Skip to main content

25 Facts About Sacagawea and the Lewis and Clark Expedition

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Learning about American history is a project that my daughter and I love to share. Discovering facts about the past, enlightens the future.

U.S. Sacagawea Golden Dollar

U.S. Sacagawea Golden Dollar

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

Sacagawea statue at Lewis & Clark College

Sacagawea statue at Lewis & Clark College

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

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

Lewis & Clark The Journey Begins

Lewis & Clark The Journey Begins

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

Sacajawea of the Shoshonis

Sacajawea of the Shoshonis

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.

© 2011 Marie

Your Comments: What More Can You Add About Sacagawea?

Triple p on February 17, 2020:

Sacagawea was amazing but only a few people know who she is

LILY on January 24, 2020:

I am in fourth grade,and I love learning about Sacagwea

Isabelle on April 25, 2019:

Sacageawa was an amazing INDIAN...

kk on April 24, 2019:

SACAGAWEA RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mara on April 16, 2019:

im doing a report about her

c on March 28, 2019:

nice :)

c on March 27, 2019:


Dean on February 11, 2019:

I am not sure we can memorize Sacajawea enough. There have been controversy about where she died and where her remains are buried. But for Pomp his remains are at Innskeep, OR. Or John Day, OR.

stella on February 09, 2019:

this site rocks

Chloe on February 04, 2019:

This really helped me with my Wiki Pages for a school report, i'm glad you took the time to make this cool site for curious kids!

Olivia on January 16, 2019:

I love this cite

Karina on January 13, 2019:

Sacagawea was on the coin, not Randy'L He-dow Teton. You know how I know bc I'm digging deeper into the coin for a school project.

alivia on December 03, 2018:

thanks for telling me about Sacagawea I'm actually doing a Google slides about her.

kacey on September 25, 2018:

sacagawea means bird woman

Dia on May 25, 2018:

I really love this website! This info is really helpful when your trying to learn about sacajawea! :)

peachplays on May 01, 2018:

I have a report to!!!!!!!!!!!I love the history of her life!

sacagawea444 on April 30, 2018:

this is super helpful to my report as well, i've been looking for info on other sites and I finally found what I was looking for!!!!

wcll on April 18, 2018:


sacagawea on March 27, 2018:

It is very reliable and it did help me on my report!!!!

bylan on March 26, 2018:


sacagawea on March 25, 2018:

say what she wanted in life and what she chose

william on March 22, 2018:

this was good

Dylan on February 23, 2018:

cool facts

NightcoreFnafClown on January 30, 2018:

This tells alot about her but not that much on about her family.

Bri on January 18, 2018:

this helped but pleaze have some information on her 18- 21 age. THXS

james on December 07, 2017:

i wish she was still alive so i could learn about here tribe

Spider-Man on December 04, 2017:

Sacagawea mame mean Bird women

Saleha on May 11, 2017:

WOW! Sacagawea is a cool old lady who really heled Lewis and Clark she is a really helpful Native American i wish she was still alive so i could meet her

hilary nicolas on May 11, 2017:

sacagowea is so beautiful and she is so helpful. one day i wish to see her statue.

Mary on February 04, 2017:

This is awesome

Marie (author) on November 23, 2012:

@KathyMcGraw2: Thank you very much, Kathy.

Kathy McGraw from California on November 22, 2012:

Just stopping back to bless this Sacagawea page :)

Marie (author) on October 20, 2012:

@siobhanryan: Great, I'm really pleased :)

Marie (author) on October 20, 2012:

@anonymous: Thank you, Sashley :)

selah74 on August 17, 2012:

I lived in Salmon Idaho for a time-- near the "Sac Center."

siobhanryan on May 22, 2012:

I enjoyed this a whole lot

Marie (author) on January 21, 2012:

@sheezie77: Thank you very much for stopping by!

Marie (author) on January 14, 2012:

@jeremykim2011: Squidoo is a brilliant learning resource on the whole :) Thank you

Marie (author) on January 14, 2012:

@SecondHandJoe LM: Thank you SecondHandJoe, lovely to know you enjoyed my Sacagawea Facts!

Marie (author) on January 14, 2012:

@River_Rose: Thank you, River_Rose, for your visit and comment.

Marie (author) on January 14, 2012:

@favored: Thank you, that is very kind :)

Marie (author) on January 14, 2012:

@Pennyseeker LM: Thank you for your visit :)

River_Rose on January 06, 2012:

Enjoyed this lens very much.....learned a lot....thank you for posting it !

SecondHandJoe LM on January 06, 2012:

Yea- really a nice story told a little bit differently than when we learned about her growing up. I enjoyed reading this well written story!

jeremykim2011 on January 05, 2012:

Thank you so much for the informative lens about Sacagawea. That's why I love Squidoo. I learn a lot from the lenses.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@JoshK47: Thanks so much Josh :)

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@anonymous: Tipi, you're so sweet. Thank you so much for your blessing and the feature too. I'm floating on cloud 9 right now.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@JoanieMRuppel54: I'd sure love to be able to visit that statue of Sacagawea one day. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit my page and glad you enjoyed it too.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@JohnMichael2: Thank you, I appreciate your visit.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@cleanyoucar: Thank you very much.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@Africanos: Thank you, she was an inspiring woman indeed.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@wheresthekarma: Oh that is great to have ancestors that you can be so proud of. Amazing. Thanks for stopping by.

Marie (author) on January 05, 2012:

@Tamara14: Thank you so much, Tamara. I really appreciate your angel dust sprinkling as well as your visit!

Tamara14 on January 05, 2012:

What a good story and a beautiful way of telling it. It was total news to me and I'm glad to have come across it:) Blessed!

wheresthekarma on January 05, 2012:

THis was very interesting. Lewis and Clark are both my ancestors, so it's interesting reading about them. Thank you.

Africanos on January 04, 2012:

Sacagawea was known as a guide and friend,saving lives throughout the expedition.Nice lens.

cleanyoucar on January 04, 2012:

Great story, thanks for sharing with us =)

JohnMichael2 on January 04, 2012:

good information, I enjoyed reading it

ViJuvenate on January 04, 2012:

What a rough life for a young woman. She was very strong spirited. Sometimes I just want to time travel and smack some people.

Joanie Ruppel from Keller, Texas on January 04, 2012:

Very much enjoyed your collection of facts. They are very authentic as we are big Lewis & Clark buffs! We did the trail from Ft. Wood, IL to Chamberlain, SD one year as part of our vacation.

I live near Ft. Worth, TX and at the Science and History Museum, they have an outdoor statue of Sacagawea and Pomp in a prominent place outside the museum.

anonymous on January 04, 2012:

Learned something new today, thank you for sharing these Sacagawea facts with us!

anonymous on January 03, 2012:

This is so well done with the facts about Sacagawea, she was a true leader and a great woman. I'm going to feature this on my Lewis & Clark Books, Coloring Pages & Studies lens, and it is blessed! Very nicely presented.

toldyaso lm on January 03, 2012:

Love this! Thank you for such a wonderful, insightful lens. Keep up the good work!

JoshK47 on January 03, 2012:

Quite a fine lot of information about a remarkable woman - thanks for sharing all this! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

Marie (author) on January 02, 2012:

@lasertek lm: You're welcome. Thanks for the visit.

Marie (author) on January 02, 2012:

@BuddyBink: Thank you - glad you enjoyed your history refresher course!

Marie (author) on January 02, 2012:

@aesta1: I bet there are a lot of important women in history who've never been documented at all. Thanks for visiting.

Marie (author) on January 02, 2012:

@pheonix76: Thank you for stopping by on my Sacagawea page :)

baby-strollers on January 02, 2012:

It's cool to get the whole story. I have heard of it before, know I am informed. Nice job.

lasertek lm on January 02, 2012:

I do not know much about her until today. Thanks for sharing.

BuddyBink on January 02, 2012:

Thanks for the history lesson. I learned about Sacagawea in elementary school but not that she had been a part of the expedition from the beginning or that she had died so young.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 01, 2012:

I have not come across her at all if not for this lens. What a woman.

pheonix76 from WNY on January 01, 2012:

Thanks for creating this page. I have been fascinated by Lewis and Clark's expedition for years and enjoyed reading this lens. :)

Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on January 01, 2012:

New Year's Blessings. I am adding Sacagawea to the Famous Women in History Lens.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on January 01, 2012:

Great compilation of facts about Sacagawea! We studied her years ago in our homeschool when the kids were little. Brings back great memories for me!

Related Articles