Sacajawea of the Shoshoni Indians was born in 1787 in Idaho. At ten years of age she was captured and sold to a French-Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau was hired to guide Lewis and Clark on their expedition and his wife, Sacajawea and her newborn baby boy were invited to come along on the trip. The Lewis and Clark expedition party felt it wise to have an Indian in their midst to show that they were peaceful with the Indians. Sacajawea could also serve as their Native translator and negotiator with knowledge of the languages, customs, and tribes of the Indians. She became well respected by the Lewis and Clark expedition party for her help during their travels.
Clark carefully detailed Sacajawea's services to their expedition party. Their journey was a success because of Sacajawea's knowledge of the terrain and mountain passes, her ability to speak and negotiate with the Indians, and her knowledge of how to gather and prepare local wild plants into tasty menus for the expedition party.
For her help in making their expedition successful, Lewis and Clark named a river in her honor. Clark was very upset by her abusive husband, Charbonneau. He proposed to take her infant boy to St. Louis to be raised in safety. Clark does raise Sacajawea's son as his own and one account says that she died of "putrid fever" ( perhaps smallpox, scarlet fever, ??) at the age of twenty-five.
Native accounts, though, have Sacajawea marrying several more times. She has more children. Her name is now called Porivo. This woman had intimate knowledge of the Lewis and Clark expedition, spoke French, wore a Jefferson Medal around her neck, spoke at a political meeting which led to the Ft. Bridgar Treaty, was credited with introducing the Sun Dance Ceremony to the Shoshoni, and was an advocate of agriculture as a necessary skill for the Shoshoni. She died at the age of ninety-six.
Dr. Charles Eastman, hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate Sacajawea, believes that the Native history account is the most accurate. After his determining that Porivo was indeed Sacajawea, a monument was erected at her gravesite.
No matter which account is correct, Sacajawea was the Native American woman who brought attention, respect, and admiration to all Native American women!
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