The Faces of Sacagawea

Menu, Sacagawea

There is no known image of Sacagawea that was made of her during her lifetime, so no one can be sure what she really looked like. Yet because the Shoshone woman has been the subject of so many sculptures and paintings, especially since about 1900, we have a rich heritage of artists' conceptions to contemplate. Meriwether Lewis, in his journal entry for August 19, 1805, left us a brief description of the general physical appearance of the Shoshone people, including their manner of dress. Some artists have taken it into account, others not.

Visual images of Sacagawea will be the primary focus of this episode, and more will be added to the gallery as we acquire them. but some short essays also will be introduced from time to time. Topics will include her name—its spellings, pronunciations, and possible meanings; her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition as an interpreter; her own work; and her her return home and her later years; and the history of the controversies surrounding the largely fictitious persona that scant facts have engendered. See, for example, the Hidatsa Indian legend about her death. Also, there's the long and increasingly bitter history of the noun by which Lewis and Clark occasionally referred to her in their journals—squaw.

—Joseph Mussulman; rev. 9/06

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