Have you seen
new US one-dollar coin?
It features a picture of the Native American woman
Sacagawea, but many people don't know who she was.
Sacagawea was an important part of the famous
and Clark expedition.
She was really very interesting.
It is believed that Sacagawea was
born around the year 1789, near the place that is now
called Salmon,Idaho. Sacagawea was born into a tribe
called the Shoshoni. The Shoshoni tribe lived in Idaho,
parts of Utah, and parts of Northern Nevada. The name
Sacagawea means "boat launcher" or "bird girl."
At age ten she was captured by a
raiding band of Hidatsa, who took her to their camp near
the border of North Dakota. Sacagawea was then sold to a
French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau.
In 1804, the Corps of Discovery (the Lewis and Clark
expedition) had camped for the winter at Fort Mandan in
Northern Dakota. Charbonneau was also spending the winter
there with Sacagawea, his pregnant wife. When winter
started, Charbonneau was hired to guide Lewis and Clark
because of his knowledge of the country where he traded.
He was instructed to bring Sacagawea and her baby boy,
Jean Baptiste (also known as Pomp), with him on the
She and her baby were brought so it
would establish that the peaceful nature of the
expedition and because it would be useful to have someone
who spoke Native languages and was familiar with more
than one tribe. With her knowledge of the languages,
customs and tribes, Sacagawea became a Native translator
and negotiator for the Corps of Discovery.
She also knew the land well.
Sacagawea's knowledge of the terrain and mountain passes
saved weeks of travel time. Her ability to speak and
negotiate with Native tribes allowed the expedition to
keep fresh horses and food all along the way. When food
was scarce, Sacagawea got and prepared roots, nuts,
berries, and other edible plants in order to provide the
group with tasty nourishment.
An incredible part of her story is
that the path of Lewis and Clark took Sacagawea back to
the Shoshoni tribe of her childhood. There she was
reunited with her long-lost brother, who was now a
Shoshoni chief. The Shoshoni, who were ready to attack
this group of intruders, instead welcomed them with open
arms. Sacagawea's brother made sure that the expedition
was well taken care of with horses, food, and wintertime
shelter. Without this help, the Corps of Discovery may
never have completed their journey.
After the expedition was over,
Clark was so concerned about Sacagawea's welfare at the
hands of her abusive and wife-beating Chardonneau that he
proposed taking the infant boy to St. Louis to be raised
in safety. It is known that after the expedition she did
take her son to St. Louis where he was raised as Clark's
own. Sacagawea left Charbonneau to spend time in St.
Louis with her son.
One account says that Sacagawea
died of "putrid fever" at age 25. Clark's account of the
members of his expedition mark her as dead. Native
accounts, however, especially Shoshoni oral history, have
Sacagawea (using the name Porivo) marrying several times
and having more children. Porivo was thought to be
Sacagawea because it is said that she knew details of the
Lewis and Clark expedition that could not possibly be
known by someone who was not part of the group. She died
at age 96. Many people believe that Porivo was Sacagawea.
Nobody really knows for sure.