“No Black person has ever been represented on a bill in the United States,” confirmed UCLA’s Director of American Indian Studies, Professor Shannon Speed.
“Harriet Tubman's presence keeps the history of slavery, on which this country was built, at the forefront ... that is something all Native Peoples in this country can celebrate.”
Professor Speed is thrilled with the removal of former President Andrew Jackson from her wallet, and believes his presence on ‘the most-used bill in America’ was a constant reminder of the harm he inflicted upon her people.
Professor Speed identifies as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and serves on the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).
Although pleased by the placement of Tubman on the new twenty-dollar note, she says Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller would have been a better fit.
“Given Jackson’s role in a particularly important phase of the genocidal policies designed to eliminate our peoples, it would have been gratifying to see him replaced by a Native woman,” she said.
“The United States needs to come to terms with its history of genocidal harms.”
Professor Speed says the inclusion of Chief Mankiller would confirm her people’s presence in ‘the contemporary era’ despite Jackson’s intensions to wipe them out.
Nicknamed ‘the Indian killer,’ former President Jackson passed a law in 1830 – known as the Indian Removal Act – which legalised ethnic cleansing.
Thousands of Chickasaw and Cherokee people were forced off their ancestral lands and more than 4,000 Native Americans died as a result.
“The Removal Act will relieve the whole State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama of Indian occupancy… and perhaps cause them gradually to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”
– Andrew Jackson, December 6, 1830
Despite national condemnation, Jackson will remain on the reverse of the twenty-dollar note.
United States Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew hopes to unveil the final design by 2020, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote.
Tara Callinan is an NITV freelance reporter based in the United States.