Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Pathfinders

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Sacajawea

Few Native American are as well-remembered and honored in American history as Sacajawea, the young Shoshoni woman who joined Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery on their epic trek up the Missouri River, across the Rocky Mountains, and onto the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Stolen as a young child from her native land west of the Rockies and sold to a French fur trapper, Sacajawea returned to her homeland when her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, was hired at Fort Mandan in 1804 as interpreter for the expedition.

Sacajawea, even while caring for her new-born child, was of invaluable service to the expedition, finding roots and berries for the hungry group, acting as ambassador to other native tribes, helping to guide the team through the Three Forks of the Missouri, and even saving valuable supplies when one of the boats capsized. Sacajawea wintered with the expedition near the mouth of the Columbia River, then returned to Fort Mandan in 1806. She played a pivotal role in this epic exploration and earned her place in the annals of western river lore.

After the expedition returned to St. Louis, Captain William Clark concluded that she "[h]as borne with a patience truly admirable the fatigues of so long a route, incumbered with the charge of an infant who is even now only 19 months old."



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