Winnemucca, Frank: Pyramid Lake Paiute elder passes at 77

Reno, Nevada (AP) 3-08

Funeral services were held Feb. 28 for Frank Winnemucca, an elder of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and among the last direct descendants of Chief Winnemucca, leader of the Paiute tribe in the early 1880s.

Frank Winnemucca passed away Feb. 21 at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, said Mike Kane, a member of the family. He was 77.

“Frank Winnemucca’s dad was Harry Winnemucca, the last hereditary member of the tribe and the great-great grandson of Chief Winnemucca,” Kane told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Born Jan. 8, 1931, Winnemucca had been a rodeo cowboy and worked on his father’s ranch in Nixon, raising cattle and alfalfa as a young man, Kane said.

He also was an Army veteran of the Korean War.

In Winnemucca’s later years, he taught the Paiute language through the Master Apprentice Language Learning Program at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Kane said.

“Frank really felt the language was important to pass on to the next generation,” he said. “He was really fluent in the Pyramid Paiute dialect and he helped develop the master’s apprentice program that pairs an elder up with a nonspeaking member.”

Kane said Winnemucca was proud to be a descendent of Chief Winnemucca and of the chief’s daughter, Sarah Winnemucca, whose statue is in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington, D. C.

When Sarah Winnemucca was 14, she could speak five languages. An author, she also gave more than 400 speeches to gain support for the Paiutes and met with President Hayes to lobby for the release of the Paiutes being confined on a reservation in Washington Territory.

When her statue was unveiled in 2005 in Carson City, Kane said he took Frank Winnemucca to see it.

“He was very spiritual and, when he touched the statue, he said he felt this warmth flow up through his arm,” Kane said.

Winnemucca’s death is a loss to the culture and history of the Paiute people, he said.

“It represents a big gap that nobody will be able to fill,” Kane said. “He was the last direct link to Chief Winnemucca, and he was fluent in the Paiute language and knew the culture and the way of life.”