Sacagawea Meets Lewis and Clark

Sacajawea Meets Lewis and Clark

The Charbonneaus' Gifts

© 2000 Michael Haynes. All Rights Reserved.

It is Sunday, 11 November 1804. As the men of the Corps of Discovery work steadily to complete the construction of Fort Mandan before the coming Northern Plains winter—heralded by the cacaphony of two flocks of southbound Canada geese—Toussaint Charbonneau and his two wives, both of the Snake (Shoshone) nation, come to call. While Lewis's Newfoundland dog, Seaman, looks on, Charbonneau presents "4 buffalow Robes" as gifts, according to Sergeant Ordway's journal for the day.

This most likely was Lewis and Clark's first encounter with the woman who was to play a significant role in the success of the Expedition, not as a guide, as the old legend has it, but as an interpreter—with Charbonneau's help—between the captains and her people. Her name is Sacagawea, a teen-age girl about 17 years of age who was captured by Hidatsa warriors at the Three Forks of the Missouri when she was about 12, and raised through puberty in Metaharta, a Hidatsa village at the mouth of the Knife River.

In the cage at Lewis's right a magpie adds its raucous voice to the morning's general clatter and chatter. Lewis will ship it back to President Jefferson on the keelboat the following spring.


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