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Sacagawea

(1788 – December 20, 1812)

Sacagawea was a Shoshone Indian who traveled with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on the Lewis and Clark Expedition from 1805 – 1806. When she was about 12 years of age, she was kidnapped by the Hidatsa and taken to a village in North Dakota. About a year later, at the age of 13, Sacagawea was taken as wife by a French trapper by the name of Toussaint Charbonneau. In November of 1804, Meriwether and Clark arrived in North Dakota and built Fort Mandan near the village. During their stay, they hired Charbonneau as an interpreter to travel with them as they progressed west in the spring. They asked him to bring Sacagawea with him, as they would need help from the Shoshone further in the expedition when they would encounter the Shoshone Indians. On February 11, 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to her first son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, at Fort Mandan.

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The expedition left Fort Mandan in April, with Sacagawea carrying her son on her back. Sacagawea later proved to be a vital part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. On May 14, 1805, one of the boats in the expedition capsized. Sacagawea saved a number of valuable items that were thrown into the river, including the records of the expedition. On May 20, commanders of the expedition named the Sacagawea River in her honor. In August 1805, the expedition met up with a Shoshone tribe, and attempts were made to trade for horses they would need to cross the Rocky Mountains. Sacagawea was brought in to translate and it was soon discovered that the chief, Cameahwait, was Sacagawea’s brother. The Shoshone not only traded the expedition horses, but also provided guides to travel with them across the mountains. While Sacagawea served both as guide and interpreter on the expedition, she likely was most valued as a woman traveling with the party. Her mere presence on the expedition served as a confirmation of the expeditions peaceful intent, as a woman would accompany no war party.
 

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