CCAC pans theme for 2013 Native American dollar coin

Published : 06/05/11
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Two members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee denounced the proposed theme of the 2013 Sacagawea, Native American dollar coin, claiming it is another effort to cover up the country’s poor treatment of Indians.

Both University of Maryland history professor Michael A. Ross and New Jersey lawyer Donald Scarinci said they feared a theme paper for the new reverse of the 2013 Sacagawea dollar could put a false face on the government’s widespread disregard for the treaties in had negotiated with various tribes.

“I cannot be silent while the government rewrites history,” Scarinci said.

The arguments gained some momentum when Jim Adams, a staff member at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., complained that someone at the U.S. Mint had removed a quote from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall from the theme paper presented to the CCAC, expressing Marshall’s frustration at the way Native Americans were being treated in a 1832 court ruling. The Mint prepared the theme paper, which was then sent to various groups and individuals, including Adams, for review.

A Mint attorney attending the CCAC meeting denied that the Mint’s legal staff had removed the Marshall quote. It couldn’t be determined why the quote was removed from theme paper, but the committee later voted to have it restored.

Congress ordered the reverses of the Sacagawea, Native American dollar, beginning in 2009, to celebrate American Indian contributions to the American history and culture.

At issue was a draft paper that would be given to Mint artists preparing the design.

The reverse for the 2013 dollar would mark the 1778 Delaware Treaty, the first formal treaty between an Indian tribe and the new United States government, a Mint paper proposed.

Earlier, some Native American review groups also expressed concerns about how treaties were handled by the government.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the only Native American in Congress and a co-chair of the Native American Caucus, told the Mint he was troubled that the draft “gives the impression that cooperation has been the only relationship between tribes and the U.S. government.”

The Mint’s paper needs to add “some sort of mention about the adverse relationships between the tribes and the new expanding nation,” he said.

That was the same point raised by Scarinci and Ross during the CCAC meeting.

Scarinci said that the Sacagawea, Native American dollar series is supposed to be about American Indians — “not how great we were to the American Indian.”

The paper appears to be “focusing on us: the people who murdered the Indians,” he complained.

“This coin will last a thousand years,” he said, fearing it will tell an incorrect story about the relations between tribes and the federal government.

Ross echoed those sentiments, saying that the federal government repeatedly and flagrantly disregarded its treaty commitments to Native Americans, despite the rulings of the United States Supreme Court under John Marshall. He cited the removal policies that affected a number of tribes in the South including the Cherokee and Seminoles.

Adams told the panel that despite their concerns, the Sacagawea, Native American coin series has been well received by Indians.

CCAC chairperson Gary Marks said the committee’s concerns will be shared with Mint officials.

He also cautioned the committee against overreacting to the draft, noting that the design may entirely focus on the Delaware Treaty. ■

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