By Darrin Lee Unser
Expected to debut early next year on new $1 coins, the design marks the fifth in a series of annually changing reverses to appear on Native American coinage. Congress mandated rotating dollar designs with the passage of the Native American $1 Coin Act.
To signify that treaty, the dollar design shows images of a turkey, howling wolf and turtle. These three creatures are symbols of the clans of the Delaware Tribe. A string of thirteen stars surround the design representing the thirteen original colonies.
Comment: On the positive side, the design itself looks nice. I don't have any artistic complaints about it.
But I wonder if the Delaware Treaty of 1778 is worth commemorating. I think the British signed treaties with the Indians before the Revolution, so it wasn't literally the first treaty.
It was the first United States treaty, but other than that, I'm not sure it's historically important. In the articles I read, no one ever mentions it.
And I question the use of three animals to depict the event. We're talking about Delaware leaders using their rhetorical skills and intellectual prowess to negotiate a legal document. And the best we can do to represent this act of statesmanship is a menagerie? Doesn't this convey the impression that Indians are animal-like?
How about this? If you can't think of a sophisticated way to portray a Native event, don't portray it. In particular, don't use clichéd eagle, wolf, hawk, or bear symbols. Especially with such a tenuous connection to the event.
In notational form:
Delaware signed treaty => Delaware have clans => Clans based on animals => Pictures of animals
Delaware signed treaty => Pictures of animals?
I don't consider that a great chain of reasoning. It's like saying:
Lincoln wrote and delivered the Gettysburg Address => Lincoln was known as a rail-splitter => Picture of a log.
Is a piece of wood the best representation of Lincoln's rhetorical achievement? No? The same applies to clan animals and a historic treaty signing.
For more on the subject, see 2012 Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled and 2011 Sacagawea Dollar Reverse Unveiled.