The Shoshone guide becomes the seventh woman in Statuary HallAlmost 200 years ago, a woman of the Shoshone tribe named Sacagawea walked through the land that we now call Pacific County and Clatsop County. Last week a statue representing that woman was placed in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Of the 107 statues in the U.S. Capitol, only seven are of women. North Dakota contributed a statue of Sacagawea. As reported by Larry Swisher in last Friday's edition, the new statue will reside in the Rotunda for one year before it is moved to Statuary Hall.
For those of us who live in Clatsop and Pacific (Wash.) counties, this statue has special meaning. Sacagawea was here. She was here long before the wave of Scandanavian immigration. She walked here, from a place in the mid-continent.
At the place called Station Camp, Sacagawea voted on where to spend the winter and then crossed the Columbia River to the place that became Fort Clatsop. She walked to a spot north of Cannon Beach where she observed the Pacific Ocean and a beached whale.
The statues of women in the Capitol are westerners, except for one. There is Jeanette Rankin of Montana, Dr. Florence Sabin of Colorado and Mother Joseph of Washington. Not surprisingly, they are archetypes. Rankin is the lawmaker. Sabin is the physician. Mother Joseph is the religious leader, architect and organizer. Sacagawea is the guide, the wayshower
We do not know what Sacagawea looked like, so this statue is an artist's guess. In 1910, the sculptor Leonard Crunelle used Hannah Levings, a member of the Hidatsa Tribe, as a model. Levings was believed to be Sacagawea's granddaughter.
One of history's cruel ironies is that Sacagawea died in obscurity, after playing a key role in the expansion of America. She was absolutely essential to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Sen. Tom Daschle of North Dakota struck the right tone in last week's ceremony when he said that "at last she has taken her rightful place" in our national pantheon.