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Chapter 8 Sacajawea, Meet Cogewea A Red Progressive Revision of Frontier Romance Joanna Brooks 184 The Journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark offer incidental, idiosyncratic glimpses of Sacajawea: her pregnancy and delivery ( January– February 1805); her skill as a gatherer of wild artichokes, apples, and “Lickerish” (April and May 1805); her extended illness ( June 1805); her relationship with the sometimes abusive French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau (August 1805); her return to the site of her childhood abduction and her reunion with family ( July–August 1805); her vote to establish winter quarters at a site plentiful with “potas” (November 1805); and her insistence on seeing the Pacific Ocean ( January 1806). Clark additionally acknowledges her work as a “pilot,” negotiator, and “interpretess.”1 Two hundred years of Lewis and Clark studies have confirmed little more about the factitious Sacajawea. Some local historians still like to debate her name, her tribal origins, her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the circumstances of her death. Her postfactual afterlife has meant fuller celebrity and broader circulation for Sacajawea. In her most recent incarnation, she has joined a select group of American Indians—real and imagined—to be featured on the currency of the United States. Now, as a replacement for the ill-fated Susan B. Anthony, she appears on a golden dollar, smiling, an infant strapped to her back. Ironically, this image of Sacajawea was invented and popularized by Anthony and other suffragettes a century ago. In 1902, the Oregon suffragette Eva Emery Dye published The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark. Dye’s novelistic treatment of the expedition recuperated Sacajawea as a heroine of western women’s history, amplifying her role as an expeditionary guide and emphasizing her travails as a new mother in the wilderness. Dye also presented Sacajawea as a pioneering liaison between white and Indian worlds—in sum, as the “Madonna of her race.”2 Dye set out to mate- rially incorporate her vision of Sacajawea with the organization of the Sacajawea Statue Association in 1903. The association raised more than $7,000 to commission from the sculptor Alice Cooper a seven-foot bronze of the Shoshone woman as Dye had imagined her: a pioneer-Madonna, facing westward, carrying a cradle-boarded infant. The statue was unveiled and dedicated on 30 June 1905, “Women’s Day” at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Officials of the National Woman Suffrage Association, which had been invited to hold its annual convention concurrently with the exposition, spoke at the dedication ceremony. In her opening address, Susan B. Anthony hailed Sacajawea as an unsung heroine of western history: This recognition of the assistance rendered by a woman in the discovery of this great section of the country is but the beginning of what is due. Next year the men of this proud State, made possible by a woman, will decide whether women shall at last have the rights in it which have been denied them so many years. Let men remember the part that women have played in its settlement and progress and vote to give them these rights which belong to every citizen.3 Following Anthony at the podium, Anna Shaw, the association’s president , lauded Sacajawea in the popular, pathetic rhetoric of the “Vanishing Indian”: Sacajawea. . . . Your tribe is fast disappearing from the land of your fathers. May we, the daughters of an alien race who slew your people and usurped your country, learn the lessons of calm endurance, of patient persistence and unfaltering courage exemplified in your life, in our efforts to lead men through the pass of justice, which leads over the mountains of prejudice and conservatism, to the broad land of the perfect freedom of a true republic.4 Shaw and Anthony poetically transferred the westward movement of the Lewis and Clark expedition onto the movement for women’s suffrage. They claimed for Sacajawea historical value as the woman who “made Oregon possible” and symbolic value as an icon of woman-piloted progress (Figure 6). But Sacajawea’s career as a suffragette was short-lived: after Oregon voters defeated women’s suffrage in a 1906 state referendum, her statue was rededicated to “the pioneer mothers of old Oregon” and permanently installed at Portland’s Washington Park.5 Following the Lewis and Clark exposition, more conservative clubwomen redefined Sacajawea as a mascot of true western womanhood and regional pride. Monument campaigns and historical pageants in North Dakota, Washington, and Montana honored her...


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