Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Sakajawea

Sakajawea or Sacagawea (1787?-1812 or 1884), Shoshone Native American woman who served as an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and 1806. Sakajawea was probably born in Idaho. She was captured by members of the Hidatsa tribe and was sold as a slave to the Missouri River Mandans, who sold her to a Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. She became one of his wives and gave birth to a son in February 1805. Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who had spent the winter of 1804 and 1805 with the Mandans, hired Charbonneau as an interpreter and guide for the rest of their trip west. Sakajawea and her young son were allowed to go with the expedition when it set out in April 1805. Leaving North Dakota and traveling through present day Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, Sakajawea proved to be invaluable. When the expedition encountered a tribe of Shoshone led by her brother, Sakajawea obtained food, horses, and guides, which allowed the explorers to continue. Sakajawea, carrying her young son on her back, was legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness. She and Charbonneau remained in North Dakota when the expedition returned to Missouri in 1806. One of the two Native American wives of Charbonneau died in 1812 and was thought to be Sakajawea; however, an old Native American woman who died on a reservation in 1884 also claimed to be Sakajawea and displayed considerable knowledge of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Of the many memorials to Sakajawea, the most famous is a statue in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon. Her name is often spelled Sacajawea.

"Sakajawea" Microsoft(R) Encarta.
Copyright(c) 1995 Microsoft Corporation.