Filed Under Biography

Sacagawea Birthplace

More than two centuries have passed since the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled to the Pacific and back, and the expedition and its members continue to generate interest. Aside from the leaders, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, Sacagawea may be the best-known member of the expedition. When she was around sixteen years old, she gave birth to her first child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Two months later she departed on the expedition with her husband and child in tow. She made it the entire journey while carrying and tending to her child and simultaneously helping the efforts of the expedition.

Her main role in the expedition was as an interpreter between the party and Shoshones. She was likely born into the Lemhi Shoshone tribe around 1788, and her birthplace may have been somewhere between Kenney Creek and Agency Creek in Tendoy, Idaho.  Since the Lemhi Shoshone lived along the river, they fished for salmon as a dietary staple. From a young age, Sacagawea contributed to her family by gathering and preparing food. Recently, oral histories have made claims Sacagawea was Hidatsa, not Shoshone. While there is currently some controversy surrounding precisely what tribe Sacagawea came from, history does not dispute that Sacagawea lived part of her life with the Hidatsas. She did tell Lewis and Clark that she was captured while traveling across the Rocky Mountains and adopted into the Hidatsa Nation as a child and her new name was Sacagawea, meaning Bird Woman or Eagle Woman. It is likely that she learned additional agricultural skills from the Hidatsas, where she resided until her marriage as a plural wife to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian explorer.

Although forced to leave her childhood homeland in Idaho, Sacagawea returned to the Lemhi Valley with Lewis and Clark, reuniting with the Shoshones. She then reunited with her tribal family in the place she was born and celebrated her reunion with her brother Cameahwait before continuing her journey to the Pacific.

Images

Lemhi
Lemhi The marker for Lemhi County, recognized by Idahoans as the location where Lewis and Clark camped and then eventually traveled through to the Pacific. Source: Jimmy Wayne, “Lemhi County Historic Marker.” Via National Park Service (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). https://www.nps.gov/places/lemhi-county-historical-society.htm?utm_source=place&utm_mediu m=website&utm_campaign=experience_more&utm_content=small.
Sacagawea in Wyoming
Sacagawea in Wyoming A statue of Sacagawea in the Sacajawea Cemetery on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Source: Carol M. Highsmith, August 24, 2015. In the Gates Frontiers Fund Wyoming Collection, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017884580/.
Sacagawea at Three Forks
Sacagawea at Three Forks Depiction of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea at Three Forks. This is believed to be the place near where she was captured and enslaved by the Hidatsas as a child before being integrated into their tribe. Source: Edgar Samuel Paxon, Lewis & Clark at Three Forks (mural at Montana House of Representatives), 1912. Montana Historical Society Museum Collections Online. https://mhsmuseum.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/1885CEC9-39C3-4B45-889D-242479808699. See also Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Detail_Lewis_%26_Clark_at_Three_Forks.jpg.

Location

Metadata

Taylor Mansfield, Brigham Young University, “Sacagawea Birthplace,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 20, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/584.