Winema, aka: Toby Riddle (1848-1932) - A
better known simply as Winema, she was born sometime around 1846.
Starting life in southern Oregon, she was said to be cousins with
famed war chief Kintpuash, although some sources say he was her
Her birth name was Kaitchkona,
but later she would also be called Nonooktowa, loosely translated as
"strange child", because of her exploits in things more boyish, like
hunting and fighting. She would later earn the name Winema,
meaning "woman chief", after, at the age of 14, she guided a canoe
full of children safely through the rapids of Link River, saving their
lives. It was also reported that around the same age, she led a
defensive victory for
warriors during a surprise attack by a band of Achomawi.
In her late teens she met, and fell in love with, Frank Riddle, a
white miner from Kentucky who came to the West Coast in 1850 looking
for gold. She defied the Modoc traditions and her father by
marrying Riddle. That's when she took on the name Toby. After the
tribe and her family shunned her, Frank Riddle smoothed things over by
fulfilling the obligations of a Modoc groom, and was eventually
welcomed into the family. Frank and Toby would settle in the Lost
River area of California.
Winema (Toby), gained knowledge of the English language, and with her
understanding of the white man's world, she became a great interpreter
and mediator. Meanwhile, in 1869, when the U.S. Government
re-organized "Indian Policy", removing military supervision on the
reservations in favor of church leadership, Methodist minister Alfred
Meacham became Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon, and for
several years worked with Toby and several tribal leaders in an effort
to resolve the tribes problems on the reservation. When the Modoc left the Klamath Reservation in 1872 to
return to Lost River, Frank and Toby Riddle served as interpreter to the various
commissions that worked with them.
After the Modoc, led by Kintpuash, fled to the
lava-beds east of Mount Shasta, and had defeated a detachment of soldiers, the Government
decided to send a commission of men to arrange a peace agreement. Winema warned Commissioner Meacham of the murderous temper of
Modoc warrior Kintpuash, also known as Captain
Jack, and some of his followers. Convinced, Meacham warned his fellow
commissioners, General Edward Canby and Reverend E. Thomas that their
lives were in danger, but could not swerve them from their purpose.
During the meeting, when General Canby refused to withdraw the troops from the lava beds,
the Modoc Chief gave the signal and Canby and Thomas were killed. When
John Shonchin then turned his rifle upon Meacham, Winema, who was present
as interpreter, pleaded for his life, placing herself between the
assassins and the victim.
However, Meachham was shot anyway, but she
saved him from being scalped when she cried out that the soldiers were
coming, where upon the assassins fled. Though severely wounded, Meachham survived, thanks to Winema. When the soldiers finally came,
she advanced alone to meet them.
Afterwards, a crippled Meacham took Winema, her husband, Frank, and her son, Jeff, to the east to continue
his intercession on behalf of the
Indians, especially the
though they had almost killed him. In 1874, Meacham developed a
lecture-play entitled, "Winema,” that told eastern listeners of the