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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 3, 2001 - Issue 48


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 Artist's Gift to Tribe Honors Sacagawea


 by Sara Summers-Pantagraph Correspondent-October, 22, 2001

MAHOMET, Il -- Sacagawea, an Indian woman who helped Lewis and Clark explore the West, has figured prominently in the recent life of Mahomet artist Robert White.

Meeting one of Sacagawea's descendants inspired White to donate one of his prized sculptures to a tribe in Sacagawea's birthplace in Idaho, and this past weekend White was out west at a ceremony marking the groundbreaking for the Sacagawea Interpretive and Education Center in Idaho.

The sculpture, called "Black Bear Cub, Nah-Ah Doon," is an balone-encrusted bear cub skull in a ceremonial display case.

The piece has "great spiritual meaning," said White.

White spent nearly a year of painstaking work to cement each tiny piece of colorful shell and stone to the skull.

The artwork features stylized bear footprints in three different colors to represent the bear's spirit. Black represents the living spirit of the bear, while pink represents the body of the bear coming to an end and white stood for the bear's departed spirit.

"Nah-ah doon" means "letting go" in the language of Sacagawea's Lemhi-Shoshone tribe, White said. He felt it was the most appropriate name for the artwork because he developed a great personal and spiritual connection to the skull, which he obtained in 1989.

A seminar on American Indians last March at Parkland College in Champaign inspired White to donate the piece to the Indians of the Shoshone-Bannock Reservation in Fort Hall, Idaho. He met Lacey Abrahamson, who was attending Parkland and is a lateral descendent of Sacagawea.

White introduced himself to her and gave her a photo of the skull. Five days later, she called him to say the tribal elders had given her permission to accept the gift, which is valued at several thousand dollars.

The donation also led to an invitation to Friday's groundbreaking ceremony in Salmon, Idaho.

The museum, funded by a $1 million federal grant, is being built on 71 acres in Idaho's Lemhi Valley at the foot of the Rocky Mountains' Continental Divide.

Sacagawea, whose image now graces the $1 coin, was instrumental in the success of the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase in the early 1800s. The wife of a French trapper and scout, she interpreted for the American explorers and helped them to secure supplies.

Honored guests expected at the event included Abrahamson, her sister, Dustina and her mother, Rose. White also was invited, along with direct descendants of Lewis and Clark and tribal and state dignitaries.

The ceremony featured a sunrise blessing ceremony and songs and dancing by members of the Nez Perce and Lemhi-Shoshone tribes.

    Maps by Travel

Sacagawea is historically known as the Shoshone Indian woman who accompanied the Corps of Discovery as an interpreter.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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