Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea Statue
Located at the intersection of Ridge and Main Street in Charlottesville, this statue of Sacagawea, William Clark, and Meriwether Lewis commemorates the 1803-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition. The statue is located in Midway Park, is a prominent historic and geographic position that predated the settlement of the town. The statue was erected in 1919 and is known as "Their First View of the Pacific." This was the first of three statues donated to Charlottesville by Paul Goodloe McIntire. In recent years, residents of the city have considered replacing this statue with one that better reflects the centrality of Sacagawea's contribution. The artist's decision to portray the Native American guide behind Clark and Lewis and in a manner that differs sharply from the heroic pose of the two European-American explorers has led to numerous conversations about the way monuments reflect choices about who should be included and how they should be depicted. More recent monumental depictions of the Lewis and Clark expedition usually include Sacagawea and York, an enslaved person of African descent who was also central to the success of the expedition. A recent monument in Kansas City, for example, depicts these four persons together and is known as the Corps of Discovery monument to further emphasize the important roles played by many diverse participants.
Backstory and Context
The sculpture is an accurate historical depiction of all three explorers. The base of pink granite includes etchings of a brief description of the lives of the explorers as well as information about the exploration they completed together. Near this narrative section, one can also find images that represent important aspects of the journey, including hunting for buffalo, the exploration of rivers, tribal councils, animals such as the bald eagle, and the seals of the United States and the state of Virginia. The three figures face west, the direction of the Pacific Ocean. The statue represents the first public depiction of the Corps of Discovery in Charlottesville and expresses the popular sentiments of the day towards exploration, national purpose and conquest of the wilderness in North America.
In 2009, the city of Charlottesville was pressured by American Indian organizations and descendants of Sacajawea to "set the record straight", because it was said by these two groups that Sacajawea's role with the Corps of Discovery was downplayed. The same year, the city added a plaque to the statue to correct the record.