a french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars (squaws) were Snake Indians, we engau (engaged) him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpret the Snake language ...
Reliable historical information about Sacagawea is very limited. She was born into an Agaidika (Salmon Eater) of Lemhi Shoshone tribe between Kenney Creek and Agency Creek near Salmon, Idaho, in Lemhi County. In 1800, when she was approximately 12 years old, she and several other girls were kidnapped by a group of Hidatsa in a battle that resulted in the deaths of several Shoshone: four men, four women, and several boys. She was kept captive at a Hidatsa village near present-day Washburn, North Dakota.
Sacagawea was pregnant with her first child when the Corps of Discovery arrived near the Hidatsa villages to spend the winter of 1804–05. Captains Meriwether Lewis and william Clark built Fort Mandan. They interviewed several trappers who might be able to interpret or guide the expedition up the Missouri River in the springtime. They agreed to hire Charbonneau as an interpreter because they discovered his wife spoke Shoshone, and they knew they would need the help of Shoshone tribes at the headwaters of the Missouri.
Sakakawea // is the next most widely adopted spelling, and the most often accepted among specialists. Proponents say the name comes from the Hidatsa language tsakáka wía, "bird woman". Charbonneau told expedition members that his wife's name meant "Bird Woman", and in May 1805 Lewis used the Hidatsa meaning in his journal:
On the return trip, they approached the Rocky Mountains in July 1806. On July 6, Clark recorded "The Indian woman informed me that she had been in this plain frequently and knew it well... She said we would discover a gap in the mountains in our direction..." (which is now Gibbons Pass). A week later, on July 13, Sacagawea advised Clark to cross into the Yellowstone River basin at what is now known as Bozeman Pass. Later, this was chosen as the optimal route for the Northern Pacific Railway to cross the continental divide.
After the expedition, Charbonneau and Sacagawea spent three years among the Hidatsa before accepting william Clark's invitation to settle in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1809. They entrusted Jean-Baptiste's education to Clark, who enrolled the young man in the Saint Louis Academy boarding school. Sacagawea gave birth to a daughter, Lizette, sometime after 1810.
Sacagawea gave birth to a daughter, Lizette Charbonneau, sometime after 1810. However, there is no later record of Lizette among Clark's papers. It is believed that she died in childhood.
A few months later, 15 men were killed in an Indian attack on Fort Lisa, then located at the mouth of the Bighorn River. John Luttig and Sacagawea's young daughter were among the survivors. Toussaint Charbonneau was mistakenly thought to have been killed at this time, but he apparently lived to at least age 76. He had signed over formal custody of his son to william Clark in 1813.
The use of this spelling almost certainly originated from the use of the "j" spelling by Nicholas Biddle, who annotated the Lewis and Clark Expedition's journals for publication in 1814. This use became more widespread with the publication of the 1902 novel The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark, written by Eva Emery Dye. It is likely Dye used Biddle's secondary source for the spelling, and her highly popular book made it ubiquitous throughout the United States (previously most non-scholars had never even heard of Sacagawea).
After his infant son died, Jean-Baptiste came back from Europe in 1829 to live the life of a Western frontiersman. He became a gold miner and a hotel clerk and in 1846 led a group of Mormons to California. While in California he became a magistrate for the Mission San Luis Rey. He disliked the way Indians were treated in the Missions and left to become a hotel clerk in Auburn, California, once the center of gold rush activity.
A long-running controversy has surrounded the correct spelling, pronunciation, and etymology of the woman's name; however, linguists working on Hidatsa since the 1870s have always considered the name's Hidatsa etymology essentially indisputable. The name is a compound of two Common Hidatsa nouns, cagáàga [tsakáàka] 'bird' and míà [míà] 'woman'. The compound is written as Cagáàgawia 'Bird Woman' in modern Hidatsa orthography, and pronounced [tsakáàkawia] (/m/ is pronounced [w] between vowels in Hidatsa). The double /aa/ in the name indicates a long vowel and the diacritics a falling pitch pattern. Hidatsa is a pitch-accent language that does not have stress; therefore, in the Hidatsa pronunciation all syllables in [tsaɡáàɡawia] are pronounced with roughly the same relative emphasis. However, most English speakers perceive the accented syllable (the long /aa/) as stressed. In faithful rendering of the name Cagáàgawia to other languages, it is advisable to emphasize the second, long syllable, not the last, as is Common in English.
According to these narratives, Porivo lived for some time at Fort Bridger in Wyoming with her sons Bazil and Baptiste, who each knew several languages, including English and French. Eventually, she found her way back to the Lemhi Shoshone at the Wind River Indian Reservation, where she was recorded as "Bazil's mother". This woman, Porivo is believed to have died on April 9, 1884.
Two early twentieth-century novels shaped much of the public perception of Sacagawea. The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark (1902), was written by American suffragist Eva Emery Dye and published in anticipation of the expedition's centennial. The National American Woman Suffrage Association embraced her as a female hero, and numerous stories and essays about her appeared in ladies' journals. A few decades later, Grace Raymond Hebard published Sacajawea: Guide and Interpreter of Lewis and Clark (1933) to even greater success.
The spelling Sacagawea was established in 1910 as the proper usage in government documents by the United States Bureau of American Ethnology, and is the spelling adopted by the United States Mint for use with the dollar coin, as well as the United States Board on Geographic Names and the U.S. National Park Service. The spelling is used by a large number of historical scholars.
Idaho native John Rees explored the "boat launcher" etymology in a long letter to the United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs written in the 1920s; it was republished in 1970 by the Lemhi County Historical Society as a pamphlet entitled "Madame Charbonneau" and contains many of the arguments in favor of the Shoshone derivation of the name.
In 1925, Dr. Charles Eastman, a Dakota Sioux physician, was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate Sacagawea's remains. Eastman visited many different Native American tribes, to interview elderly individuals who might have known or heard of Sacagawea, and learned of a Shoshone woman at the Wind River Reservation with the Comanche name Porivo (chief woman). Some of the people he interviewed said that she spoke of a long journey wherein she had helped white men, and that she had a silver Jefferson peace medal of the type carried by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He found a Comanche woman called Tacutine who said that Porivo was her grandmother. She had married into a Comanche tribe and had a number of children, including Tacutine's father Ticannaf. Porivo left the tribe after her husband Jerk-Meat was killed.
The belief that Sacagawea lived to old age and died in Wyoming was widely disseminated in the United States in the biography Sacajawea (1933) by University of Wyoming professor and Historian Grace Raymond Hebard. Critics have called into question Hebard's 30 years of research, which led to the biography of the Shoshone woman. Hebard presents a stout-hearted woman in her portrayal of Sacajawea that is "undeniably long on romance and short on hard evidence, suffering from a sentimentalization of Indian culture".
Some fictional accounts speculate that Sacagawea was romantically involved with Lewis or Clark during their expedition, however, while the journals show that she was friendly with Clark and would often do favors for him, the idea of a romantic liaison was created by novelists who wrote about the expedition much later. This fiction was perpetuated in the Western film The Far Horizons (1955).
In 1967, the Actress Victoria Vetri, under the name Angela Dorian, played Sacajawea in the episode "The Girl Who Walked the West" of the syndicated television series, Death Valley Days.
Posthumously, in 1977, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2001, she was given the title of Honorary Sergeant, Regular Army, by then President Bill Clinton.
Sacagawea has since become a popular figure in historical and young adult novels, including Anna Lee Waldo's novel Sacajawea (1984).
The name Sacajawea or Sacajewea //, in contrast to the Hidatsa etymology, is said to be derived from Shoshone Saca-tzaw-meah, meaning "boat puller" or "boat launcher". It is the preferred spelling used by the Lemhi Shoshone people, some of whom claim that her Hidatsa captors merely reinterpreted her existing Shoshone name in their own language, and pronounced it in their own dialect – they heard a name that approximated "tsakaka" and "wia", and interpreted it as "bird woman", substituting the hard "g/k" pronunciation for the softer "tz/j" sound that did not exist in the Hidatsa language.
When the corps reached the Pacific Ocean, all members of the expedition—including Sacagawea and Clark's black manservant York—voted on November 24 on the location for building their winter fort. In January, when a whale's carcass washed up onto the beach south of Fort Clatsop, Sacagawea insisted on her right to go see this "monstrous fish."