Who Was Sacagawea

Who Was Sacagawea “,

Who Was
Sacagawea, and How Did She Evolve as A Person President Thomas Jefferson in
1803 asked for funding from Congress for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to
explore the western territories between the Mississippi River and the Pacific
Ocean. Not only to find a full trade route to the Pacific Ocean, but also to
study the people and to trek new territories.

Along the trek
a new leader and important person in American history would emerge. While
camping at Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark encountered Charbonneau and asked him
to come West with them as their interpreter. They wanted him to talk peace for
them to the natives to assure them an easy trip West. It was also under the
understanding that Sacagawea, Charbonneaus wife, could also come along and be
recruited as the interpreter through Toussaint. It is to my understanding that
they didn™t like Toussaint much, and that Sacagawea was really the one they
wanted. They also knew that when they needed to cross the Rockies they would
need help from the Shoshones, who were well known as being horseman, and they
wanted someone who spoke Shoshone. They knew Sacagawea spoke Shoshoni as well
as Hidatsu, which was an important trait because she could speak to the
Shoshone and get horses for them.

Sacagawea was very young, Lewis and Clark knew they would need her desperately.
Clark, more than Lewis, respected the Indians as fully human, and treated them
as sources of information rather than as bothersome savages, like most
explorers did. So, they both knew she would be useful. “?they knew that
his wife could speak Shoshoni as well as Minitari as well as French. And they
knew that, that they needed to get horses from the Shoshoni in order to make
the crossing over the Rockies, over the Bitterroots, and the Shoshoni were the
Indians living closest to the Bitterroots” says Erica Funkhouser, a
historian (Funkhouser, PBS online) Also, the captains were okay with the idea
of having a woman interpreter for the reason that they thought a woman on board
of a ship of men makes them look less barbaric and more friendly. “A woman
with a party of men is a token of peace.” as Clark noted in his journal.
Which also gave the captains a head up with the natives. “?sometimes we
don™t realize and that is by carrying a woman along, especially a woman who was
carrying an infant, said to tribes this is not a party that is out for
aggressive reasons. This is not a war party.” (Least, PBS online) There
are many legends and stories that are believed to be true about where Sacagawea
was born, grew up, and lived. This is the one that I researched through my
information, to whom knows if it is true or not.

To my
knowledge Sacagawea was born the daughter of the Shoshone chief (Idaho) but was
captured at age eleven by an enemy tribe, the Hidatsa (or Minitari) of Knife
River (North Dakota). Later to be sold (or won as some believe) as the
“wife” a la facon du pays (after the fashion of the country) of
Toussaint Charbonneau (a French-Canadian trapper/fur trader). Sacagawea would
then live with Toussaint at his Mandan Village home. Sacagawea was very young
at the time; one story tells me she was only fourteen. A few months after she
was “married” and she was pregnant. Charbonneaus pregnant wife gave
birth to a baby boy at Fort Mandan, February 11, 1805, and was given the
Christian name Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Nicknamed Pomp by Clark, Pomp was
brought along to the Pacific and back to Mandan during 1805-1806. Later, Pomp
was taken in by William Clark, who had grown fond of him; while his father,
Toussaint Charbonneau, returned to work with the American Fur Company.
“Sacagawea played an important role, not as a guide as she™s been
mythologized into, but as a person who could read the landscape fairly well. I
think she could read rivers. She could read a valley, you know. She had a sense
of what the landscape said about direction and where they, where they were
going” explains Erica Funkhouser, a historian. (Funkhouser, PBS online)
When the captains reached the Pacific, in November 1805, they needed to contact
the Shoshone tribe, in which to borrow horses they required in order to hike
across the “Rock Mountains”. They used Sacagawea to talk to them
because they knew she knew their language. She came to find out that her older
brother, Cameahwait, was the chief of the band (taken over after her fathers
death). With that benefit, she talked to her brother and the Shoshone tribe and
convinced them to allow Lewis and Clarks men to use the horses they needed to
complete their task.

Although Sacagawea could have left Lewis, Clark and her
husband behind and return to her family she did not. Five months later Lewis
and Clark were back at Fort Mandan where Sacajawea, Charbonneau, and their son
Jean Baptiste stayed while the “Corps of Discovery” went on to St.
Louis. “Clearly, she was able to direct them topographically at certain
key moments to help them along. It also was truly a stroke of luck that when
they got on the other side of Lemhi pass and came down the western side of the
Continental Divide that she ran into into her people again. To her great
surprise, her brother was now the chief. “, says William Least (Heat-Moon,
PBS online). If not for Sacagaweas connections with the Shoshone tribe Lewis
and Clark never would have gotten the horses necessary to continue the trip. I
think that is was pure coincidence that Sacagawea ran into her brother, which
in turn gave her a great advantage, and got the horses. It would have been so
much harder to get what they needed had not she known them. Without Sacagaweas
knowledge during the whole trip I don™t even think that they would have even
reached the Shoshone tribe. Even if by chance they would have without her
assistance, Toussaint wouldn™t have been able to sway Cameahwait to lend the

As the only
woman on the trip, she also cooked, searched for food, and sewed, fixed and
cleaned the clothes of the men. In one important occasion written in Clarks
journals, she saved records and instruments from being lost overboard during a
storm. So, all in all, without Sacagaweas guidance, knowledge,
interpretations, connections, and general voice for Lewis and Clark; they would
never have been able to attempt to find the water route to the west. While she
was able to point out a few landmarks, and her company was greatly helpful in a
lot of ways, its clear that she didnt herself lead the explorers in their
journey, but was merely an aid.

The later fate
of Sacagawea is uncertain. Some stories say she died in an epidemic of
“putrid fever” late in 1812. Other versions say that she rejoined the
Shoshone on their Wind River reservation and died there in 1884. Yet another
version is that Clark arranged for Sacagawea and Charbonneau to live in St.
Louis. Sacagawea gave birth to a daughter, and shortly after died of an unknown
illness. Clark legally adopted her two children, and educated Jean in St. Louis
and Europe. He became a linguist and later returned to the west as a mountain
man. It is unknown what happened to the daughter, Lisette. “Sacagawea came
back to St. Louis a citizen of the West and someone who had citizenship no
place. Where does she belong Where is her home Does she belong at a Hidatsa
village Does she belong with her Shoshoni relatives Does she belong back at
Fort Clatsop Can she ever belong in St. Louis If ever there was a person in
the expedition™s history who was displaced, who was person out of time, person
out of the world, person who belonged nowhere, it™s Sacagawea.” explains
Jim Ronda (Ronda, PBS online) Jim Ronda thinks that Sacagawea belongs nowhere,
but in fact she belongs in so many locations that it really doesnt matter
where she ends up. She indeed could return to her Shoshoni relatives and live
the rest of her life with her family whom she may have not known but she loved.
She also could return to the Hidatsa village and live with the people she grew
up with. Although it would be an odd situation, she could have also gone along
with her husband and followed him with his fur trapping life.

During her
years with the Lewis and Clark expeditions she found many places she could in
the end call “home”. She was welcomed everywhere she went Im sure,
as an interpreter her job is to be the peacemaker. Although Sacagawea, in the
end, didnt leave any known truth about where she lived after the expeditions
were completed, Im sure it probably wasn™t very hard for her to find a place
to call “home”.


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