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Sacagawea (1788-1812)

cc licensed image "Sacagewea" by flicker user J. Stephen Conn

cc-licensed image “Sacagawea” by Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

Originally nominated to the Hall of Fame of Great Americans, but not elected, Sacagawea was an Indian woman guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition whose “courage and tact in dealing with unfriendly Indians” saved the expedition from disaster.

She was from the Shoshoni tribe, and lived in Idaho until she was captured at age 10 by a roving band of Hidatsa Indians and taken to North Dakota and eventually sold to a French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau.  Lewis and Clark hired Charbonneau as a guide, but made it clear that they wanted Sacagawea to assist as a translator and negotiator.  Sacagawea had just given birth to a son, Jean Baptiste, and she carried him in a papoose on the long journey to the Oregon coast.  Her knowledge of the terrain was invaluable to the success of the expedition.

“Clark was so taken with Sacajawea, and so concerned about her welfare at the hands of the abusive and wife-beating Charbonneau, that he proposed taking the infant boy to St. Louis to be raised in safety. For her efforts in making the expedition successful, Lewis & Clark named a river “Sacajawea” in her honor.”

Many monuments have been erected to honor Sacagawea, and it is wonderful that she was nominated to be in the Hall of Great American, but I wonder why she was not ultimately elected.  Was it because she was a native American?  Was it because she was a woman?



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