struggles they faced through a series of lectures on the East Coast. She even visited Washington, DC to plead her case with President Hayes and the Secretary of the Interior- only to be sent home with promises that would never be fulfilled.

“Having dealt with an indifferent U.S. government, it has been written that Sarah died believing she had not accomplished much – unconvinced that her life had an impact.

“I think if she could see us today, she might change her mind.

“While our country and our culture remain far from perfect, we are further down the trail Sarah set out on a Century ago. And while she may have died believing she did not make a difference, her image in the Capitol is proof her story remains very much alive.

“It took 45 years for Nevada to get its second statue in the Capitol. When you consider what Sarah did in just 47 years of life, you’ve got to wonder what took so long.

“As this statue takes its permanent place, I’m proud that Sarah is the newest face of Nevada in Washington, DC, and that as a state, we have helped ensure her legacy lives on for generations to come.”