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Design Recommendations Considered for 2019-20 Native American $1 Coins

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) held a public meeting earlier today on Tuesday, January 17, via teleconference. On the agenda was discussion of design themes for the reverse of the 2019 and 2020 Native American $1 coins.

Glenna Goodacre’s portrayal of Shoshone maiden and guide Sacagawea, a vital member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the interior of what is now the continental United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean, will remain as the common obverse of the series. The program was authorized by Public Law 110-82 on September 20, 2007.

2019: Native Americans in Space

The theme for the 2019 Native American dollar coin is “Native Americans in Space.” It is intended to honor the contributions of Native American men and women to the scientific endeavors of our nation when it comes to space exploration and manned space flight. Not incidentally, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, which culminated in mankind’s first ever steps on the surface of another planetary body. President Obama signed the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (Public Law 114-282) on Friday, December 16, 2016. Several members of the CCAC suggested that the design of the Native American dollar should complement the Apollo commemorative program.

April Stafford, Program Manager of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Sales and Marketing, began the meeting by providing background information about each year’s theme. She highlighted the contributions of three specific Native American individuals to America’s space efforts: astronaut John Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation; NASA engineer Jerry C. Elliott, who is Cherokee and Osage; and Mary Golda Ross, the first female Native American engineer and a Cherokee. Elliott first joined NASA in the 1960s, where he plotted the return trajectory for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, winning a Presidential Medal of Freedom for the feat. One of the original 40 team members of aerospace company Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, Mary Ross helped develop satellite, missile and spaceflight technologies crucial not only to the nation’s space program but also to its defense and telecommunications industries. She was a great-granddaughter of Principal Cherokee Chief John Ross, who lead his people during the Trail of Tears and the Civil War.

Committee member and Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker brought up the fact that both Herrington and Elliott are still alive, and therefore could not rightly be considered for inclusion on the coin. He also mentioned that after retirement, Ross was active in recruiting young women and Native American youth into the engineering field. Thomas Uram, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) and fellow CCAC member, suggested that it might be better to keep the design concept as broad as possible, and not to focus on just one person.

Member Robert Hoge acknowledged that it may be a challenge to represent space on a coin. He asked whether or not an arrow might be used to symbolize spaceflight. Jim Adams, Senior Historian at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, commented that arrow imagery would be fine but that star imagery is also appropriate for many Native cultures, giving as one example the Cherokee belief that the Pleiades star cluster is the ancestral home of their people.

2020: Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945

2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the State of Alaska’s anti-discrimination law, regarded as the first such law criminalizing discrimination in the United States. The law was passed thanks in large part to the efforts of civil rights activist and Tlingit Nation member Elizabeth Peratrovich.

It is also said that the Alaska Territory’s law was one inspiration behind the later desegregation of National League Baseball.

Hoge spoke first about possible design concepts, suggesting a clasped hand motif. Numismatic author and CCAC member Michael Moran discouraged the “storyboarding” style of design, wherein an event or occurrence is portrayed too literally on a coin. He also alerted the CCAC to the existence of a poster of Peratrovich that could be used for artistic guidance.

Dennis Tucker expressed interest in the idea of clasped hands, noting the motif’s lengthy history in American numismatics – especially on Indian Peace Medals. Erik Jensen, however, shared his concern that the clasped hands are an Anglo symbol and do not necessarily register with Native culture. He recommended using Native American symbols of clan and family, such as those seen in totem poles, instead. Jensen also suggested that the artists involved in creating the new coin designs should read the speech Peratrovich gave in support of the anti-discrimination bill.

Adams mentioned the elaborately decorated and carved doors traditional in some Native cultures, and wondered if such doors opening would not serve as an effective symbol for the broad concept of anti-discrimination.

These and other concepts and recommendations for both the 2019 and 2020 Native American dollar reverses will now go to artists at the United States Mint for the production of candidate designs that will themselves be presented to the committee for a final decision later in the year.

On December 1 of last year, the Mint revealed the design for the 2017 dollar coin featuring Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Rolls, bags and boxes of the 2017 coin will be available for order from the U.S. Mint beginning January 25. The 2018 entry in the series will feature famous Native American athlete Jim Thorpe.

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About the CCAC

The CCAC was created in 2003 to represent the interests of the American public when it comes to coin design. It serves as an advisory committee to the Secretary of the Treasury and is seated by people possessing expertise in numismatics, history, and art, among other subjects. Depending on the role they play and how they are selected, members are appointed to either two-, three- or four-year terms.

Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker has served as the Assistant Editor of CoinWeek.com since 2015. Along with co-author Charles Morgan, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the monthly column "Market Whimsy" for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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  1. An interesting historical tie-in. Another would be for World War 2, honoring the heroic naval captain Ernst E. Evans. Anyway, I wish that they would restart the coin & currency sets. They looked sharp with a burnished finish for the dollar.


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