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New Coins Commemorate Shawnee Sign-Talker
With Lewis and Clark Expedition

The 2003 Shawnee Silver Dollar 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. 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."
This is the second annual 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).

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."

These 1 oz. pure silver, 39 mm. Silver Dollars were designed by award-winning sculptor Alex Shagin. They are available at the official issue prices of $19.95 for Brilliant Uncirculated coins (limited to 50,000) and $39.95 for Proof pieces (limited to 20,000). Orders should be sent to the official distributor PandaAmerica, 3460 Torrance Blvd., Suite 100, Torrance, CA 90503; telephone (800) 472-6327; e-mail info@pandaamerica.com. Add $5.50 per order for shipping. Click here to shop online.

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.

Drouillard provided vital interpreter services to Lewis when the captain and an advance party were scouting for the Shoshones. Commenting on Drouillard's sign language skills, Lewis, on August 14, 1805, wrote: "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. It is true that this language is imperfect and liable to error but is much less so than would be expected. The strong parts of the ideas are seldom mistaken."

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.

The Expedition and the Shawnees

There were a number of encounters between the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Shawnees, as witnessed by these excerpts from the Journal of Meriwether Lewis:

Nov. 16th 1803
Passed the Mississippi this day and went down on the other side after landing at the upper habitation on the opposite side. We found here some Shawnees and Delawares encamped, one of the Shawnees, a respectable-looking Indian, offered me three beaver skins for my dog, with which he appeared much pleased. The dog was of the Newfoundland breed, one that I prized much for his docility and qualifications generally for my journey and of course there was no bargain. I had given $20 for this dog myself.

Nov. 23rd 1803
Landed at [Cape Girardeau, Missouri] and called on the commandant and delivered the letters of introduction which I had for him from Capt. Daniel Bissell and a Mr. Drewyer [Drouillard], a nephew of the Commandant's [Louis Lorimier]. The commandant is Canadian by birth, of French extraction; he was once a very considerable trader among the Shawnees & Delawares. This man, agreeably to the custom of many of the Canadian traders, has taken to himself a wife from among the aborigines of the country. His wife is a Shawnee woman, from her complexion is half blooded only. She is a very decent woman, and if we may judge from her present appearance has been very handsome when young. She dresses after the Shawnee manner with stroud [woolen] leggings and moccasins, differing however from them in her linen which seemed to be drawn beneath the girdle of her stroud, as also a short jacket with long sleeves over her linen, with long sleeves more in the style of the French Canadian women.

25th Nov. 1803
On this stream [Apple Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi River which flows eastward out of the State of Missouri] about 7 miles from its mouth is a settlement of Shawnees, which more than any other in this quarter deserves the name of a village. I could not ascertain their number. [This settlement was located near the later village of Old Appleton, on Apple Creek in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. It may have contained as many as four hundred persons in 1803].

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Prepared by Mel Wacks
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