Who Was Sacagawea?


Quick Answer

Sacagawea was a famous Shoshone woman who served as an interpreter for the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery" in the early 19th century. Along with other members of the expedition, she traveled thousands of miles between the years 1804 to 1806, covering the vast distances between North Dakota and the Pacific. She has been subsequently considered one of the most important and influential women in early American history.

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Full Answer

Sacagawea was born the daughter of a Shoshone chief in what is modern-day Idaho around 1790. When she was between 10 and 12, she and several other girls were captured in a raid launched by a group known as the Hidatsa and taken back to their camp where, shortly afterward, she and another captive were sold as wives to the French-Canadian trapper Toussaint Charbonneau, a future employee of the Lewis and Clark expedition. When the two explorers attempted to hire Charbonneau, he insisted that his wife accompany them. Not only did Sacagawea prove to be a skilled interpreter, but she was also a strong representative for the peaceful intentions of the expedition;a conclusion drawn by other Native American tribes due to the conspicuous presence of a woman among the explorers.

During the arduous journey to the Pacific, Sacagawea gave birth to her first child, John Baptiste Charbonneau, and carried him on a cradleboard throughout the rest of the trek. After she and Charbonneau left Lewis and Clark along the Missouri on 1806, Sacagawea and the details of her fate become hazy. Some accounts say she died as early as 1812 during an epidemic of "putrid fever," whereas others say she eventually made it back to the Shoshone reservation at Wind River, living well into old age until 1884.

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