IDAHO FALLS — When most people envision Sacagawea, they think of her portrait on the golden dollar coin. They’re thinking of a Fort Hall resident.
Randy’L Teton, the spokeswoman for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, modeled for the coin in 1998 and is the only living person who appears on U.S. currency. She recently spoke to students at Holy Rosary Catholic School about her experience and her Shoshone-Bannock heritage for the 20th anniversary of the coin’s official debut by the United States Mint.
This was Teton’s first visit to a school since the coronavirus outbreak began earlier this year. The fourth-grade class at Holy Rosary gathered in the gym to see Teton while fifth- and sixth-graders watched the presentation over Zoom.
“The first class I taught here was fourth grade. I was excited to teach Idaho history, and I was especially excited to teach about her,” said Holy Rosary Principal Carina VanPelt.
Teton was a college student studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe when she was approached about appearing on the coin. Her mother was the tribal director and connected her with Glenna Goodacre, a New Mexican artist who was submitting designs for the coin. Sacagawea has no living relatives but was a member of the Shoshone tribe and grew up near Salmon before she guided Lewis and Clark’s expedition through the final stage of their western expedition.
Teton remembered Goodacre saying that she “looked Shoshone” when they first met. They borrowed a decades-old deerskin dress from a museum collection for her to wear during the session. When the Treasury announced the 10 finalist designs for the Sacagawea coin and posted the images online, eight of them were Teton.
“I had to go to the computer pod on my campus at four in the morning because it was going to be posted on the internet at 6 eastern. I went on the Treasury website and boom, there was my face,” Teton said.
Teton brought a collection of traditional Shoshone clothes to show the students: shell earrings she wore while modeling for the coin, otter pelts that would be woven into her hair during ceremonial events and the top of another deerskin dress.
That dress was made for Teton by her grandmother using eight deer skins, featuring elaborate beadwork showing roses and a meadowlark representing her Shoshone name “Hedow.”
“This is something we have to cherish today because not a lot people still do this kind of work,” Teton said.
At the end of the presentation, Teton took questions from the Holy Rosary students and passed out new versions of the Sacagawea coin for them to take home.
Going along with the 20th anniversary of the coin and November being Native American Heritage month, Teton is planning a series of “Zoom with Sacagawea” sessions to speak to other schools in eastern Idaho and throughout the region.