“Sacagawea”

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“Sacagawea”
by Judith St. George

In 1800, when Sacagawea was about 11 years old, Sacagawea was kidnapped by a war party of Hidatsa Indians, enemies of her people, the Shoshones. She was taken from her Rocky Mountain homeland, to the Hidatsa-Mandan villages; she was later sold as a slave to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader, and interpreter, who claimed her as his wife. In November 1804, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the Hidatsa-Mandan villages and soon built a fort nearby. In the American Fort Mandan on February 11, 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to her son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau.

The Shoshones possessed horses that the expedition needed to cross the Bitterroot Mountains. The captains felt that because of her Shoshone heritage, Sacagawea could be important in trading for horses when the Corps reached the western mountains and the Shoshones. While Sacagawea did not speak English, she spoke Shoshone and Hidatsa. Her husband Charbonneau spoke Hidatsa and French. In effect, Sacagawea and Charbonneau would become an interpreter team. As Clark explained in his journals, Charbonneau was hired "as an interpreter through his wife." If and when the expedition met the Shoshones, Sacagawea would talk with them, then translate to Hidatsa for Charbonneau, who would translate to French. The parties’ Francois Labiche spoke French and English, and would make the final translation so that the two English-speaking captains would understand.  Sacagawea, with the infant Jean Baptiste, was the only woman to accompany the 33 members of the permanent party to the Pacific Ocean and back. Baptiste, who Captain Clark affectionately named "Pomp", rode with Sacagawea in the boats and on her back when they traveled on horseback. Her activities as a member of the party included digging for roots, collecting edible plants and picking berries; all of these were used as food and sometimes, as medicine. On May 14, 1805, the boat Sacagawea was riding in was hit by a...
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