Sacajawea Essay, Research Paper
I was in the tribe of the Shoeshine (also Shoshone) Indian tribe which lived in Idaho, parts of Utah and parts of Northern Nevada, and I was born in Eastern Idaho in what is now Salmon, Idaho. Everything about me is mysterious from the correct spelling and meaning of my name, to the circumstances surrounding my death. Some of what I did has been recorded and it is relayed here. At about age 10, I was captured by a raiding band of Hidatsa and carried to their camp near the border of North Dakota. Eventually, they sold me to a French-Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau. The Corps of Discovery (as the Lewis and Clark Expedition was officially named) had camped for the winter at Fort Mandan in North Dakota, which is where Charbonneau was also spending the winter with me his pregnant wife . When winter broke, Charbonneau was hired to guide Lewis & Clark due to his knowledge of the country where he trapped. He was specifically instructed to bring me, along with my baby boy Jean Baptiste, for a number of reasons. First of all, the presence of a me and my baby would establish the peaceful nature of the party. Secondly being a Native translator and negotiator with knowledge of the languages, customs and tribes of the country was essential.
While Lewis’ journals make very little mention of me, Clark carefully detailed my contributions to the success of the journey. My knowledge of the terrain and mountain passes saved weeks of travel time. My ability to speak and negotiate with Native tribes allowed the expedition to keep fresh horses and food all along the way. When food was scarce, I gathered and prepared roots, nuts, berries and other edible plants in order to provide tasty nourishment.
Clark was so taken with me, and so concerned about my welfare at the hands of the abusive and wife-beating husband, that he proposed taking my son to St. Louis to be raised in safety. For my efforts in making the expedition successful, Lewis & Clark named a river “Sacajawea” in my honor. From here, history becomes cloudy. It is known that I did take my son to Clark in St. Louis (as promised) where he was raised as Clark’s own. I did leave my husband and spent time in St. Louis. One account says that I died of “putrid fever” (smallpox, tuberculosis, scarlet fever) at age 25, and even Clark’s account of the members of his expedition marked me as dead. Native accounts, however, especially Shoshoni oral history, have me marrying several more times, having a number of children, and meeting up with my son Jean Baptiste in Wind River, Wyoming. This woman (called Porivo) had intimate knowledge of the Lewis & Clark expedition, spoke French, wore a Jefferson Medal around her neck, was a political speaker who spoke at the meeting which led to the Ft. Bridger Treaty, was credited with introducing the Sun Dance Ceremony to the Shoshoni, and was an advocate of agriculture as a necessary skill for the Shoshoni. Porivo died at age 96, and was buried in the white cemetery at Ft. Washakie as a final show of respect for her efforts in behalf of both Lewis & Clark, and her own people.
Dr. Charles Eastman, who had been hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate me, opted for the Native history as being the most accurate. After extensive research, Eastman determined that Porivo was indeed me and a monument was erected in my honor at the sight where I was laid to rest. How ever the story will change depending upon the account you’re reading, the part of the country you’re in, and the heritage of the author of the story. After the passage of so much time, it is unlikely that my movements, after I left St. Louis will ever be known with certainty.