Loo-loo cry: Sacajawea gets a plaque
Close to a hundred people gathered at the foot of the Lewis and Clark statue at the intersection of Ridge, Main, and McIntire Streets on Friday, June 19 in a ceremony dedicating a plaque to Sacajawea, the Shoshone woman who accompanied Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the first American expedition to the Pacific coast.
Responding to concerns that Sacajawea's representation, crouched beneath the two men in bronze, underplayed her importance to the expedition, the City commissioned the plaque, and invited two of Sacajawea's descendents to author the text. The city also invited several of Sacajawea's descendents from Idaho to the afternoon ceremony.
"When I saw this statue I was very sad, but you are leading the way, Charlottesville," Rose Ann Abrahamson, Sacajawea's great-great-great niece, told the crowd. "I believe this expedition had divine intervention, because we are all here together."
Abrahamson's mother, the great-granddaughter of a powerful Shoshone medicine woman, then performed a "smudging" ceremony on the plaque with burning sage, lit by a match from a Hook reporter.
"This is so people will respect it," said Abrahamson, "and so it will always have positive energy."
Although portraying the expedition in a romantic style (including a stone base whose bas relief decoration recalls the flora of the Pacific Northwest), the 1919 statue by Charles Keck has entered the 21st Century as a painful reminder of oppression. Two years ago, for instance, some protesters put on a "Miss Informed" beauty contest.
The plaque ceremony included a brief prayer, during which Abrahamson's mother waved an eagle's wing to bless the crowd and the statue and asked the assembly to let out a traditional "loo-loo" cry.
The four generations of Sacajawea's descendents present included Summer Morning Baldwin, the daughter of Rozina George, a great-great-great grandaughter of Sacajawea's brother, Cameahwait, the "Great Chief" of the Lemhi Shoshones. George co-wrote the text on the plaque, using the preferred Lemhi Shoshone spelling of Sacajawea's name, and Baldwin performed a traditional flute solo and a Shoshone sign language prayer in ceremonial attire.
Members of Virginia's Monacan tribe were also present, led by Chief Kenneth Branham, who performed ceremonial dances. City leaders Mayor Dave Norris and preservation planner Mary Joy Scala, the latter of whom the Shoshone visitors credited with spearheading the plaque installation, were presented with traditional Shoshone coin purses.