What Were Sacagawea's Accomplishments?

Sacagawea provided tremendous support to American travelers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark by acting as a translator and a wilderness guide for the two men as they traveled toward the western coast. Sacagawea was born around 1788 and hailed from the Shoshone Indian tribe, based in present-day Idaho. Her name remains a subject of dispute among historians; in the Hidasa language, her name translates to "bird woman," but in the Shoshone language it means "boat-pusher."

Sacagawea lived a short but eventful life. At birth, tribe members from the neighboring and rival tribe of the Hidasas kidnapped her. In the early 1800s, she became property of French fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau, and ultimately bore him a son. Meanwhile, President Thomas Jefferson directed Lewis and Clark on a cross-country expedition. After a year of planning for the journey, Lewis and Clark set out for the Pacific northwest with a small group. The men eventually crossed paths with Sacagawea in South Dakota. Sacagawea, communicating with a French-speaking expedition member, negotiated the sale of horses to help the men cross the Rocky Mountains. She joined the expedition, and proved heroic once again after rescuing critical supplies and materials from a capsizing ship carrying the expedition team. Sacagawea relayed critical information on safe navigational routes. She taught Lewis and Clark which plants and berries to consume and which to avoid. Sacagawea succumbed to illness at age 25, leaving her two children with Clark.