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Native Americans honored on Sacs

The U.S. Treasury will issue $1 Sacagewea coins in 2009 and beyond with reverse images commemorating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and American  history.

President Bush signed H.R. 2358 on Sept. 20, the last day before the bill would have become law without it.

Public Law 110-83 is also known as the Native American $1 Coin Act. Effective beginning Jan. 1, 2009, the following design requirements are applicable to the Sacagawea dollar coins:

The design on the reverse shall bear  images celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States; the inscription ?$1?; and the inscription ?United States of America.?

The design on the obverse shall be chosen by the Secretary, after consultation with the Commission of Fine Arts and review by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee; and contain the so-called ?Sacagawea design? and the inscription ‘Liberty.’

Despite recent difficulties with edge-lettering, the law requires that the inscription of the year of minting and issuance of the coin and the inscriptions ?E Pluribus Unum? and ?In God We Trust? shall be edge-incused into the coin.

Congress suggested some design themes to offer its guidance on how the coins should be designed. They ?may depict individuals and events such as the creation of Cherokee written language;  the Iroquois Confederacy; Wampanoag Chief Massasoit; the ?Pueblo Revolt?; Olympian Jim Thorpe;  Ely S. Parker, a general on the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant and later head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; code talkers who served the United States Armed Forces during World War I and World War II.?

Nothing that could be considered a ?two headed? coin would be permitted.

The law requires that each design for the reverse of the $1 coins issued during each year shall be emblematic of a single important Native American or Native American contribution each year. Each $1 coin minted ?shall be available throughout the entire one-year period,? the new law says. They also shall be issued, to the maximum extent practicable, in the chronological order in which the Native Americans lived or the events occurred, until the termination of the coin program.

Numismatic coins are specifically denominated; ?the Secretary may mint and issue such number of $1 coins of each design selected under this subsection in uncirculated and proof qualities as the Secretary determines to be appropriate.?

The number of $1 coins minted and issued in a year with the Sacagawea design on the obverse shall be not less than 20 percent of the total number of $1 coins minted and issued in such year.

Thus, fractions of dollar coin demand will be shared with the Presidential dollar program and the Sacagawea design. 

A parallel bill to the one that passed was S. 585, introduced Feb. 14 of this year by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., with a goal of replacing ?the designs on the obverse of the so-called ?Sacagawea design?? with new ones honoring all Native Americans.

The bill that passed the Senate Aug. 3 was in the nature of a substitute offered by Banking Committee chair Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. The only real change was altering the spelling to Sacagawea, and then some tweaking amendments to conform the bill to the intent of the legislation.

Sacagawea was a Native American woman who served as an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and 1806. As a child, she had been taken by members of the Hidatsa Tribe and lived among them. Later she was sold to a French-Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau.

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered in the Hidatsa-Mandan Village (1804-1805), they hired Charbonneau as an interpreter for the trip west. Sacajawea, one of Charbonneau?s wives, and her baby accompanied the expedition.

Her husband stated that her name meant ?Bird Woman? and that in the Hidatsa language the name should be properly spelled ?Tsakaka-wias.? The name adopted by Wyoming and some other Western States is ?Sacajawea,? the Shoshone word meaning ?Boat-Launcher.? The name is entered in Clark?s Journal for April 7, 1805, as ?Sah-kah-gar-wea.? 

Introduced in the House on May 17 by Rep. Dale E.  Kildee, D-Mich., and co-sponsored initially by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee which oversees coinage legislation, the bill also picked up the support on June 11 of Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., widely acknowledged as among the most knowledgeable members of Congress on coinage matters. Other co-sponsors included Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Rick Renz, R-Ariz.

Designs selected for the reverse shall be chosen by the Treasury secretary after consultation with the Committee on Indian Affairs of the Senate, the Congressional Native American Caucus of the House of Representatives, the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Congress of American Indians. They must further  be reviewed by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

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