Sacagawea, A New Presence In Washington
“Today, Sacagawea’s 200 mile journey has finally come to an
end,” said Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nation during the unveiling ceremony.
As a Hidatsa teenager, Sacagawea joined the Merriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition near what is now the North Dakota city of Mandan. She, her husband and infant son joined the expedition after her husband was hired to serve as an interpreter while the team explored the Northwest Territory acquired as a part of the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803.
Her contributions were tremendous to the success of the exploratory party and the mission would not have been successful without her, according to Hall. “A woman carrying a child with a party of men is a token to peace,” wrote Clark in an 1805 journal entry.
The eleven foot statue, a replica of the one erected in 1910 on the grounds of the state capitol at Bismarck, where Sacagawea is depicted striding forward while carrying her son, Jean Baptiste, on her back. She is the first Native American woman ever placed in the Statuary Hall collection. Although North Dakota and the Hidatsa spell her name Sakakawea, including the U.S government which features her on a $1 coin, the name Sacagawea is stamped the base of the statue.
The dedication ceremony combined the formality of Congress. Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert officially accepted the work into the Statuary Hall collection.
Hall wore a large war bonnet during the ceremony and traditional dancers bobbed and weaved beneath the 180 foot dome of the Rotunda while performing the flag song of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Tribal elder, Gail Baker, blessed the end of the ceremony by fanning smoke from burning sweet grass with a fan of eagle feather.
Private donors gave more than $230,00 to create the statue.
This story has been edited from an AP story bylined Jack Sullivan.