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Gold Coin Commemorates Shawnee Sign-Talker
With Lewis and Clark Expedition

The 2003 Shawnee Five Dollar gold coin commemorates George Drouillard, the son of a French-Canadian father and Shawnee Indian mother, who served as interpreter and hunter for the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition. This is the second annual gold issue of The Sovereign Nation of the Shawnee Tribe (Oklahoma), recognized by the United States under the Shawnee Tribe Status Act of 2000. Ron Sparkman, Chairman of The Shawnee Tribe, has indicated that these are "legal tender commemorative coins" (i.e. within their sovereign nation).

The 6.22 gm. pure (9999 fine) gold, 22.5 mm. Five Dollar face value "Sign Talker" coins were designed by award-winning sculptor Alex Shagin. Only 5,000 proofs are available at the official issue price of $195. Each coin comes in an inscribed pouch, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. PandaAmerica is the official distributor of this coin. Want one? Click here. For other Shawnee Coins, click here.

The purpose of the expedition, as specified by President Jefferson, was "to explore the Missouri River & such principal stream of it as by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purpose of commerce." Commenting on Drouillard's sign language skills, Meriwether Lewis wrote on August 14, 1805: "The means I had of communicating with these people was by way of Drewyer [Drouillard] who understood perfectly the common language of gesturing or signs which seems to be universally understood by all the Nations we have yet seen."

George Drouillard (1773-1810)

George Drouillard was recruited by Captain Meriwether Lewis upon reaching Fort Massac in November 1803. Captain Daniel Bissell, who had been ordered by the War Department to recruit volunteers for the Corps of Discovery, recommended Drouillard as an excellent hunter with a good knowledge of the Indians' character and sign language.

Drouillard was one of two non-military members of the Corps to complete the expedition from camp Dubois to the Pacific and back. Drouillard generally accompanied Lewis on scouting missions. Lewis praised him highly as the most skilled hunter among the men.

Because of his sign language skills, Drouillard often played a key role in establishing relations with the various Indian tribes that the Corps encountered. During the winter of 1804-05, Drouillard's interpretive and hunting skills were integral to establishing friendly relations with the Mandan Indians, with whom the Corps survived a incredibly cold winter. He was often assigned to small hunting groups, who would be charged with collecting meat to feed the Corps and to trade with the Mandans for other foodstuffs.

When the Corps safely reached St. Louis on September 23, 1806, Lewis entrusted Drouillard with the delivery of the first letters containing reports of the expedition to the postmaster in Cahokia. These letters were then sent on to President Jefferson. In 1810, after the Corps was disbanded, Drouillard joined Manuel Lisa's fur trading party and returned to the Three Forks region of the upper Missouri; later that year he was murdered by Indians.

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Prepared by Mel Wacks

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