, Sacagawea was to be born in May 1788, in the valley of the Lemhi river, which is located near the present-day area of Salmon, Idaho. His mother was the head of a Shoshone tribe, an indigenous people who had their own language and culture. At the age of 12, during a conflict between the Shoshoe group and the Hidatsa group, Sacagawea was captured by the Hidatsas and sold to a French-Canadian trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, who forced her to become his wife. Sacagawea and Charbonneau lived among the Hidatsa and Mandan indigenous peoples in the upper Missouri River area. She was pregnant with her first child in the winter of 1804, when the Discovery Corps, led by Lewis and Clark, arrived near her village.
In November 1804, an expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who is often referred to as the Discovery Corps, entered the area where Sacagawea lived. The expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to recently explore the United States acquired Western territories, and seek a route to the Pacific Ocean. Commanders Lewis and Clark built Fort Mandan in the area, planning to stay there for the winter. They met Charbonneau and hired him as an interpreter, discovering that one of his wives, Sacagawea, spoke Shoshone and knew that they would need assistance from Shoshone groups in their expedition. Charbonneau and Sacagawea moved into the fort, and the expedition headed for the Missouri River.
Sacagawea was central to the successes of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He helped them survive by cleverly finding edible plants, and when a boat was riding in an inverted wake, Sacagawea retrieved important documents and supplies from Lewis and Clark, who then spoke even more intensely than she did. When the expedition group met a group of Shoeshone indigenous peoples along the way, he desperately needed to trade for horses to cross the Rocky Mountain. Sacagawea soon realized that the group leader was actually his brother, Cameahwait, and facilitated the exchanges needed to help the expedition continue. He accompanied the expedition until they reached the Mandan people’s villages in Oregon.
Sacagawea was pregnant with her first child when the expedition started for the first time and gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, in February 1805. It was incredibly difficult to travel in such difficult situations with a newborn baby in tow, but he has overcame all the inherent difficulties and provided crucial help to Lewis and Clark along the way. Having a mother with a baby also served as a sign of peace that helped the expedition when they met the Native Americans. Long periods of travel in difficult environments and lack of sufficient medical care severely compromised Sacagawea’s health and she died at a young age.
Death and inheritance
The exact date and cause of Sacagawea’s death are still unknown, but it is believed that she died around 1812, when she was only 25, in Fort Manuel, which is now located in Kenel, South Dakota. After his death, Clark adopted both of his children and educated them in a school environment. The indispensable role of Sacagawea in the Lewis and Clark Expedition has been recognized and honored over the years, since Clark’s diary meticulously recorded how he helped them in times of difficulty. Many statues were built to commemorate it, and in many public places it was also called bees. In 2000, the US Mint also named it with a US dollar coin.