Explorer

Sacagawea

Sacagawea Explorer

Sacagawea - Explorer (c1788 - 1812)

Sacagawea was a Shoshone Indian who was employed, with her husband, as an interpreter by Lewis and Clark. She was to accompany them, and the rest of the Corps of Discovery, on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the lands that had just been purchased from the French in the ‘Louisiana Purchase’. She later appeared on a dollar coin issued by the US Mint.

This page details facts about Sacagawea's life and the events that shaped her history.

Sacagawea the Explorer - Fun Facts for Kids !

1: Sacagawea was born into a tribe of Shoshone Indians (also known as Snake Indians) around 1788. Her name means ‘Bird Woman’ and has been spelt several different ways. The Lewis and Clark Journals contain 8 different spellings, however the Bureau of American Ethnology established ‘Sacagawea’ as the correct form for use in US documents.

2: Not much is known about her as a young woman, and what is known has been verbally passed down through history by the Shoshone, Hidatsa and Comanche tribes.

3: When Sacagawea was around 12 years old, the Hidatsa tribe raided her Shoshone camp. During the raid she was captured with some others members of her tribe. She was then sold to the Mandan tribe as a slave.

4: Sacagawea became the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper. It’s unclear whether he bought her or won her through gambling.

5: On 4th November 1804 Sacagawea became a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition when she was hired, with her husband, as an interpreter. She was around 15 years old and 6 months pregnant at the time.

6: On 11th February 1805 she gave birth to a son who was named Jean Baptiste. He was to accompany her and her husband on the expedition.

7: On 14th May She recovered some important items that had fallen out of one of the pirogues when it was almost turned over by a sudden gust of wind. Most importantly Sacagawea, who had been sitting in the rear of the pirogue at the time, managed to recover the journals belonging to William Clark. These journals contained the records of most of the first year of the expedition.

8: When the Corps of Discovery progressed into Shoshone territory, she was able to point out landmarks that she had known. This reassured Lewis and Clark that they were following the correct route.

9: When they reached the Shoshone Indians, She realised it was her tribe and was delighted to be reunited with a woman who had been captured with her, but had managed to escape and return to the tribe. The Chief of the Shoshone tribe, Cameahwait, was discovered to be her brother. This helped with negotiations to secure horses and guides to help the expedition make their way through the Rocky Mountains.

10: As a young child, and before she was kidnapped, Sacagawea had been given in marriage to an older man. In accordance with the custom of the Shoshone Indians, she was to remain with her parents until she reached the age of puberty which was considered to be around the age of 13 or 14 years. When the expedition arrived at the Shoshone village, her husband, who was approximately twice her age and had two other wives, claimed her as his wife. He then said that he didn't want her as she had a child by another man.

11: When the expedition reached the other side of the Rocky Mountains, she showed them how to find and cook the roots of the Camas. This helped them regain the strength they had lost while making the crossing.

12: On 20th November 1805 she gave up her waist belt, which was made of blue beads, for Lewis and Clark to secure the purchase of a fur robe made from 2 sea otter skins.

13: On 24th November Sacagawea, and all the other members of the expedition, cast a vote in a poll to decide where the winter camp should be.

14: Sacagawea guided the expedition through some territories she knew well on the return leg of the expedition. These included a gap in the mountains now known as Gibbons Pass. She also guided Clark and a small party of men through a pass, now known as Bozeman Pass, to the Yellowstone River basin.

15: Although Sacagawea acted as interpreter and guide to the Corps of Discovery, the presence of an Indian woman and her young son undoubtedly helped the expedition to show its peaceful intent. Clark acknowledged her value to the expedition in a letter he wrote to her husband Charbonneau whilst travelling on the river back to St. Louis.

16: Following the expedition, she spent three years among the Hidatsa with her husband. In 1809 they accepted an offer, made by William Clark, to settle in St. Louis, Missouri. Clark looked after her son Jean Baptiste’s education, enrolling him in the Saint Louis Academy boarding school. Sometime after 1810 she gave birth to a daughter named Lizette.

17: While living at Fort Manuel Lisa in 1811, Sacagawea was recorded in a fur dealer's journal as being sickly and longing to visit her native country. On the 18th December 1812 a clerk at the fort recorded that Sacagawea had died of Putrid Fever (a form of typhus).

18: Following her death, William Clark adopted both of her children.

19: Sacagawea came to prominence again when the Night at the Museum series of films were released. Sacagawea was portrayed by the American actress Mizuo Peck.

20. A dollar coin, known as the Sacagawea Dollar, has been minted each year since 2000. The coin, also known as the Golden Dollar, is made from copper and covered with manganese brass which gives it a golden appearance. The Sacagawea Dollar depicts Sacagawea with Jean-Baptiste, the son she gave birth to during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

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