A Native American Chief Should Have Replaced Andrew Jackson on the $20

Chief Joseph

Nez Perce Chief Joseph

Before we get into which past injustice gets more priority, there really should have been more changes made with our money.  Taking Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill was also under consideration.  Alexander Hamilton was an important American, one of the founding “fathers” of this country, but he was not a President.  His accomplishment was in helping to set up the financial system of the fledgling republic.  While he did an important job, should we then consider putting Alan Greenspan on one of the greenbacks?    The movement to take Hamilton off the $10 bill was stalled by the success of the Broadway show “Hamilton”.  The creator of the show Lin-Manuel Miranda is a great communicator and promoter (and recently won a Pulitzer prize), but since when should lobbying efforts by an ultimately self-serving showbiz personality determine such historical events as who gets to grace our money?  Paper currency plays an important role in the signs that dominate our daily life.  The images on the bills are something we see constantly, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Red Cloud

Oglala Lakota Chief Red Cloud

Perhaps this is a debate that doesn’t change the reality of what happened in our history. But symbolic gestures that aid the acknowledgement of the past in an honest and fair way are key in resolving the traumas of our collective past.  In not putting a Native American on our money, the US Treasury missed a key opportunity, which can still be corrected.

As Chief Joseph said: “Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we shall have no more wars. We shall all be alike, brothers of one father and one mother with one sky above us and one country around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash out the bloody spots made by brothers’ hands upon the face of the Earth.”

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