Women's History Month: Sacajawea

Sacajawea statue. Photo credit: BLM
Sacajawea statue in Idaho. Photo credit: BLM

In honor of Women’s History month BLM Idaho would like to honor an indigenous American heroine, 𝐒𝐚𝐜𝐚𝐣𝐚𝐰𝐞𝐚 (pronounced Sack-ah-jah-WEE-a).

Before Idaho was even a territory, Sacajawea was born in the Lemhi River Valley in the late 1780s. The Lemhi River Valley during this period was inhabited by the Agaidika (Salmon-eater) Shoshone. Around the age of 12, Sacajawea was with her tribe hunting bison in the Three Forks area of the Missouri River when she was captured by a raiding party from another tribe. She was later traded to the Hidatsa tribe in present day North Dakota. She learned to speak the language of the Hidatsa and lived with the tribe for a few years. Once more she was traded, this time to French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau, and married him.

In the winter of 1805 while the Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered at Fort Mandan, Charbonneau, and subsequently Sacajawea, were hired to help the expedition on its westward journey. During the winter Sacajawea gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. In May of that year, Sacajawea and her infant child set forth as part of the Expedition west.

On August 12, 1805, Meriwether Lewis and his men climbed the eastern slopes of the continental divide, and stood on what is now known as Lemhi Pass, viewing the birthplace of Sacajawea below to the west. Just five days later, Clark noted the reuniting of Sacajawea, her people, and her brother who was now a chief of the Agaidika.

Sacajawea provided lifesaving information regarding local tribes, edible foods, indigenous medicines, and the mostly unknown Idaho and Montana landscapes. Her ability to interpret and her relation to the tribes helped the Expedition acquire horses and supplies from the Agaidika people to continue on their journey west when supplies and spirits were low.

Today the Salmon Field Office administers many of the lands formerly occupied by the Agaidika. Salmon landmarks such as the Sacajawea Center, and birthplace monument honor her and her people’s contributions to American History.

If you would like to see the Facebook post and comments, view here: Sacajawea.

Geena Black, Archaeologist + Bruce Hallman, Public Affairs Specialist