New Sacajawea Middle School Logo Shows Why Accuracy Is Important to Indigenous Cultures
Commentary by Matthew Kincanon | FāVS News
November is Native American Heritage Month. During this time, it’s important to learn about and recognize the history and cultures of Indigenous people in the U.S. Some places are trying to do that and recognize the tribes in their area, but when doing this it’s vital to involve the tribes to ensure accuracy.
One example of this is the new logo of the new Sacajawea Middle School and the work that was put into it to have it accurately reflect Sacajawea and her people, the Agai-Dika Band of the Lemhi Shoshone.
Enter Lacey Marie Abrahamson
Lacey Marie Abrahamson, a descendent of Sacajawea and consultant on the Paramount+ series “1883,” helped bring more authenticity to the Spokane area by redesigning the school’s logo earlier this year.
Abrahamson first got involved with the project after Toni Lodge, CEO of the NATIVE Project, reached out to her and told her about how the school district was looking to create something that was more accurate to Sacajawea’s people. She was recommended by Lodge to Tamika LaMere, the Spokane Public Schools Native Education Coordinator, and was contacted by Greg Forsyth, the Director of Capital Projects for Spokane Public Schools. They began planning and working on the project.
While the initial logo design was Indigenous, it wasn’t accurate to the appropriate tribe. Abrahamson said it had Coastal Salish designs, which are not connected to Sacajawea. She added that the change was important to specifically identify her cultural tribal symbols and her people’s geometrical artistry symbolized on the logo.
She said Agai-Dika Band of the Lemhi Shoshone designs are geometric and use the colors of the sun. The colors of the sun are used as a way of honoring and remembering the Creator and his creations. In the design, Abrahamson said the thunderbird’s head faces the East representing where the sun rises.
“It is a belief that each and every day is a blessing from the Creator so the thunderbird’s head will be a reminder of that each day,” she said.
Significance of Sacajawea’s Name
For most, Abrahamson said the thunderbird has a specific significance of power and ties to water. She added that water is the essence of all life, and “when we hear its thundering cry, water falls on to Mother Earth. With this water we have life.”
The new logo was created and designed in respect to Sacajawea, her people, her culture and legacy, as the school’s namesake. Abrahamson said Sacajawea’s name is Agai-Dika, with a strong “j” sound and translates to “That is Her Burden.”
“To my people, a given name defines your purpose in life,” she said. “This name told her story.”
When it comes to all knowledge she shared and incorporated into the logo, Abrahamson wanted to acknowledge her mother, Rose Ann Abrahamson, who shared cultural knowledge with her throughout her life, “making it possible for cultural correctness to take place in our community in honor of our people.”
“The importance behind the changes is that education is a means to acquire knowledge, and it is a momentous time to pay tribute to Sacajawea by acknowledging her unique cultural tribal attributes as the namesake of the school,” Abrahamson said. “And through these efforts, recognize that there are 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with different cultural values, languages, artwork and ceremonies.”
Hundreds of different tribes means hundreds of different beliefs, practices, languages and traditions to learn about. It is important to showcase Indigenous cultures when possible, but it is also just as important to make sure it is done accurately and with the contributions of the tribe’s institutions and organizations they are representing.
The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.
Matthew Kincanon is a former Digital Content Producer with a journalism and political science degree from Gonzaga University. His journalism experience includes the Gonzaga Bulletin, The Spokesman-Review, Art Chowder magazine and SpokaneFāVS. He said he is excited to be a freelancer at SpokaneFāVS because, as a Spokane native, he wants to learn more about the various religious communities and cultures in his hometown.