Historically, Native Americans (or at least, white women wearing an Indian headdress), have been depicted more often on United States coins than on currency. The best known example of such a coin was the “Buffalo or Indian Head Nickel” of 1913–1938. The gold $2.50 and $5.00 coins of Bela Pratt (1908-1929) featured on the obverse, a portrait of an Indian chief, possibly Chief Hollow Horn Bear. Native Americans have been depicted on at least six commemorative coins, as well as the new Sacagawea Dollar coin.
In 1899, a new $5 Silver Certificate Note was issued by the U.S. Government. This note featured an engraved portrait of Chief Running Antelope, a Hunkpapa Sioux. Chief Running Antelope, known to his people as Ta-to’-ka- in-yan-ka, became head chief of the Hunkpapa tribe of the Sioux in 1851. Known for his bravery in war, and great skills in oration and diplomacy; Running Antelope was one of four Hunkpapa principle chiefs who acted as close advisors to Sitting Bull during the Plains Indian Wars. He believed
that ultimately the whites would prevail in any protracted struggle. Running Antelope was an advocate for compromise with the whites, a position that would eventually distance himself from Sitting Bull.
The engraving was based on a 1872 photograph by noted Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner. The engraving, by George F.C. Smillie, was a good likeness of the photograph with one notable difference – in order for the portrait to fit the area designated on the obverse, Smillie substituted Running Antelope’s tall feathered Sioux headdress for a squatter Pawnee war bonnet. This action infuriated and humiliated the Sioux, and became an embarrassment to the government.
The $5 Silver Certificate Note of 1899 is today highly sought after by currency investors and collectors. This note is constantly in high demand, even in the heavily circulated grades. It is the only piece of United States currency to ever feature the portrait of a Native American
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