25 Facts About Sacagawea and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Here are 25 fascinating and insightful facts which tell the true story of a young Native American Igirl. This girl was kidnapped as a young teenager by a rival tribe and swiftly passed on to be the wife of a French-Canadian fur trapper.
Sacagawea was employed, along with her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, to go with the great Lewis and Clark Expedition, or the Corps of Discovery, on a 3,700-mile trek. She aided the expedition with her skill in interpreting for trades with Native Americans on the journey.
She also helped to guide the way on the long trek. She cooked, cleaned and mended clothes —all while caring for her tiny baby son. She was a remarkable symbol of independence and endurance. Her spirit lives on to this day.
3 Facts About Sacagawea's Name
1. The name is often pronounced sack-uh-guh-wee-a. Although there's plenty of debate about that, it is currently considered to be the most common spelling of her name and the one that is most widely used. There are many variants of her name but this is the spelling used most by modern historians and this spelling is also on the year 2000 Dollar coin which features her.
2. She is also known as Sakakawea, an anglicized form, which is said to be derived from tsakaka wia from the Hidatsa (Minnetarees) language. This spelling means bird woman - sakaka meaning bird and wea meaning woman. Her husband told other people that her name had this meaning which seems to corroborate it.
3. The Lemhi Shoshone, the Northern Shoshone tribe that she was born into, refer to her as Sacajawea which comes from the Shoshone word for her name, Saca tzah we yaa. This variant of her name means boat puller or boat launcher.
4 Facts About Her Early Life
4. Not a great deal is known or recorded on her early years. She was born around 1788 as the daughter of a Lemhi Shoshone chief and was of the Akaitikka, Agaideka or Eaters of Salmon tribe. They were traditionally based near the Idaho upper Salmon River, hence the 'Eaters of Salmon' name.
5. Sacagawea was kidnapped along with several other girls in 1800. At that point, she would have been about 12 years old. The kidnappers were an enemy tribe called the Hidatsa Indians (Minnetarees) who took the girls to what is the present-day North Dakota.
6. At the tender age of 13, she was either bought or won in gambling by a man called Toussaint Charbonneau. He took her and another woman to be his wives though it is not known by what custom they were bound.
7. Her husband, Charbonneau, was a French-Canadian Trapper, originally from Quebec. He worked as a fur trapper and also an interpreter of the Hidatsa tribes when he settled among them. He is not written about in a particularly favorable light.
8 Facts About the Lewis and Clark Expedition
8. Sacagawea and Charbonneau were invited to join an expedition by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The trip which started on the 14th May 1804, is often referred to as the Corps of Discovery. It was a 3,700-mile journey from the Mississippi River to explore newly acquired western lands and find a route to the Pacific Ocean. She was to be the only woman on the trip and was there as a Shoshone interpreter.
9. During the expedition, Sacagawea and Charbonneau worked as translators or language interpreters. Sacagawea didn't speak English so she conversed with the Shoshone and then translated to Hidatsa to her husband. Charbonneau, who also didn't speak English, translated this into French to another expedition member, Francois Labiche, who then translated this into English for the expedition leaders.
10. She gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, on February 11, 1805. The boy was given the nickname Little Pomp or Pompey from the expedition leader, Clark and other members.
11. The Sacagawea River in Montana was named in her honor on the 20th May 1805 after she rescued journals and records by Lewis and Clark after a canoe boat almost capsized in a storm.
12. During the expedition, she had an emotional reunion with her brother, Cameahwait, who was now a chief in a band of the Shoshone Indians. Their meeting, in August 1805, was one of happy chance. The expedition party needed to trade with the Shoshone for horses so they could cross the Rocky Mountains.
13. The Lewis and Clark expedition had a difficult time traveling over the Rocky Mountains, so bad that they might have had to survive by eating beef fat tallow candles. Sacagawea helped the group regain strength when they got to the other side of the mountains by cooking camas roots.
14. Sacagawea's blue beaded belt was used to barter for a beautiful fur robe made of sea otter skins that Lewis and Clark wanted for a gift for the then president Thomas Jefferson.
15. Sacagawea was useful to the expedition which ended in September 1806 in a variety of roles. She was an interpreter but also as an occasional guide, a symbol of peace to Indian tribes who they encountered along the way which discouraged their party from being attacked. She was also a food gatherer and cook, a cleaner and someone who could repair clothes.
6 Facts About the Expedition's Aftermath
16. Sacagawea was never actually paid for her part in the expedition. Because she was a woman, it was her husband who was paid with money and land for his and his wife's help and assistance on the trip.
17. After the expedition, Charbonneau and Sacagawea spent 3 years among the Hidatsa before settling down in 1809 in St. Louis, Missouri.
18. A daughter, Lizette or Lisette, was born sometime after 1810 to her. Not much is known about Lizette and it is thought that she may have died in childhood.
19. Sacagawea is reported to have become sick in 1811 and died in 1812 from some kind of fever or sickness.
20. Jean Baptiste, along with his younger sister, Lizette, was adopted by the expedition leader, Clark, after she died. Clark was very fond of Jean Baptiste and had stated his desire to raise him as his own son at the end of the expedition. In fact, Jean Baptiste had been entrusted into Clark's care before the death of his mother and given a boarding school education.
21. Jean Baptiste, held a kind of celebrity status as the only child who went on the Lewis and Clark expedition. He spent 6 years living with German royalty after he was befriended by a prince.
4 Final Facts
22. During the expedition, she had been given certain rights such as the permission to vote for where a fort would be built that the expedition party could stay in during the winter months. Sacagawea became a bit of a role model for suffragists, such as The National American Woman Suffrage Association of the early 20th century. This association sought voting rights for women. She was adopted as a symbol of independence.
23. Many tributes to her and her contribution to the Corps of Discovery have been created such as place names, statues, lakes, and buildings. She was even featured on the 2000 issue of the dollar coin.
24. The picture on the year 2000 dollar coin is not actually Sacagawea because no-one knows what she looked like and no picture exists. The face on the coin was that of a modern Shoshone-Bannock woman called Randy'L He-dow Teton.
25. She was featured in the 2006 comedy movie, Night at the Museum. The night guard, played by Ben Stiller, had real trouble pronouncing her name. She has been in many books, documentaries, movies and even songs. Her spirit really does live on.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Marie