24 Sacagawea Facts for Kids
Sacajawea is one of the most famous native Americans! She helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition. She acted as a guide, interpreter and also helped Lewis and Clark be able to barter, trade and find safe passage on their expedition. There is some conflict among historians as to how important her role was in the expedition but most experts agree that she did play a rather large role in the expeditions success.
1. Sacajawea was actually married to a French-Canadian fur trapper Toussaint Charbonneau. The story is that Charbonneau actually won her in a bet and then later married her. It was Charbonneau that brought Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea together. Lewis and Clark were interviewing men to join them on their expedition and they choose Charbonneau on the condition that his wife joined them.
Her Early Life
2. Sacajawea was born sometime in 1790. Historians have documented that she was kidnapped as a child by an opposing tribe and sold off to slavery and eventually wound up becoming wife to Charbonneau.
3. She was Shoshone and was kidnapped by the Hidatsa. Her brother went on to lead the Shoshone and played a pivotal role in providing Lewis and Clark with supplies for their expedition at the request of Sacajawea. He provided the expedition with horses to cross the Rockies.
4. She actually met Lewis and Clark with her husband when she was 16. She was expecting her first baby who would be born shortly before the expedition embarked. Her husband spoke Hidasta and French while Sacajawea spoke two native languages, Hidasta and Shoshone. Lewis and Clark felt that the young girl would be an asset on the journey. They nicknamed her “Jane”.
5. Lewis and Clark paid Charbonneau to help them on the expedition, he was given land and goods for his service. Sacajawea was not compensated for her role.
6. Contrary to popular folk lore they did not accompany Lewis and Clark on the entire expedition.
7. The “Corps of Discovery” as the expedition was named had quite the travels ahead of them. They faced constant danger from the elements and hostile tribes. At one point Sacajawea fell ill and an excerpt from Lewis’s journal expresses how important her presence on the trip was “she was our only dependence for a friendly negotiation with the Snake [Shoshone] Indians on whom we depend for horses to assist us in our portage from the Missouri to the Columbia River”. He noted many times during her illness how he hoped for a quick recovery.
8. It is also reported that prior to the start of the trip that Sacajawea almost died in child birth. Clark who was present at the birth reported in his journal that during the labor he handed Sacajawea a beaded belt that he had traded for to try to “raise her spirits”. She gave birth and recovered fully.
9. Sacajawea carried her baby Jean Baptiste on her back through much of the journey which took 2 years to complete. Sacajawea played a very important role in the safe passage of the expedition group. Her own people allowed the group to cross their lands and helped them with supplies and provisions in large part because Sacajawea was part of the group.
10. Other native tribes allowed safe passage through their lands because Sacajawea was present making it easier to convince other natives that the group was not a war party. Sacajawea was able to communicate with tribe members and her presence alone was enough evidence that this group was not looking for trouble since women of the tribes never accompanied war parties.
11. By today’s standards Sacajawea was a young girl barely 16 when the trip began but she was a mother and a wife and took on a lot of responsibility for the expedition.
12. Sacajawea as reported by Lewis in his journal did not know that her brother had taken his father’s place as chief of the tribe until the expedition unknowingly walked into the Shoshone territory and were greeted by a war party of approximately 60 or so braves in full dress.
13. After much ado Sacajawea was united with her brother and the rest of her family and was able to secure safe passage and supplies for the group. Once the group made it to their destination (the Pacific Ocean) raised the flag and built camp all 23 men that made up the group fell ill.
14. According to C lark’s journal Sacajawea nursed them all back to health. Clark also recorded an event that shows how loving this young girl was. He had come across a tribe of Native Americans and set out to barter for a beautiful otter skin coat.
15. The native woman that he was bartering with turned down the trade because Clark had nothing that the Native woman wanted. The next morning when they were getting ready to leave camp Sacajawea was missing.
16. The group was getting ready to send out search parties to try to find her when she came walking over the hill from the tribe’s camp. In her hand she had the Otter coat that Clark had tried so desperately to trade for.
17. She walked over to Clark and handed him the coat. As she was walking away Clark noticed that her Beaver coat hung open. The beautiful beaded belt that she longed for that he had gifted her with was no longer holding the coat closed. She had traded her much loved belt for the coat.
18. She knew that any native woman would feel lucky to have such a beautiful belt and that the coat could be remade but the turquoise beads were hard to come by.
19. Clark remarked in his journals “Jane is the most loving, caring woman ever known to this man or any other.”
Later In Life
20. There is plenty of controversy that surrounds Sacajawea life after leaving the Corps of Discovery. Everything from the number of children she had to the way she died to where she is buried has been the topic of great discussion since her passing.
21. Some scholars (most) agree that she died at the age of 25 but there are some historians that believe she not only did not die at 25 but that she lived to be 100 years old. Some stories report that her two children (she is recorded as having at least one other child for sure a little girl named Lissette) were adopted by Clark after her death.
22. There is some evidence that she was buried in South Dakota and other evidence that she was buried in Wyoming. There are records that were recorded by a clerk that list the death of Charbonneau wife a “Snake squaw” approximate age 25. Proponents of the theory that she went on to have 5 children and live to 100 feel that the reference to Charbonneau’s wife was actually referencing his other wife.
23. There is a note from Clark that indicates that Sacajawea did in fact die in 1812.
24. Her son Jean Baptiste went on to become America’s youngest explorer at the age of 18 and depending on which story seems true to you either was educated in St Louis as the charge of Clark or was not. It is not known if little Lissette survived infancy.