The only Native American woman who served as an interpreter and guide
for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and 1806.
As a child, she had been taken by members of the Hidatsa Tribe and lived
among them. Later she was sold to a French-Canadian trapper named
*One of them was, of course, Sacagawea, destined to be the most famous member
of the Corps of Discovery after the captains themselves.
Sacajawea, one of Charbonneau wives, and
her baby accompanied the expedition.
Charbonneau was born February 11,1805, in present day North
Dakota with the help of Captain Lewis and some rattlesnake tail.
54 days later Sacagawea wrapped Jean Baptiste onto a
cradleboard, strapped him on her back and they began the
laborious journey to the coast.
Spelling of her name is controversial
Charbonneau stated that her name meant Bird Woman and in the Hidatsa
language the name should be properly spelled "Tsakaka-wias".
The name adopted by Wyoming and some other
Western States is "Sacajawea", the Shoshone word meaning
"Boat-Launcher". The name is entered in Clark's Journal for
April 7, 1805 as Sah-kah-gar-wea.
(Ralph M. Shane - A Short History of the Fort
Berthold Indian Reservation)
May 14, 1805 - The boat Sacajawea was riding in was hit by a
high wind and nearly capsized. Her calmness earned her
compliments from the Captains.
"The Indian woman to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and
resolution, with any person onboard at the time of the accident,
caught and preserved most of the light articles which were
July 28, 1805 - Sacajawea was a remarkable woman in time of
"Our camp is precisely on the spot that the Snake Indians were
encamped at the time the Minnetares of the Knife River first
came in sight of them five years since. From hence they
retreated about three miles up Jefferson's River and concealed
themselves in the woods, the Minnetares pursued, attacked them,
killed 4 men, 4 women, a number of boys, and made prisoners of
all the females and four boys, Sacajawea was one of the female
prisoners. I cannot discover that she shows any emotion of
sorrow in recollecting this event, or of joy in being restored
to her native country; if she has enough to eat and a few
trinkets to wear I believe she would be perfectly content
August 8, 1805 - Sacajawea was attached to her country and
"The Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our
right which she informed us was not very distance from the
summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains
which runs to the west. This hill she says her nation calls the
Beaver's Head, as it resembles the head of that animal. She
assures us that we shall either find her people on this river or
on the river immediately west..."
August 17, 1805 - Five years later, Sacajawea had an
emotional reunion with her brother, Chief Cameahwait; it was
Sacajawea who secured the horses that the Expedition needed.
"Clark saw Sacajawea, who was with her husband 100 yards ahead,
began to dance and show every mark of the most extravagant joy,
turning round him and pointing to several Indians, whom he now
saw advancing on horseback, sucking her fingers to indicate that
they were of her native tribe."
Kidnapped as a child, Sacajawea had been torn away from
her people, so finding the Shoshone meant more than the purchase
of horses -- it meant returning to the land of her birth, for
Sacajawea was a Lemhi.
"She came into the tent, sat down, and was beginning to
interpret, when in the person of Cameahwait she recognized her
brother; She instantly jumped up, and ran and embraced him,
throwing over him her blanket and weeping profusely."
George tells of her great great great great aunt, Sacajawea,
who was captured as a child, and then reunited with her family
as a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
October 19, 1805 - The presence of Sacajawea was an
invitation to the Indians that the white people came in peace.
"The sight of this Indian woman, wife to one of our interprs.
confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman
ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter..."
November 20, 1805 - Sacajawea, always pleasing the Captains.
"One of the Indians had on a roab made of 2 Sea Otters Skins the
fur of them were more butifull than any fur I had ever seen both
Capt. Lewis & my Self endeavored to purchase the roab with
differant articles at length we precurred it for a belt of blue
beeds which the - wife of our interpreter Shabono wore around
November 24, 1805 - Reaching the place where the Columbia
River empties into the Pacific Ocean, the members of the
Expedition were given the right to vote on the location where
they would settle for the winter. Sacajawea (Janey) in
favor of a place where there is plenty of Potas.
1806 Significant Dates
7, 1806 - A whale had washed ashore, near present day Seaside/Cannon
Beach, Oregon. Sacajawea accompanied the group to the ocean.
"She observed that she had traveled a long way with us to see the great
waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen."
July 15, 1806 - Sacajawea proved a valuable guide on the return
journey. She remembered trails from her childhood; the most
important trail was a large road that passed through a gap in the
mountain, which led to Yellowstone River. Today, it is known as Bozeman
August 17, 1806 - End of the Journey for Sacajawea... returning
to the Hidatsa-Mandan Village.
"I offered to take the little son a butifull promising child who is
19 months old to which they both himself & wife were willing
provided the child had been weened. They observed that in one year
the boy would be sufficiently old to leave his mother & he would
then take him to me if I would be so friendly as to raise the child
... to which I agreed".
Memorials to Sacagawea
Mountains Sacajawea Peak, Bridger Range, Montana
Sacajawea Peak, Wind River Range, Wyoming Sacajawea Peak,
Wallowa Range, Oregon Sacajawea Peak, Lost River Range, Idaho
Paintings Sacajawea on Indian pony, with child in
papoose cradle, Henry Altman, 1905. Sacajawea, State University
of Montana Library, Edward Samuel Paxson, 1906 The Shoshonis
Naming Sacajawea, Tullius P. Dunlap, 1925 Painting, Sacajawea in
boat meeting Chinook party, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort
Worth, Texas, Charles M. Russell.
Mural, Lewis and Clark at the Three Forks, Edward Samuel Paxson,
Capitol, Helena, Montana.
Mural, Capitol, Helena, Montana, Charles M. Russell, 1912.
Markers Grave of "Sacajawea of the Shoshonis," on the Shoshoni
Reservation, near Lander, Wyoming, 1909. Monument
near Mobridge, South Dakota, 1929.
Sacajawea maker, near Tendoy, Idaho, west of Lemhi Pass.
Bronze tablet on wall of Bishop Randall Chapel, Shoshoni Cemetery,
Granite marker, Shoshoni Cemetery, for Bazil, Baptiste, and
Baptiste's daughter Barbara Meyers, 1932.
Boulder with bronze tablet, honoring meeting place of Sacajawea and
her brother, Camaeahwait, near the confluence of Horse Prairie and
Red Rocks creeks, Armstead, Montana, 1914.
Boulder and brass tablet erected by Daughters of American
Revolution, near Three Forks, Montana, 1914. Lakes/Creeks
Lake Sacajawea, Longview, Washington
Lake Sakakawea, (formerly Lake Garrison), North Dakota Sacajawea
Creek, Montana, named by Lewis and Clark. It flows into the
Missouri River near the confluence of the Musselshell (now known as
Source: Harold P. Howard University of Oklahoma Press
The Sakakawea Trail is 115 miles, starting in Washburn and
finishing in Grassy Butte. Most of the drive is on Rte. 200A and
Rte. 200. Road trip starts just south of the 178-mile-long Lake
Sakakawea. Start this historic drive by taking a short side trip
and drive west from Washburn on Rte. 17 to Fort Mandan, where
the explorers Lewis and Clark wintered. It was during the winter
of 1804-1805, while staying at Fort Mandan, that the explorers
added Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife to their team as
translators. Charbonneau's wife, a young Shoshone named
Sakakawea, provided priceless assistance as a translator to
Lewis and Clark for several years. As you tour this part of the
country, you can find many places named after the Shoshone
translator, including Lake Sakakawea.
The Golden Dollar's obverse (front) side, designed by
American sculptor Glenna Goodacre, depicts the young
Shoshone woman, Randy'L He-Dow Teton modeled for the coin)
Sacagawea, who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their journey
from the Great Northern Plains across the Continental Divide
to the Pacific. Historians note that Sacagawea's
exceptional diplomatic and navigational skills contributed
greatly to the success of the mission. She carried her
on her back throughout the course of the expedition.
Her significant role as an American woman pioneer won her
the distinction of gracing the nation's new coinage. The
Golden Dollar's reverse (back) design, by Thomas D. Rogers
Sr., presents a soaring American bald eagle encircled by 17
stars - symbolizing the states of the Union at the time of
the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804.
January 17, 2001
President Clinton presented the title of Honorary
Sergeant, Regular Army to Sacagawea, a young Shoshone woman
who served as Lewis and Clark's guide. Sacagawea was
the only woman to accompany the explorers to the Pacific
Ocean and back, and her interpretation and navigation skills
proved invaluable to the expedition.
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