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A Nickel’s Worth of History
T he U.S. Mint plans to release two newly redesigned nickels into circulation in the spring of 2004. As the Associated Press reported on November 7, 2003 “After 65 years with hardly a change, the nickel is getting two new looks next year—one design will feature clasped hands of friendship between the U.S. government and American Indians, and the second will show Lewis and Clark on a keelboat.”
U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore: “We believe it is important for a country to pause from time to time and recognize our heritage.” The occasion, in this case, was “the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase.” So, our government has chosen to honor the bicentennial of something that many consider to be a larceny of unimaginable proportions. But take a look at the image that was chosen to “commemorate” it. The AP article explained that on the back of the new nickel, “There is an image of hands clasped in friendship—one with a military cuff to symbolize the U.S. government and the other with an ornate bracelet to represent American Indians. Above the clasped hands is a tomahawk crossed by a peace pipe. Below the clasped hands are the Latin words E Pluribus Unum .
Maybe, if we thought long and hard, someone could come up with an even better symbol of “friendship” with the continent’s native peoples than the hand of the imperial military that was conquering them with genocidal force in 1803. Perhaps E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One) could be replaced by a motto more meaningful to the indigenous people whose land was “purchased” 200 years ago. How about E Pluribus Pauci (From Many, Few)? Or, perhaps, E Multis Viventibus, Multi Mortui (From Many Living, Many Dead). I also like E Pluribus Lucrum (because it sounds the best in English: From Many, Money).
This offensive image only increases with a little knowledge of history. The image is taken from something that appeared in 1803 on the Jefferson Peace Medal. This medal was carried by official agents of the U.S. government who traveled with the Lewis and Clark expedition. According to the National Park Service description, “These agents were to give the peace medals to the most powerful American Indian chiefs only if these chiefs would agree to certain conditions.”
What were these conditions? Well, it seems that the agents (the Park service calls them “captains”) would sit down in ceremonies with various native leaders. Then, as the Park Service explains, “During these ceremonies, the captains would impress upon the chief the importance of making and maintaining peace. If the chief would promise to be under the rule of the Great Chief Thomas Jefferson and if he would make peace with all the other American Indian tribes in the area, the captains would then present him with a peace medal as a symbol of their agreement.” This process, in the official history, is known as “making and maintaining peace.”
Now, 200 years later, the image from this “peace medal” is issued by the U.S. government to commemorate...what? Is it really to commemorate the “purchase” of the 820,000 square miles of land that was stolen from the continent’s native people? Is it to commemorate the almost 400 treaties that the U.S. government has made and broken with those same people? Either way, the “peace” of the United States government isn’t worth a nickel.
Minneapolis freelance writer and activist Jeff Nygaard publishes an email newsletter called Nygaard Notes .
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.