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Sacajewea

1787–1812
Civilization: American — Shoshone
   Field of Renown:  heroine — guide
Era:  Indian Wars

Sacajewea
SHE CRIED OUT TO THEM, 'MY PEOPLE! MY PEOPLE!'
Sacajawea was born into a tribe of Shoshone Indians living in present-day Idaho, but at the age of twelve she and several companions were kidnapped by a group of Hidatsa and brought to North Dakota. A year later, Sacajawea was given in marriage to Toussaint Charbonneau, a Canadian trapper, and by the time of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s arrival in the region, she was pregnant with her first child. She and Toussaint were chosen as guides for the mission, and a week later they moved into the expedition’s fort. Clark nicknamed the Indian woman “Jamey,” and in February 1805 Lewis recorded the birth of her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Two months later, the party left and headed up the Missouri River. Several items, including the men’s journals, fell from the boat, and when Sacajawea rescued them, the river was renamed the Sacajawea River in her honor.

By August 1805, the group had located a Shoshone tribe, the leader of which was revealed to be Sacajawea’s brother. The travellers were given horses and guides to lead them over the Rocky Mountains. During the journey, the men came so close to starvation that they were forced to eat candles to survive; when they finally came down on the other side, Sacajawea prepared a dinner of camas roots to help them regain strength. Later, she offered her beaded belt in exchange for a fur robe that Lewis and Clark wished to bring Thomas Jefferson. The group soon reached the Pacific Ocean, and they built a fort for the winter months. During the return trip, Sacajawea led them through a gap in the Rocky Mountains, later the route for the Northern Pacific Railway. Yet despite this act of guidance, Sacajawea’s role during the expedition lay primarily in conducting peaceful relations with the various Indian tribes that the party encountered. After the conclusion of their journey, Charbonneau and his wife returned to the Hidatsa for a time before joining Clark in St. Louis, Missouri. Their son Jean Baptiste was enrolled in the Saint Louis Academy boarding school, and soon after the move, Sacajawea gave birth to a daughter, Lizette. Sacajawea was believed to have passed away in 1812, a short time before custody of her son was given to Clark, but some American Indians speculated that she left her husband at that time and went to live with the Wyoming Shoshone until her death in 1884. While little is known about her true resting place, a gravestone bearing her name was erected in Wyoming on the basis of these legends.


Key events during the life of Sacajawea:


Year
Event
1787
Born.
1799
Kidnapped by Hidatsa Indians.
1800
Married Toussaint Charbonneau.
1804
Met William and CLark and agreed to accompany them to the Pacific Ocean.
1805
Gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
  Brought Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean.
1806
Led the expedition through a gap in the Rocky Mountains during their return home.
  Returned to live among the Hidatsa.
1809
Moved to St. Louis, Missouri, near William Clark.
1810
Gave birth to a daughter, Lizette.
1812
Died.
1813
Custody of her son was given to William Clark.
1884
Legend tells that Sacajawea returned to her people in 1812 and passed away in 1884.

Book Links
Bird Woman—Sacajawea  by  James W. Schultz

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Bird-Woman Guide  in  Book of Indian Warriors  by  Edwin Sabin
Bird Woman Meets Lewis in  Bird Woman  by  James W. Schultz


Image Links


That means she sees her own people.'
 in With Lewis and Clark

I saw red hair and his men not far ahead
 in Bird Woman

A rider suddenly seized my left arm and yanked me up on his horse
 in Bird Woman

I cried out to them 'My people, my people! I am your long-lost Grass woman.'
 in Bird Woman


Contemporary
Short Biography
Merriwether Lewis With William Clark, followed the Missouri river to its source, crossed the Rockies and followed the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
William Clark Led an expedition up the Missouri River, map-making, gathering information, and looking for a passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Thomas Jefferson Third President. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Founder of Democrat-Republican Party.