Sunday, May 21, 2006

Travelogue: Winnemucca

Winnemucca's not a very photogenic town. It's not terribly ugly either—more homely than comely. Even at the convention center, the woman behind her desk behind the counter tells you that a few years back they had a little contest for new Winnemucca postcards. Even the four entries that won, she says, aren't that exciting. The postcards are 50 cents each.

Snap. Snap. Snap snap snap. I could take a hundred pictures, and each could be of a hundred different towns.

Winnemucca is named for Chief Winnemucca of the Paiute. The Humboldt Museum ("Home of the Mammoth") doesn't say much about him. Instead, its curators prefer a display case on his daughter, Sarah Winnemucca. "Sarah Winnemucca was never a chief," they write. "Certain people felt she should have been, as she did much to enhance relations between her people and the white settlers."

Sarah Winnemucca's display case in the Humboldt Museum contains two explanatory placards and 10 items: four baskets; one arrow; a picture of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation, dated 1911–1918; an 1882 sketch of a Paiute encampment; a poster of "Chief" Sarah Winnemucca; a burden basket designed by Mary Lee Fulkerson of Reno; and a doll of Sarah Winnemucca, which has Paiute dress, a button nose, small puckered lips, rosy cheeks, blue eyes, and ivory skin.

There really is a mammoth in the Humboldt Museum—or most of one, anyway, along with the skull, sans tusks, of another. But the pieces are separate, and weathered, and the tarsals look more like rocks than remains.

Which, I suppose, they are.

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