Native American Dollar.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) met on September 21, 2012, at United States Mint Headquarters, to review and discuss candidate reverse designs for the 2013 Native American dollar. In attendance were Chairman Gary Marks, Heidi Wastweet, Donald Scarinci, Thomas Uram, Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, Mike Ross, Erik Jansen, as was Dr. Jim Adams, senior historian for the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian, and Ron Harrigal and Don Everhart from the U.S. Mint. Mr. Everhart was videoconferenced in from the Philadelphia Mint; all others attended in person.
Chairman Marks began the meeting by introducing Thomas Uram to the committee, who then provided some of his numismatic background. Next, Mr. Harrigal read the authorizing legislation for the Native American dollar, followed by a synopsis of the reverse designs from 2009 through 2012, the focus of the 2013 reverse design: the signing of the first treaty with the Delaware tribes in 1778, and a run-through of the 13 reverse designs for consideration. (See images of all design candidates at the end of the article.)
Chairman Marks opened up the discussion for technical questions. Mr. Jansen stated he was pleased to see the incuse method used, and Ms. Wastweet asked of the intended treatments for the black areas of design 9; Mr. Everhart explained that they would be incused and polished in the proof strikings. As this point, Dr. Adams informed the committee that the turtle, depicted in 5 of the 13 designs, was not just a clan symbol: it represented the entire continent, called “Turtle Island”, and it has significant cosmological meaning. Chairman Marks added that there was a comment from the Congressional Native American caucus in the House of Representatives that designs that only depict the turtle would be exclusionary to the other clans. Dr. Adams continued on that point, noting that the one design with all three clan symbols, design 10, “has them out of proportion,” with the wolf being drawn larger, but in actuality “was one of the junior clans in the tribe.”
Consistent with their procedures when faced with a large number of designs, the committee held an up-or-down voice vote on further discussion of each design. Making the cut were designs 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 (shown below).
Ms. Wastweet, as is the custom, began the committee’s design comments. She started by saying the focus for her “was not so much the treaty, but what the treaty represents,” and the overarching theme of Native American contributions to this country. This treaty is the first formal treaty, making it a unique event in history. She said that design 7 “stands out to me the most”, and was her preference, noting that the feathers were used in two ways: as a quill and in a traditional Native American manner. Her concern with the design was the use of parchment paper in the background with incused text; she thought it would “cause a technical striking issue”. She would rather see the parchment recede back, and have the text raised; this concept was put to Mr. Everhart, who thought “[the Mint] could make it work”, or optionally the parchment could be shifted to the lower section of the design. Ms. Wastweet countered that with either configuration the step between the two levels would likely cause a metal flow issue. She felt that the symbology of design 9 was “obscure” but was “an attractive design.” Designs 12 and 13 “did not work” for her as the turtles as depicted looked too much like pets, rather than as a symbol for the tribe. Contrasting that was design 11, which was more symbolic: the 13 segments in the turtle shell providing a second reference to the original colonies. She opposed design 10, as it “looks like it is about animals”, rather than the Native Americans.
Mr. Scarinci was next, and started with a preface that “the American Indian had a very sophisticated network of trade and communication,” long before similar actions by the peoples of Europe, but this series skipped ahead to the point in time after contact with the Europeans. Of the designs themselves, he did not think any of the designs were “award winners.” He lamented that “we’ve done the treaty and the quill pen ‘thing’”, and while he was thankful that the committee had summarily rejected that type of design for this coin, he understood why the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) selected design 9, as it is “artistically interesting” and “would look great as a proof coin.” He could not get beyond the image of the wolf on design 10 appearing to eat the ‘A’, and he felt that they were “stuck with the turtles,” but even there he had issues with the 13 stars on design 11: “why do we insist on talking about us?” He ended his comments by saying he didn’t have any firm opinion on what turtle design he would support, and would listen to the other members’ comments.
Chairman Marks was third, and started his comments by referencing a sentence from the Congressional directive that states that the designs “shall bear images celebrating important contributions by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the development of the United States and the history of the United States.” He agreed with Mr. Scarinci, but the opportunity to tell a fuller history of the Native American “is lost in the statute.” He liked design 11, admiring its round design matching the coin, but was “hung up” on the comment from the Congressional Native American caucus. He felt that design 9 was “a little too minimalist”. To him, design 7 was “in the lead” with its symbolic synergy of the two feathers. Erik Jansen was next, acknowledging that he got his ideas from Heidi [Wastweet]. He felt that the turkey in design 10 would be as difficult as the big horn sheep on the Denali National Park Quarter, but said design 9 was a “safe, easy solution.” He also said the feathers in design 7 were a “good solid Indian symbol”, but did have a concern regarding how the natural colors of the feathers would be rendered, as well as suggesting transposing the parchment area from top to bottom.
Michael Ross was fifth, and as the historian on the committee, he felt it necessary to be focused on the legislative intent. He said that a coin on treaties was “not representative of the contributions” made by the Native Americans, who ended up aiding in the discovery of lands that the Americans were going to take from their inhabitants. His choices were of either design 9 or one of the designs with turtles. Jeanne Stevens-Sollman said she liked the simplicity of design 7, but was “not sure that is where [they] should go,” and also felt that design was more abstract and “will not be understood” by the public. Referring to design 10, she commented that the turtle was oversized compared to its natural size, providing some display of its greater importance, and she had initially confused the ends of the belt with the front feet of the turtle in design 11.
Thomas Uram was the final committee member to provide comments, having listened to the others. He felt that designs 7 and 9 would “make good coins”, and that designs 12 and 13 would be “better if not pet-looking”. He liked design 10. Ms. Wastweet had a technical answer regarding the visibility of the tip of the quill pen in design 7; it is the same size as the ‘1’ in the value device, and “would be recognized as a pen.” Mr. Scarinci added at the end that in nearly 2 hours, he “had reached the same conclusion as the CFA reached in 5 minutes”, finding that the “least problematic design” was number 9, and it would receive his support.
The committee members voted. With a maximum value of 21 points, design 10 received the recommendation of the committee with 11 points, with design 7 receiving 10 points.