Sacagawea statue is unveiled at the State Normal School at Cheney on June 9, 1916.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 9/21/2007
  • Essay 8296

On June 9, 1916, the class of 1916 of the State Normal School at Cheney donates a statue of Sacagawea. The statue will become an important school symbol. In the fall of 1960, a new modern statue will replace it, but the original will be re-installed in 2001. During those years the State Normal School at Cheney will become Eastern Washington College of Education (1937), Eastern Washington State College (1960), and finally, Eastern Washington University (1977).

Glorious and Somewhat Permanent

The class of 1916 wanted to leave behind something glorious and permanent. So they commissioned a plaster sculpture of Sacagawea, the Bird Woman. In a story about the unveiling, the student newspaper reported “Sacajawea commands a position of honor, being the first feature in the building to attract the visitor’s admiring gaze and the last to hold his attention as she seems to bid him God-speed on his departure” (Dryden).

Bird Woman stood for decades in the lower rotunda of the new administration building, later to be named Showalter Hall. She proved, however, to be less than permanent.

Bird Woman Flies

By 1960, her plaster had been nicked and chipped by generations of students. People were calling her “Sad Sac.” So a new modern statue of Sacagawea by well-known artist Harold Balazs was commissioned, made of metal. The plaster Sacagawea came down; the metal one went up.

However, the new one did not prove to be permanent either. It was moved to the Rose Garden in front of the President’s House in 1986 and and in 1987 it was stolen.

The old Sacagawea, recast and restored, was reinstalled in Showalter Hall in 2001.

Sources: Cecil Dryden, Light for an Empire: The Story of Eastern Washington State College (Cheney: Eastern Washington State College, 1965); Charles V.  Mutschler, “Compendium of Eastern Washington University Historical Data,” Eastern Washington University website accessed  September 17. 2007 (

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