By Michael Zielinski
The theme for the 2011 design is Diplomacy--Treaties with Tribal Nations. The selected reverse design specifically highlights the treaty between Supreme Sachem Ousamequin, Massasoit of the Great Wampanoag Nation, and Governor John Carver of the European settlers at Plymouth Bay.
The design features the ceremonial passing of the peace pipe after initiating the first formal written peace alliance.
It highlights some little-known aspects of history: that the Wampanoag signed a treaty with the Pilgrims, and that they smoked peace pipes. We typically associate peace pipes with Plains Indians.
I guess the image depicts a Pilgrim handing the pipe to an Indian, which is a bit odd. Usually you think of Indians doing the passing and non-Indians doing the receiving. But if they were sitting in a circle, the passing could've happened that way.
It's nice that the Indian hand is more prominent and detailed. That conveys a key point: that Indians were active players in, even instigators of, diplomatic relations. They didn't just sit around waiting for white men to hand them a piece of paper to sign.
For more on the subject, see 2nd Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled and Sacagawea Dollar's Reverse Unveiled.