ST. CHARLES, Mo. – St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer said he will likely withdraw a bid to acquire a controversial statue of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and Native American guide and interpreter Sacagawea.
“It was controversial enough that I think St. Charles needs to let somebody else take it on,” Borgmeyer said.
The sculpture, called “Their First View of the Pacific,” was erected in 1919 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The work depicts Meriwether Lewis and William Clark standing triumphantly at the discovery of the West Coast, with Sacagawea crouched and looking toward the ground.
Descendants of Sacagawea and critics claimed the statue depicts the Shoshone woman in a subservient or cowardly role.
Charlottesville removed the statue on July 10, 2021, after taking down statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson earlier that day.
Mayor Borgmeyer did not agree with the decision to remove the bronze sculpture and submitted a proposal for St. Charles to receive the statue. All told, 15 cities and individuals turned in plans to relocate the statue from Charlottesville. All proposals had to include plans to recontextualize the statue to explain Sacagawea’s vital importance to the mission.
Borgmeyer believed it made sense for the statue commemorating exploration of the Louisiana Territory to come to the city along the Missouri River. The Lewis and Clark expedition launched from St. Charles on May 21, 1804. The party met Sacagawea in April the following year in what’s now North Dakota.
“I would say the input was evenly split,” Borgmeyer said. “At the Festival of Little Hills, we had a booth there and I talked to about 2,000 people over three days along with my team, and we had like eight people object to it and the rest for it. Of course, we were standing next to the Lewis and Clark statue, so that might have had something to do with it too. But I am totally opposed to the cancel culture and taking down statues. I think we need to learn from those. If (the statue) is inappropriate, then let’s learn from it rather than tear it down and put it in a warehouse and let somebody else make that mistake again.”
Borgmeyer said he received a letter from a different relative of Sacagawea supporting his idea.
The City of St. Charles posted a fundraiser on Aug. 10 to help bring the statue to Missouri. The mayor said he would not use public funds for the relocation. After nearly eight weeks, they only raised $3,900 of a $50,000 goal.
Borgmeyer admitted he thought he’d have more of a mandate from the public to acquire the statue. At one point, he sent a letter to the Osage Nation asking for their support of the plan. A representative from the Osage responded and urged the city to renounce its effort to obtain the statue and to contact the Shoshone for additional guidance since Sacagawea was a member of that tribe.
Meanwhile, Brian Wheeler, director of communications for the City of Charlottesville, said the city council is expected to make a decision on the future of the statue by the end of the year.
Mayor Borgmeyer believes the sculpture will ultimately be awarded to the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center located in Charlottesville.
“Everybody says get rid of (the statue) and commission an artist to do it,” Borgmeyer said. “These statues cost $450,000 to a million dollars and I raised $3,900. So, I don’t see myself raising a million dollars to do a Sacagawea statue. We already have one. It’s very appropriate, it’s an indoor statute, it’s large. But I don’t see us moving forward to do that. We’ve got a lot of Lewis and Clark statutes in St. Charles already.”