I’m a big fan of the ongoing Native American dollar series. These coins all depict Sacagawea, Lewis & Clark’s young Shoshone guide and interpreter. But the reverses feature one-year-only designs honoring major Native American contributions.
These reverse motifs represent interesting and little-known chapters in our country’s history. And they pay tribute to Americans who’ve been here for some 10,000-15,000 years. Design themes include government, diplomacy, trade, agriculture and education. Not to mention high-rise ironworkers who built New York City skyscrapers. And “code talkers” who served Allied forces during both world wars.
One-year designs recall Native American contributions
- 2009 Agriculture – features a “Three Sisters Garden” where corn, squash and beans are grown together to the benefit of all three crops.
- 2010 Government – depicts the Hiawatha Belt with symbols of all five tribes in the Iroquois Confederacy. The arrows represent unity.
- 2011 Diplomacy – recalls the 1621 Wampanoag Treaty. It was the first peace alliance between a Native American tribe and European settlers.
- 2012 Trade – horses represent tribal trade routes which European settlers used during Westward Expansion.
- 2013 Peace – symbols of the Delaware tribe recall the first formal peace treaty after the Declaration of Independence.
- 2014 Hospitality – offerings of peace and provisions represent hospitality shown to the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Building our cities and preserving our freedom
- 2015 Mohawk High-Rise Ironworkers – For over 120 years, six generations of Mohawk Indian ironworkers have helped shape New York City’s skyline. Sure-footed at great heights, these Native Americans have climbed and connected steel girders hundreds of feet in the air to frame New York City landmarks. The Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, George Washington Bridge, Rockefeller Center, the Waldorf-Astoria, the World Trade Center and its replacement… These and many more skyscrapers were built by Mohawk high-rise ironworkers, who proved back in the 1800s to be suited for dangerous high-altitude work.
- 2016 “Code Talkers” of WWI and WWII – Coded messages between Allied forces were essential to victory in both world wars. Using codes based on Native American language, Cherokee and Choctaw “code talkers” served with British and U.S. forces during WWI. During WWII, Cree, Comanche and Navajo code talkers served with the Canadian Armed Forces, U.S. Army and U.S. Marines. During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Navajo code talkers with the 5th Marines sent and received hundreds of coded messages. The division’s signal officer later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered.
- 2017 Education – depicts Sequoyah writing in syllabary he created that made reading and writing in the Cherokee language possible.
- 2018 Athleticism – recalls the legendary feats of football and track star Jim Thorpe – considered the greatest athlete of the 20th century.
How many people would be aware of these Native American achievements without this series? And who knows what contributions will be revealed in future designs? Like the ongoing National Park quarters, Native American dollars are educational and entertaining!
If you collect the Native American “golden” dollars, please share your thoughts about this intriguing series.