Sacagawea was absolutely crucial to the success of the expedition.
The sculptor included other carved images on the statue’s base: Sacagawea’s reunion with her brother six years after the Hidatsa had kidnapped her; and the Shoshone gazing in awe at York, the sole black man on the expedition and probably the first black person they had encountered.
In June 2009, members of Sacagawea’s Shoshone Tribe and the Monacan Nation met in Charlottesville to discuss the statue. Visiting descendants of Sacagawea wrote language for a commemorative plaque. Then-Mayor Dave Norris explained that the group concluded that she was tracking, not subjugated. Those visitors have changed their minds and want the statue removed. The city council voted immediately to move it. Its artistic merits and historical value were never mentioned.
We are saddened that the current view of art and history concludes that all sculptures offensive to some should be removed rather than interpreted. We are sorry to lose this fine statue on a prominent street — the only one in our city that includes a woman.
Katherine Slaughter and Richard Guy Wilson, Charlottesville
Ms. Slaughter is a former mayor of Charlottesville. Mr. Wilson is a retired architectural history professor.
The Nov. 30 article about a statue of Sacagawea in Charlottesville was wonderfully presented. The controversy could be extended to the statue of Booker T. Washington on the campus of Tuskegee University. Both statues were created by American sculptor Charles Keck. Sacagawea is depicted as a submissive, dominated Indian woman to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Keck created Washington as the dominating figure lifting the “veil of ignorance” from the head of the enslaved African. The writer Ralph Ellison criticized the sculpture, questioning whether the “veil of ignorance” was being lifted or lowered.
Because this tribute statue to Washington was situated in Tuskegee, Ala., it could not be titled “Lifting the Veil of Oppression.” The enslaved were never ignorant; the slave was oppressed. To make this statue an acceptable memorial, it was named “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance.”
Yes, the statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacagawea in Charlottesville by Keck should be removed. The statue of Washington and the enslaved African should be renamed “Lifting the Veil of Oppression.”