Why is Sacagawea on the Dollar Coin?

By Phin Upham

The Federal Government created a committee, whose responsibility it was to determine what face should appear on the dollar coin. The DollarCoin Design Advisory board consisted of the President of the American Numismatic Society, Under Secretary of the Smithsonian, a sculptor, an architect, a university president and a member of congress.

This committee listened to 17 different concepts before finally settling on the one they felt was best. Deliberations included several appeals to the public, including a public debate on the topic that took place in 1998. In June of that year, the committee chose the face of Sacagawea to adorn the coin.

She was a Shoshone Indian whose early years were shrouded in both myth and mysterious circumstances. Although some elements of her past survived through oral tradition, not much was known definitively.

The young girl was captured by another war band and sold into slavery at the age of 11. She was either sold or given away in a bet not too long after to a French Canadian Fur Trader, who made the girl his wife. Sacagawea was quite skilled in tracking, which is why Lewis and Clark hired her husband. At 15, and six months pregnant, Sacagawea set out on the expedition West.

She would ultimately serve as a “white flag” of peace that enabled Lewis and Clark to speak with tribes on equal grounds. She could communicate with the Shoshone, and she helped the group aquire horses and supplies throughout their trip.

Sacagawea died at the age of 25, but Clark felt he owed a great debt to her for the contributions she’d made to their expedition. Clark took responsibility for educating her son, and again for her daughter after Sacagawea passed.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.