In 1804, the 'Corps of Discovery', a unit belonging to the United States Army, led by explorers William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, entered the Hidatsa village where Sacagawea lived.
The adventurers zeroed in on the Shoshone woman, and her husband, Charbonneau, to be their interpreters and guides.
Soon, Sacagawea and Charbonneau began living at 'Fort Mandan' that the two explorers, Lewis and Clark, had built. In April, 1805, the expedition group, including the tribal pair, began their journey towards the Missouri river, in a small boat known as 'pirogue'.
On a particular occasion, one of the boats that they were travelling in fell into the river, and it was the young woman, who helped retrieve most of the things that had fallen out, including the diaries being maintained by Clark and Lewis.
In August, 1805, they noticed a Shoshone group, with whom they wished to barter horses and climb the Rocky Mountains. It was Sacagawea who interacted with the members of the tribe, and realized that the chief of the group was her long-lost brother, Cameahwait.
The tribal woman persuaded her brother to help Clark and Lewis' group with horses for their journey across the Rocky Mountains.
The climb was not easy, and the hungry members of the group were forced to eat tallow candles, made of beef fat, in order to live. Once they reached the other side, where it was not too cold, Sacagawea offered to cook the roots of the 'Camassia' plant.
When the expedition group reached the Columbia River, Sacagawea helped Clark and Lewis buy a fur robe for US President Thomas Jefferson, by exchanging her belt for it.
It was the young woman, and the explorers' servant, York, who helped decide on the appropriate place to build the 'Fort Clatsop', where they took refuge in the winter.
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In July, 1806, on their way back to the Rocky Mountains, Sacagawea's knowledge of the place paid off. It was because of her that the group leaders could cross obstacles that are now known as the Gibbons and the Bozeman Passes.
Once the expedition was over, Sacagawea and her husband, Charbonneau, went back to their usual lives in the Hidatsa village. In 1809, William Clark suggested they visit him in St. Louis, Missouri, and settle down there, and the tribal couple accepted the offer.
Awards & Achievements
In 1977, this legendary Shoshone woman was included posthumously, in the 'National Cowgirl Hall of Fame', Texas.
Former US President Bill Clinton awarded her the rank of 'Honorary Sergeant, Regular Army', posthumously, in 2001.
Personal Life & Legacy
At the age of thirteen, Sacagawea was sold to a Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian adventurer. Charbonneau got married to the young girl, and lived with her, and another Shoshone lady in a Hidatsa village.
According to records maintained by explorer Lewis, the tribal woman's son, Jean-Baptiste, nicknamed Pompy, was born on February 11, 1809. Jean was carried by his mother on her back for the whole expedition. The following year, Sacagawea gave birth to a baby girl, at St. Louis, and called her Lizette.
This courageous Shoshone woman succumbed to what is recorded as putrid fever, in the year 1812. Though there are speculations that she left her husband for another man, and died many years later, no evidence of this has been found.
After her death, it was Clark who legally adopted both Jean and Lizette, and took care of their education. Though no record of Lizette has ever been recovered, it is well-known that Jean grew up to be an explorer like his mother.
Many books, some fictional, while others as factual as possible, have been written about this famous Shoshone woman and her fellow adventurers. Some of these books include Anna Lee Waldo's 'Sacajawea' and Grace Raymond Hebard's 'Sacajawea: Guide and Interpreter of Lewis and Clark'.
Many movies have references to this Shoshone adventurer, the most famous being all the three parts of the Ben Stiller starrer 'Night at the Museum'. Also, the documentary, 'Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West' depicts the tribal lady, portrayed by actress Alex Rice.
American music composer, Philip Morris Glass named a part of his 'Piano Concerto No. 2 after Lewis & Clark', after Sacagawea. American singer, Stevie Wonder has also mentioned her in his song 'Black Man'.
In 2000, the US government brought out a coin with Sacagawea and her son's face engraved on it. However, it was a Shoshone woman named Randy'L He-dow Teton, who modelled for the coin.
There are many lakes, rivers, and peaks that have been named after this adventurer to pay tribute to her.
There are many statues erected in this Shoshone guide's honour, some of them being located at Oregon, Idaho, and in Wyoming, amongst other places