Saturday, November 20, 2010

Translating Names (National Statuary Hall Collection)

One of the most interesting features of the US Capitol is the National Statuary Hall Collection, which consists of 100 statues (2 from each state in the union). A particularly diverse group of statues populates the Capitol Visitor Center, reflecting the multicultural heritage of the nation.

On the left (above) is King Kamehameha, who (according to this official description) "united all the inhabited islands of Hawai'i under his rule." The pedestal of the statue reads KAMEHAMEHA I (i.e., King Kamehameha the First), but his full Hawaiian name is apparently much longer. On the right (above) is the Native American woman most commonly known as Sakagawea (or Sacajawea). In selecting this statue, the North Dakota legislature honored the woman they called Sakakawea as a "traveler and guide, translator, a diplomat, and a wife of mother" who was so crucial in the expeditions of Lewis and Clark.

Another figure worth mentioning here is Sequoyah, a Native American who represents the state of Oklahoma. The official description refers to him the "inventor of the Cherokee alphabet," but the writing system he developed is technically a syllabary.

(For more on Sequoyah, see my previous posting.)

Other statues in the collection depict figures from far-flung points of origin: e.g., Spanish missionaries Eusebio Francisco Kino (AZ) and Junipero Serra (CA); Quebec-born settlers Jean-Baptiste McLoughlin (OR), Jason Lee (OR), and Mother Joseph, née Esther Pariseau (WA); a French missionary, Father Jacques Marquette (WI); a Dutch-speaking Belgian known as Father Damien, born Joseph de Veuster (HI); and more Native Americans: Sarah Winnemucca (NV-Paiute), Po'pay (NM-Tiwa), and Washakie (WY-Shoshone).

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