Above: Shoshone woman and child
(Sacajawea) was born around 1788 into a Shoshone Indian tribe in
the Rocky Mountains of what is now Idaho. She was
taken from her Shoshone tribe by a Hidatsa Indian raiding party around
the age of eleven, and later sold into slavery to the Missouri River
Mandan tribe near Bismark, ND.
At the age of fifteen,
that she was sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian
fur trader, making
her one of at least two wives. In November 1804, Meriwether Lewis
and William Clark, appointed by President Thomas Jef ferson to
chart a passage way through the western territories and Pacific
to the Pacific Ocean, arrived in the area with the Corps of Discovery
and built Fort Mandan. Soon after, on February 4, 1805, Sacagawea
gave birth to her son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau. Lewis and Clark
hired Charbonneau to act as a guide and interpreter for their expedition,
but the explorers were likely more interested in having Sacagawea
accompany them because she was Shoshone.
Sacagaewa knew several
Indian languages and would prove to be indispensable on their
and Clark knew that they would need to buy horses from the Shoshone
in order to cross the Bitterroot Mountains and complete their
expedition . The 33-member expedition left Fort Mandan in April
of 1805, with
Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and infant Jean-Baptiste strapped to
her back. Sacagawea proved not only to be indispensable in
horses from her Shoshone tribe (coincidentally, from her long-lost
brother Chief Cameahwait), but in numerous other areas as well.
She was extremely familiar with the the territory the expedition
and knew much about edible and medicinal plants and roots of
which they could take advantage.
More importantly, Sacagawea and her infant
acted as a sign of peace for the military and scientific expedition.
Because Native Americans knew war parties were never accompanied
by a woman and infant, their response was curiosity rather than hostility.
Due greatly to Sacagawea's presence, no member of the expedition
was lost to host ility - an amazing fact considering most Native
Americans at that time had never before seen a white man.
point during the expedition, Sacagawea and Captain Clark
capsized their canoe in dangerous whitewater, and Sacagawea
(with her infant
son Jean Baptiste on her back), rescued Captain Clark's journals
from the water, saving much of Clark's documentation of the
first year of the expedition.
It was these types
of actions that earned
Sacagawea immense respect from Lewis and Clark. On August
14, 1806 the Corps of Discovery returned to the Hidatsa-Mandan
successfully made it to the Pacific Ocean and back.
Charbonneau was paid $500.33 and given 320 acres of land
for his services, Sacagawea
was paid nothing. However, Lewis and Clark were deeply
indebted to her. Six years later Clark legally adopted both
Sacagawea's second child, a girl, named Lisette born
Sacagawea died at
the young age of 25 on December 22,
at Fort Manuel,
a Missouri Fur Company trading post in present-day
South Dakota. She had suffered much of her life from some sort
of ailment, which
nearly took her life once during the expedition. Sacagawea's
contributions as guide, interpreter, and peacemaker were
monumental in the success
of the Louis and Clark Expedition.
Here for Sacagawea's Song by
Martha Hart Johns