Silver tailings: How Winnemucca got the Name


It might seem strange to honor an Indian chief who not only didn’t particularly like the white man and who had claimed the Paiute’s ancestral lands but also was known to attack them on occasion. However, Frank Baud, considered one of the city’s founders, had a fondness for the old chief and wanted to honor him.

Chief Winnemucca, who became a leader of the Northern Paiute, was actually a Shoshone. Known as Poito, or Bad Face, by custom and tradition he became a Paiute when he married the daughter of the old Paiute chief that some historians also call Winnemucca.

To honor him, as the story goes, the old chief named him Winnemucca the Younger, which translates as the “giver of spiritual gifts.”

How the chief got the westernized name also is a mystery. The chief was a young man in the late 1840s when white men first spotted him.

He was wearing only one moccasin at the time. Immediately, they dubbed him “One Moccasin.”

The Paiute word about items worn on the feet is mau-cau. Since he was shod on only one foot, he was known as One-a-mau-cau or Winnemucca.

Tradition says, wearing only one moccasin was a sign he was in love, but the more probable story is he lost the moccasin while running from the soldiers across the Forty Mile Desert.

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