Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, Sacajawea

I've been fascinated by her story, and by the exploits of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery, ever since taking Idaho History in Fourth Grade.

Lewis and Clark. Painting by Jim Carson

Many people may know of her only from the dollar coin struck in her honor.

Here, from The Writer's Almanac, is more about this extraordinary person.

It's the birthday of the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, born in Idaho sometime around 1789. She was kidnapped at age 10 by the Hidatsa tribe, sold into slavery, and bought by a French-Canadian trapper who made her one of his two wives. When Lewis and Clark hired the trapper to guide them to the Pacific, Sacajawea — a teenager with her two-month-old baby on her back — was part of the deal. She was the only woman to accompany the permanent party to the Pacific Ocean and back.
Officially she acted as interpreter, since she could speak half a dozen Indian languages. But she also knew which plants were edible, and she saved the explorers' records when their boat overturned. In his notes, William Clark pointed out that tribes were inclined to believe that their party was friendly when they saw Sacajawea because a war party would never travel with a woman, especially one with a baby.
When the trip was over, Sacajawea received nothing. Her trapper husband got $500.33 and 320 acres of land. She died on December 22, 1812, of a "putrid fever," according to Clark's records. She was 23. Eight months later, Clark legally adopted her two children — the boy who had been a baby on the expedition, Jean Baptiste, and an infant daughter, Lisette.

Sacajawea statue overlooking the Lemhi Valley, Idaho,
where she was born, and where she returned with the Corps of Discovery.

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