Sakakawea Statue in the US Capitol



Sacagawea (Sacajawea): Teenage Mother Who Saved the Lewis and Clark Expedition | Biography

Kidnapped and sold into marriage to a man 20 years her senior, Sacagawea (with a newborn baby on her back) ended up playing a vital role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, where she acted as an interpreter, guide and “pilot,” and a symbol of peace to the natives who were wary of the gun-wielding white explorers. Sacagawea’s life story is full of triumph and tragedy.

In this video, I share a history of Sacagawea’s life (Sacajawea’s life), and how she became the heroine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In the spring of 1788, Sacagawea was born into a clan of northern Shoshone known as the Agaidika, the salmon-eaters. When Sacagawea was twelve, one of the neighboring tribes, the gun-wielding Hidatsa, launched a sudden and violent raid. Killing a number of men, women and boys, but kidnapping the young girls, including Sacagawea.

The origin of the name Sacagawea appears to be Hidatsa, not Shoshone, meaning bird-woman in the language of her captors. When she was thirteen years old, she was sold as one of two wives to a French trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were tasked with exploring the recently purchased Louisiana Territory, and they hired Charbonneau so he would bring along his teenage wife (with their newborn baby) since she could function as an interpreter.

Sacagawea’s importance to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is clear from the daily diaries the explorers kept. She not only acted as a guide and “pilot” through dangerous mountain passes, she also helped the explorers identify which native plants were edible when they were on the verge of starvation, and was a symbol of peace to the native tribes since war parties in their culture never traveled with women.

Sacagawea’s memory was revived a century after her death by the suffragette movement. The story of the crucial role she played in Lewis and Clark’s expedition, including voting on at least one important decision along with the men, became symbolic of female strength and influence.


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➡️ Acknowledgements

A huge “thank you” to Brenda Mickelson for the artwork used in our thumbnail.
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I Feel You by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



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