Skip to content

Sakakawea Heads East on Second Trek

Nearly 200 years after beginning a historic expedition across what is now North Dakota, Sakakawea will set out on a new journey Wednesday, this time heading east toward Capitol Hill.

The 12-foot bronze statue of the American Indian guide, known for her service during the 1803-06 expedition of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, will become the newest addition in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall collection Oct. 16.

“This is a great honor for the people of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, indeed for all the people of North Dakota,” Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall said Monday during a ceremony at the state Capitol in Bismarck, according to a transcript issued by the State Historical Society of North Dakota. “It is appropriate and fitting that once again, Sakakawea begins her second historic journey, eastward from this place along the Missouri River, to take her rightful place alongside this country’s leaders and pioneers at our nation’s Capitol, where the world will learn of her contribution to this great nation of ours.”

Sakakawea is North Dakota’s second donation to the collection, to which each state may donate two statues. New Mexico and Nevada, the only other states that have not yet provided a second statue, plan to do so in 2004.

The statue — a replica of one created by Leonard Crunelle that was dedicated at the state capitol in 1910 — will arrive in Washington on Oct. 11, but it will not be formally unveiled until the following Thursday, the anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s arrival in what would become North Dakota.

“Sakakawea is a legendary heroine of truly historic dimensions, and at last, the finish line is in sight to see Sakakawea in her place of honor in our nation’s Capitol,” Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), who initiated the project, said at the Bismarck ceremony.

The bronze artwork is a notable addition to the Capitol’s 97-statue collection, because it is the first minority woman depicted and the only statue to feature two people.

As in the original artwork, Sakakawea is shown with her son, Jean Baptiste, strapped to her back. As part of a compromise with the Architect of the Capitol, a plaque labeling the sculpture will list only Sakakawea’s name.

The dedication ceremony for the statue, which will remain on display in the Rotunda for six months before moving to its permanent home in the Capitol, is scheduled to feature the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Color Guard and an exhibition dance by the Mandaree Singers and Dancers. Speakers may include Pomeroy and Hall, as well as North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven (R), Sens. Kent Conrad (D) and Byron Dorgan (D) and leadership from both chambers.

In addition to the formal ceremony, the Three Affiliated Tribes are working with the National Park Service on a series of events commemorating Sakakawea, said Rick Collin, communications director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The events, funded in part by a $25,000 donation from the National Indian Gaming Association, will include several teepees set up on the Capitol’s West front lawn, as well as a parade across the Mall featuring 100 to 150 tribal members.

“Washington is going to know we’ve arrived,” Collin said. The State Historical Society, along with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Dakota, helped to raise the more than $200,000 needed to pay for the statue.

Sakakawea, also commonly known as Sacajawea or Sacagawea, will make the trip east in two pieces in a semi-trailer on a specially designed pallet. The sculpture, which weighs 900 pounds, will be wrapped separately from its significantly heavier granite base, which totals 4,600 pounds.

Once the statue reaches the Capitol grounds, special cranes will be used to transport it inside the building. (In June, the Architect of the Capitol’s office moved a statue of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower through the Capitol’s South entrance due to construction of the Capitol Visitor Center on the East Front. It is not clear which entrance will be used for Sakakawea, and the Architect’s office did not return a call seeking comment.)

“Really the full level of accomplishment is truly complete when [the statue] is safely installed in Statuary Hall and the dedication is pulled off,” said Tom Bollinger, owner of Arizona Bronze Fine Arts, which cast the statue.

Recent Stories

At Aspen conference, a call to prioritize stopping gun violence

Appeals court rules preventive care task force unconstitutional

Key players return to Congressional Softball Game, this time at the microphone

Bannon asks Supreme Court to keep him out of prison

Her family saw the horrors of the Holocaust. Now Rep. Becca Balint seeks to ‘hold this space’

Supreme Court clarifies when a gun law is constitutional