US Coins

CCAC selects reverses for 2021 and 2022 dollars

The CCAC recommended these designs for the Native American dollars of 2022, left, and 2021, right.

Original images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee convened Tuesday, Oct. 16, to discuss proposed designs for several coin series, including the Native American dollar coins for 2021 and 2022. Designs for the reverses of the two Native American dollar coins have been mandated to portray, respectively, Native Americans’ contribution to the United States’ armed forces and Ely S. Parker

The Sacagawea dollar coin series was introduced in 2000 to replace the Anthony dollar. Beginning in 2009, the eagle on the coin’s reverse was replaced with a rotating series of themes celebrating different facets of Native American history, culture, and life, thus beginning the Native American dollar sub-series. 

2021 Native American coin

For 2021, the Mint was mandated to select a design commemorating Native American service in the armed forces. During the discussions of the designs, participants referenced a study showing that native peoples have historically had the highest rates of military service of any ethnic group in the United States. Many different designs were submitted, and the National Congress of American Indians expressed its preferences among the designs through liaisons to the CCAC. 

For the 2021 Native American dollar, some common themes for the various designs were historic Native American warriors, military vehicles and equipment, and eagle feathers. 

The NCAI expressed preference for two designs. The first choice features a Native American soldier in modern combat gear, raising an American flag with one hand, and holding a staff covered in eagle’s feathers in the other. The NCAI’s second choice design features a split portrait of a Native American man, his left side adorned in traditional Native American garb, his right side dressed in a modern soldier’s uniform. 

Ultimately, the CCAC recommended a different design altogether. The design the CCAC selected features a close-up of a pair of eagle’s feathers, under five five-pointed stars representing the five branches of the military. 

The initial round of voting on the designs resulted in a tie between the eagle’s feathers with stars design and another featuring two kneeling figures: a Native American in older clothing reminiscent of the past and holding a musket, the other in modern combat gear holding an assault rifle; the figures look in opposite directions, towards the past and the future. 

The CCAC’s voting system allows each member to rate each design, awarding between zero and three points per design. Both designs, the one featuring an eagle’s feathers and stars and the other featuring the kneeling warriors, received 17 votes. 

CCAC members reflected on the importance of the eagle feather as a symbol in Native American culture across many nations, and while they lauded the kneeling warriors design for being original and making economical use of negative space, worried that any portrayal of a historic Native American person might suggest a partiality to one First Nation group over another. Some committee members worried that the feathers and stars were too reminiscent of the 2016 Native American dollar’s reverse. 

In the two-design runoff, the feathers and stars design won in a 7–5 victory for the 2021 coin. 

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2022 Native American coin

For the 2022 design, the CCAC considered different portrayals of Ely S. Parker, a Native American soldier, engineer, attorney, and tribal representative who lived in the 19th century. 

Parker was a member of the Seneca tribe and was raised in upstate New York; belittled as a boy for his broken English, he resolved to master the language, beginning a life of extraordinary achievement and scholarship. He served on Ulysses S. Grant’s staff in the Union Army during the Civil War, and because of his exceptional penmanship wrote up the articles of surrender that Gen. Grant presented to Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

At the signing of the surrender, Lee apparently remarked, “At least there’s one real American here.” Parker allegedly responded, “We’re all Americans here.” 

After the war, Parker, who had worked as a civil engineer before the conflict, was appointed the commissioner of Indian Affairs, the leader of what is today known as the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He was the first Native American to hold the position. 

The designs considered by the CCAC attempted to capture Parker’s myriad achievements. The NCAI supported the adoption of a reverse that featured Parker’s bust with crossed quills, set above his signature and HA-SA-NO-AN-DA, his given Seneca name. 

CCAC members worried that the rendering of Parker’s beard in the proposed design was too flat and would not translate well onto the surface of the coin, given the small planchet size and other limitations. The CCAC selected a design featuring a seated Parker holding a quill with an open book on his lap. 

The CCAC felt that this portrait best captured his scholarly and professional achievements. 

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