Native American Folk Heroine
c. 1788- c. 1812
The story of Sacagawea has been told many times, in many different ways. Born around the year 1788, she was a Shoshone interpreter best known for being the only woman on the Lewis and Clark expedition into the American West.
Around 1800, Sacagawea, barely into her teens at the time, was captured by the Hidatsa Indians, an enemy of the Shoshones. Like most Native American tribes, the Hidatsa enslaved and sold war captives. Three years later, Sacagawea was sold to a French-Canadian fur trapper, Toussaint Charbonneau. Sacagawea and her husband were living among the Hidatsa Indians when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark entered the area.
In November 1804, Lewis and Clark met Charbonneau and quickly hired him to serve as interpreter on their expedition. Even though she was pregnant with her first child, Sacagawea was chosen to accompany them on their mission as well. Lewis and Clark believed that her knowledge of the Shoshone language would help them later in their journey.
Lewis and Clark turned out to be right. Sacagawea proved to be essential to the expedition. Her knowledge of native languages was a great help during their journey, as she could communicate with other tribes and translate for Lewis and Clark. She was also very good at finding edible plants.
A strong and intelligent young woman with a newborn baby strapped to her back, she led explorers across the country. She made trades and deals for supplies, found edible plants for food, and served as translator and interpreter. It is no wonder she became an Native American folk heroine whose story will live on throughout history.
Click here to learn more about folk heroes and heroines.