Sacajawea Inspires New Coin Image
Sacajawea Inspires New Coin Image
Jul. 29, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The face on the new dollar coin will be that of Liberty, but with features ``inspired by Sacajawea,'' the famous Indian guide, the Treasury Department said Wednesday.
The choice won praise for widely differing reasons, but Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., said he will fight it in favor of the Statue of Liberty _ ``the greatest and most recognizable symbol of freedom worldwide.''
He has introduced a bill that would overturn Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's approval of a citizens advisory panel's 6-1 recommendation last month in favor of the Liberty-Sacajawea theme.
``Naturally, we're pleased,'' said John Danks, programs manager for the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota. ``It's good recognition and it allows the natives to share in our national history. So much of our history has been printed and told from just one side.''
Sacajawea was the young Shoshone woman who joined the expedition of Merriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804 and, with a baby in her arms, helped guide the explorers to the Pacific Ocean.
Historian Brian Hosmer, professor of American Indian studies at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, said Sacajawea is revered on the Wind River Reservation for her generosity and courage.
``If there's any caveat, it has to do with who chooses Indian heroes,'' he said. ``Sacajawea was certainly a significant figure, but she's known mostly for things she did for the non-Indian community.''
In contrast, Nez Perce Chief Joseph, recently selected to appear on the $200 denomination of inflation-adjusted U.S. savings bonds, ``was considered to be a freedom fighter ... for his homeland,'' he said.
Artists at the U.S. Mint _ and outside artists, including Indians _ will create specific designs by late fall: Sacajawea on the front and the American eagle on the back. In the spring of 2000, it will replace the current dollar coin, which depicts 19th century women's rights advocate Susan B. Anthony.
Unlike the Anthony dollar, the new coin will be colored gold and have an edge distinct from the quarter, probably smooth like the nickel, said U.S. Mint Director Philip Diehl.
No one knows what Sacajawea looked like. So, for inspiration, artists could turn to a sculpture by Leonard Crunelle on the grounds of the North Dakota state capitol in Bismark or another in Cody, Wyo., by Harry Jackson.
Coin experts applauded the choice of Liberty as a theme and pointed out that Indian head pennies, minted from 1859 through 1909, depict Liberty wearing an Indian headdress.
``These new $1 coins could be similar in spirit,'' said Richard Schwary, president of the Professional Numismatists Guild. ``For more than 200 years, most of our coins have artfully depicted allegorical representations of ideas and ideals, not dead dignitaries.''
But Diehl said, ``one thing is very clear: this image should be the face of a Native American woman. It should not be a classical European face with an Indian headdress.''
Many women are happy a real woman of historical significance will take her place beside George Washington on the quarter and Abraham Lincoln on the penny, though her name won't appear on the coin.
``It's all the difference in the world between flesh and blood and stone and iron. The iconic representation of the female figure in the Statue of Liberty ... is a fiction,'' said Patricia McGuire, a member of the advisory panel and president of Trinity College. ``Having a woman with a real personal history ... gives affirmation and recognition to the stories of all women. Women have been anonymous for too long.''
Castle, however, is fuming. He also was an advisory panel member and, as chairman of the House Banking monetary subcommittee, sponsored the legislation authorizing the coin. He said the bill required Rubin to consult with Congress before making his choice and complained ``there has not been consultation.''
He said the new coin must have an instantly recognizable theme to achieve wide circulation and the Statue of Liberty is the best design for that.
The Anthony dollar, minted from 1979 to 1981, never achieved wide circulation, primarily because it looked and felt too much like a quarter. But controversy over its design also has been blamed.
Castle said he would support minting a Lewis and Clark commemorative coin, with Sacajawea on it. Though the Statue of Liberty has appeared on commemorative and bullion coins, it has never been on a circulating coin. Seven coins have had Indian images, including the Indian-head penny and, most recently, the buffalo nickel, minted from 1913 through 1938.