Sacagawea's Story

The Interpreter's Wife

The Charbonneaus' Gifts

She appeared in the captains' journals four times before her name was given. She was with the expedition for just over 16 of the 28 months of the official journey. Speaking both Shoshone and Hidatsa, she served as a link in the communication chain during some crucial negotiations, but was not on the expedition's payroll. She traveled nearly half the trail carrying her infant on her back. And, despite artistic portrayals of her pointing the way, she "guided" only a few times. Still, Sacagawea remains the third most famous member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition . . . .

Secrets of Sulpher Spring

Interactive aerial photo of the muddy Belt entering the Missouri

At the mouth of the Marias River on June 10, 1805, just before setting out to explore the "Southerley" fork of the Missouri, Lewis noted, "Sah-cah-gah, we a, our Indian woman is very sick this evening: Capt. C. blead her." Indeed, Clark's concern for her was conspicuous in his daily journal entries, which described her serious condition and his repeated bleeding therapy . . . .

Close Call at the Falls

hand-drawn historic map of the Great Falls and Portage Route

Of all the near-calamities the Corps of Discovery experienced, individually or collectively, none was more dire than the one that occurred on 29 June 1805 in a normally dry ravine on the south side of the Missouri River a short distance above the Great Fall. The principals were Charbonneau, Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste, York, and William Clark. Characteristically, Lewis's account of the gully-washer is more dramatic than Clark's own matter-of-fact report . . . .

Pomp's Bier Was a Bar

Sketch of Sacagawea trying to escape from a flash flood

Lewis writes: "the bier in which the woman carrys her child and all it's cloaths wer swept away as they lay at her feet she having time only to grasp her child." This bier, then, is a bar or net serving to keep mosquitos from one's personal blood supply . . . .

Cameahwait, Sacagawea, and Jean Baptiste

Sacajawea proudly showing her baby to her brother

One of the best-known episodes in the whole story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is the surprise reunion of the party's "interpretess," Sacagawea, with her brother, Cameahwait, the "Great Chief" of the Lemhi Shoshones. It was recorded briefly and matter-of-factly by Meriwether Lewis. In artist Michael Haynes's conception of a brief and tender moment, otherwise undocumented, the proud young mother smiles broadly as if to tease little Jean Baptiste into responding similarly toward his uncle.

Janey's Old Neighborhood

Interactive map showing the location of Fortunate Camp

Descending Gibbons Pass Clark found himself in "an extensive open Leavel plain in which the Indian trail Scattered in Such a manner that we Could not pursue it." The Shoshone woman promptly informed him that "she had been in this plain frequently and knew it well," that the creek they were following was a branch of the Big Hole River, and that "when we assended the higher part of the plain we would discover a gap in the mountains . . . .

Back Home and Later Years

The route again took Sacagawea into lands she remembered from childhood. On July 6, three days after Lewis's and Clark's parties split at Travelers' Rest, Clark's group reached the Big Hole Valley of southwestern Montana, "an open boutifull Leavel Vally or plain of about 20 Miles wide and hear 60 long extending N & S. in every direction around which I could see high points of Mountains Covered with Snow." Sacagawea had visited this spot on camas-gathering trips as a girl, and pointed—guided—the way to Big Hole Pass on present Carroll Hill, the Big Hole's easy eastern exit, crossed today by a state highway.