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Sacagawea: the founding mother of America

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Mar 6th 2018 08:00 pm

In May 1788, the most amazing woman to walk this earth was born to the Native American Shoshone tribe in the Rocky Mountains, now Idaho.

When she was just 12-years-old, Sacagawea was kidnapped by the Hidatsa tribe, who were the Shoshone’s enemies. They changed her name from Sacagawea, or Sacajawea, meaning “boat launcher,” to Sakakawea, meaning “bird woman.” 

A few years later, she was either purchased or won in a bet by French Canadian explorer and fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau, 41, who spent much of his time among Native Americans and picked up on their traditions. 

He forced Sacagawea and another Shoshone woman, whose name is unknown, to marry him, and soon, Sacagawea became pregnant with her first child.

After Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803, he hired Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as explorers to venture through the newly acquired (and uncharted) land. On this famous “Lewis and Clark Expedition,” or, “Corps of Discovery Expedition,” joined Sacagawea, still pregnant, to guide them.

If that wasn’t astounding enough, she gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste, during the journey, and continued to lead all 59 people (and a dog) across half of the United States the very next day. 

Along the expedition, Sacagawea was reunited with her family, and according to one of the men’s journals, she danced for joy and became a much less “lonely” woman after, though she was still known to be a nearly emotionless and depressed woman by nature. Because of this, many of the Corps only took her to be a simple-minded teenager and she never got the respect she deserved from them, though according to the journals, Lewis and Clark held a great deal of respect and trustworthiness for her. “Her husband,” Toussaint Charbonneau, was also savagely roasted in their journals and eventually Lewis and Clark kicked his abusive and controlling a**.

Sacagawea had a short time to settle down and appreciate relaxation, because soon after the expedition ended, she gave birth to her second child, Lizette. 

Sacagawea most likely died far too young in Fort Manuel on December 20, 1812, at the age 24 or 25, from putrid fever and typhus following the birth of Lizette. After she died, Clark became Lizette and Jean Baptiste’s legal guardian, as Lewis died three years prior. 

Though she lived a short life, Sacagawea has become not only the face of a strong female leader, but also one of the first women to be featured on U.S. currency. Paying respect to her is to pay respect to someone who helped establish this very country.



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