An American Hero

 

 

During the presentation of Ken Burns' Lewis and Clark: Journey of the Corps of Discovery, which aired on TV12 in the fall of 1997, Sacajawea's story was told. Sacajawea was an American Indian woman whose courage in the face of danger was a large part of the expedition's success.
Sacajawea's fateful journey with Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark was the culmination of a young life filled with hardship. She had been born into the Shoshone tribe in eastern Idaho around 1787. As a young girl, she was captured by an enemy tribe and sold into slavery with the Missouri River Mandans. Eventually, Sacajawea was sold to a French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau, who married her.
That winter, Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery camped at Fort Mandan in North Dakota, where Charbonneau was also spending the winter with his pregnant wife. Charbonneau was hired as an interpreter in 1804 to accompany the two-and-a-half-year Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific Northwest, along with his wife and infant son. At the time, the Corps' leaders were unaware that bringing Sacajawea along was the most important decision they would make.    
Sacajawea's ability as a Native translator and negotiator with knowledge of many languages, customs and tribes was essential. She displayed remarkable ability as a guide by leading the way to her own country, which she had not seen since childhood. There, Sacajawea was reunited with her brother, the head of the Shoshone tribe, who provided the party with horses and food, without which the expedition might well have ended almost on the spot.
When food was scarce along the trail, Sacajawea taught the men how to gather nuts, berries and other edible plants to provide nourishment. On one occasion, she rescued the records of the expedition from an overturned canoe, demonstrating her dedication to the journey's success.

After the expedition's completion, Lewis and Clark named a river "Sacajawea" in her honor. From here, her story becomes unclear. One account states that Sacajawea died of a fever at age 25. However, native accounts, especially Shoshone oral history, recall Sacajawea living a full life up to age 96.
Even though the end of Sacajawea's life is uncertain, it's unquestionable that she is an American hero. There are more monuments to her than any other American woman. The most famous is a statue in Washington Park in Portland, Oregon.

 


 

'sacajawea'

Woman Spirit - Sacajawea - Shoshoni

Sacajawea (Boat Launcher) or Sacagawea (Bird Woman) - Shoshoni By Julia White The Shoshoni (also Shoshone) lived in Idaho, parts of Utah and parts of Northern Nevada, and it is believed that Sacajawea was born in Eastern Idaho in what is now Salmon.


 

 

Related Web Sites

Lewis & Clark The PBS companion web site to the film by Ken Burns

Lewis & Clark Trail sponsored by Heritage Trail, Inc.

Roster of Lewis & Clark Expedition List of the men who accompanied Lewis & Clark.

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