Sacagawea played a very important part in the Corps of Discovery's expedition.
    The Corps of Discovery's expedition would have failed without Sacagawea because she led Lewis and Clark to the Shoshone Indians. She led them to them by remembering the trails, paths, and other surroundings from her child hood. She also got the Shoshone to trade with horses with them because she could speak Shoshone. At first the Shoshone would not trade horses with them. Sacagawea found out that her brother, Cameahwait, was the chief of her old tribe the Shoshones she was so happy she cried. “She jumped up, ran and embraced him and threw her blanket over him and cried profusely” Clark wrote. Sacagawea and her brother had been separated when the Hidatsa attacked their tribe. Then the Shoshone sold all the horses to the Corps of Discovery that they would need. They needed the horses to get around the mountains and the great falls. On the mountains Sacagawea found some bitter roots, so the men had some food to eat besides candle wax.
      Sacagawea’s life before the Corps of Discovery’s expedition was mostly unknown. She was born around 1790 to the Shoshone (Shoshone means valley dweller) people. They lived in the mountains area, which includes California, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. It was a very poor tribe that did not have enough food for everybody and was very pushed around by other tribes like the Hidatsa. When she was 12, another tribe called the Hidatsa attacked the Shoshone. When they attacked their tribe, they stole horses and some Shoshone people including Sacagawea. The Hidatsa easily defeated Shoshone because they had guns and the Shoshone only had bows and arrows.


(Sacagawea led Lewis and Clark to the Shoshone people).
    When Sacagawea was 16 she was sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French fur trader, who took her and another Shoshone woman as wives. Sacagawea and the other Shoshone woman were very close. Charbonneau was 25 years older than Sacagawea, was abusive, and scared of danger. Lewis and Clark came upon Charbonneau to hire him as an interpreter because they needed to speak to the Native Americans to trade with them. Sacagawea was only brought along because she could speak Shoshone.

    When the Corps of Discovery were going across the Great Falls Sacagawea fell ill. Lewis and Clark were worried because she still had a baby to take care of and because she was their interpreter “this gave me some concern as well for the poor object herself, than with the young child in her arms, as from the consideration of her being our only dependence for negotiation with the Snake Indians” as Lewis wrote. She could not eat anything except only drink water. When she was sick she ate something that was bad and she got even sicker but the next day she a little bit was better. Clark was the person who took care of Sacagawea while she was ill. When Sacagawea got better they got to go on with their journey.

                           (Sacagawea and her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau)

(Sacagawea, Lewis, Clark, and York at Three Forks)

 She was the only woman on the expedition and when tribes
saw the Corps of Discovery and Sacagawea they thought they were a peaceful group because they had a woman and a child with them.

    They could not travel in the winter so they stayed with the Mandan Indians. Sacagawea was staying there with her husband and Lewis and Clark were staying there too. That is were they found Sacagawea and her husband for interpreters. She was pregnant with her first child when they were hired. Sacagawea gave birth to her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in April 1805. Jean was nicknamed “Pompey” by Clark.                                


   (Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea when their important items floated away, she managed to collect most of it.)
    Another time Sacagawea saved them was when their boat tipped over. The Corps of Discovery was going up river Charbonneau was in charge of one boat and the others were in separate boats. Then there was a gust of wind that capsized the boat, Charbonneau was panicking and so were the others. Sacagawea stayed calm during the whole scene and she rescued some of the most important things that fell out of the boat. She got Lewis and Clark’s journals, maps, and other very important items. If Sacagawea had not gotten those items then we would not have known the details of the expedition because Lewis and Clark wrote down every thing in their journals, that’s how we found out so much about them.

     Sacagawea’s life after the expedition was short. Sacagawea and Charbonneau departed from Lewis and Clark at the Hidatsa Village. A couple years later after the expedition Clark persuaded Charbonneau to go to St. Louis with him. Charbonneau and Sacagawea left their son Jean, then when their daughter Lissete was born they left her in Clark’s care too. It was possible that Sacagawea went to St. Louis with Charbonneau, some say she went to St. Louis and lived there until she died in 1884, but others say she died of “putrid fever” when she was 24 years old on December 20, 1812. After Sacagawea died, Clark adopted her children so thier abusive father did not hurt them. Clark put them into a private school in St. Louis. Her daughter Lissete did not survive childhood.

(Sacagawea and her son Jean at Fort Mandan)
    Sacagawea helped the Corps of Discovery succeed in their mission to explore the Louisiana territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean. She contributed to the expedition  by leading them to the Shoshone people, saving important items, and saving the Corps of Discovery from starving. If Sacagawea had not gone on the Corps of Discovery expedition, the expedition might not have seceded.

(Sacagawea, Lewis, and Clark at Fort Clatsop)


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“Sacagawea.” Online. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacagawea. November 27,2010

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