Whether spelled Sakajawea, meaning "Boat Launcher", or Sacagawea, meaning "Bird Woman", Sakajawea played an important role in history. She rose the Native American woman to higher levels of admiration and respect, among other recognitions. She was most likely born in 1790 in Eastern Idaho, a Native American of the Shoshoni tribe. When she was just ten years old, she was kidnapped by the Hidatsa, another tribe, and was brought to the North Dakota border. There, she was eventually sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader. They were married and soon after, Sakajawea became pregnant.
Charbonneau was soon hired by the Corps of Discovery, the name of Lewis and Clark's expedition, by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. He was ordered to bring Sacajawea and their son, Jean Baptiste, for two reasons: one, to keep the party peaceful with the people they met on the expedition, and two, a Native American interpreter and guide was necessary.
As Charbonneau, Clark, Lewis, and Sacajawea and her son traveled, it was because of Sacajawea that they bypassed rough terrain. She also kept the horses and food fresh during the whole expedition because of her brother, chief Cameahwait, and scavenged for food when it was scarce. Clark wrote all about her in his journal, praising her repeatedly. It was he that offered that Jean Baptiste be taken to St. Louis, away from abusive Charbonneau. In the end, she did take Jean Baptiste to St. Louis and Jean Baptiste was raised as Clark's own. It was also Clark who named a river Sacajawea in her tribute.
It is at this point that history becomes unclear. One story says that Sacajawea died of "putrid fever" on December 20, 1812. Clark's accounts seem to confirm that she died. However, there is a second story. There was a Native American woman that married a few times, had more children, and was reunited with her son, Jean Baptiste. She was called Porvo and she knew inside facts on the expedition, spoke French, had a Jeff Medal around her neck, spoke politically, introduced the Shoshoni to the Sun Dance Ceremony, and advocated for the Shoshoni's need of agriculture. Porvo died on April 9, 1884 and is buried at Fort Washakie in honor of the expedition. Historians and scientists today believe that Porvo was most likely Sacajawea.
Recently, the Golden Dollar coin was created in Sacajawea's memory. The front shows Sacajawea with her son, Jean Baptiste, on her back, and the back shows an eagle, the United States of America's symbol. This was done in tribute to Sacajawea, for the expedition never could have been successful without her, and it was very important to history and the settling of the west.
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