Sacagawea and Son: The Visual Construction of America’s Maternal Feminine

Patricia Vettel-Becker


Through an analysis of public statues commemorating Sacagawea, I argue that her maternal body has come to symbolize the American frontier and the “birth” of a new nation. Her “willingness” to guide Lewis and Clark on America’s most sacred mission into the wilderness has served to sanctify the “civilized” settlement of the fecund “native” land she represents, as does her giving up of her young son to Clark, a self-sacrificial act in keeping with the mythic construct of the maternal feminine, which in this case enables historical realities concerning race, genocide, appropriation, displacement, slavery, and sexual abuse to be submerged.

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American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

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