Leadore Ranger District - History

Sacajawea

Image of Sacajawea

Sacajawea is probably the most famous individual to come form Lemhi County. Without her presence, Lewis and Clark might never have accomplished their nearly impossible task of reaching the Pacific Ocean.

Sacajawea was a Lemhi Shoshone Indian, born around 1788, between Kenney Creek and Agency Creek, near Tendoy, Idaho. In the year 1800, the Lemhi Indians were camped near the three forks of the Missouri River in Montana. The Minnetaree Indians attacked them and several prisoners were taken, including Sacajawea. Between 1800 and 1804, the Minetaree Indian sold her and one other Lemhi Shoshone Indian to a French Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau. In 1804, Charbonneau and his wife, Sacajawea, were hired by Lewis and Clark to guide and interpret on the expedition westward. Sacajawea gave birth to a son on February 11, 1805, and Charbonneau named him, Jean Baptiste. However, Sacajawea called him “Pomp” or “Pompy”. Her son held a loving spot in the heart of the members of the expedition and was a delight to them. Sacajawea proved invaluable to the explorers not only as an interpreter to the Shoshone, but for her knowledge of edible berries, roots and plants, which she collected and used for food and medicinal purposes for the benefit of the men on the expedition. Because of her presence, many Indian tribes befriended the expedition, as no woman and child ever accompanied a war party of Indians. Although much of the county covered by the group of explores was unfamiliar to Sacajawea, she was able to advise the captains about certain mountain passes in the Big Hole Divide and the Bridger Range. Lewis and Clark, and member of their party describe her as loyal, capable, patient and pleasant. In his journal, Captain Clark noted that she had been particularly useful among the Shoshone, and that she had borne the hardships of the long journey with admirable patience even though encumbered by an infant.

William Clark was very fond of Sacajawea's son, Jean Baptiste, and asked to take the child to raise him in a proper manner. It was agreed that after a year the boy would be old enough to leave his mother, and Charbonneau took “Pomp” to Captain Clark.

It was unclear what became of Sacajawea after the Lewis and Clark Expedition disbanded. John E. Rees claims that she lived in Wind River, Wyoming, until her death in 1884. However, statements by William Clark and trader John C. Letting make it clear that Sacajawea died on December 23, 1812, at Fort Manuel in South Dakota. Most scholars now accept Clark's notes on the cover of his “Cash Book”, and Luttig's note in his journal. “This evening the wife of Charbonneau died of putrid fever she was a good and the best woman on the fort, aged about 25 year. She left a fine infant girl.”

In the spring of 1813, the infant girl was taken to Captain Clark in T. Louis, after a massacre of white men at Fort Manuel. Clark believed that Charbonneau had been killed in the massacre and knew that Sacajawea was dead, so he legally adopted Jean Baptiste and the infant girl, Lisette. Historians believe that Lisette must have died soon after because no more was written about her. However, in 1816, Charbonneau did appear in St. Louis. He became a prominent guide for many westward expeditions. He died in 1843.

The Federal Government entered the Fort Manuel site into the National Register of Historic Places on February 8, 1978, in formal recognition of Sacajawea's death there.

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