Sacagawea (Shoshone) Charbonneau
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Sakakawea (Shoshone) Charbonneau (abt. 1788 - 1812)

Sakakawea (Sacagawea) Charbonneau formerly Shoshone
Born about in Salmon, Lemhi, Idaho, United Statesmap
Daughter of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Wife of — married about 1802 (to about 1812) in North Dakota, United Statesmap
Died at about age 24 in Fort Lisa, Mercer, North Dakota, United Statesmap [uncertain]
Profile last modified | Created 12 Sep 2014
This page has been accessed 15,791 times.
Sacagawea was Shoshone.
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Sacagawea (Shoshone) Charbonneau was involved in the westward expansion of the USA. Westward Ho!
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Shashone woman with child


Sacagawea was Lemhi Shoshone.
Notables Project
Sacagawea (Shoshone) Charbonneau is Notable.

Other Name spellings - Sakakawea, Sacajawea, Sakagawea
Sacagawea also known as Sakakawea or Sacajawea (rendered in the modern Hiraaciré’ orthography as Cagáàgawia, pronounced /tsakáàkawia/[1]), was a Lemhi Shoshone woman, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting as an interpreter and guide, between 1804 and 1806.

She was of the Agaidika Tribe (Lemhi Shoshone) and had been kidnapped around age 12 by a Hidatsa group. She was given or sold to Charbonneau.

Her name that is familiar to US history, "Sacajawea," is likely a Hidatsa word (so not her birth name). Hidatsa nouns combined cagáàga ([tsakáàka], 'bird') and míà ([míà], 'woman') into Bird Woman, which she is sometimes referred to. Spelling varies, as it has been interpreted through several languages [Hidatsa > French > US English].

There is not much known about Sacagawea's early life. She was born into[2] the Agaidika tribe of Lemhi Shoshone. Her father was a Shoshone chief. In 1800, when she was about twelve, she and other girls were kidnapped by the Hidatsa tribe. Sacagawea was taken as a captive to a[3] Hidatsa village. When she was thirteen years of age, Sacagawea was taken as a wife by[4] Toussaint Charbonneau, a trapper who lived in the village. He bought Sacagawea and another Shoshone named Otter Woman from the Hidatsa.

In 1804 when the[5] Corps of Discovery (co-led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark ) arrived near the Hidatsa villages to spend the winter, Sacagawea was pregnant with her first child.[6][7] The Lewis and Clark Expedition built Fort Mandan for the winter of 1804-1805.[8] They were looking for interpreters and guides for their expedition up the Missouri River. They agreed to hire Toussaint Charbonneau as an interpreter when they found out Sacajawea spoke Shoshone. They knew they would need the help of Shoshone tribes on the journey.

William Clark
Meriwether Lewis

William Clark and Meriwether Lewis

Clark recorded in his journal on November 4, 1804

A french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars (squaws) were Snake Indians, we engau (engaged) him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpret the Snake language

Charbonneau and Sacagawea moved into the expedition's fort . Clark called her Janey. Sacagawea's son[9] Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was born on February 11, 1805. The expedition left Fort Mandan in April. They headed up the Missouri River. Even with a young baby, Sacagawea proved to be helpful in many ways on the trek. She found edible plants for the explorers. When a boat she was riding on capsized, she was able to save some of its cargo, including important documents and supplies. They named the Sacagawea River in her honor on May 20, 1805. The expedition had located a Shoshone tribe in August 1805. They wanted to trade for horses to cross the Rocky Mountains. Sacagawea interpreted for the expedition and discovered that the tribe's chief was her brother Cameahwait.[10]


Lewis recorded their reunion in his journal

Shortly after Capt. Clark arrived with the Interpreter Charbono, and the Indian woman, who proved to be a sister of the Chief Cameahwait. The meeting of those people was really affecting, particularly between Sah cah-gar-we-ah and an Indian woman, who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her, and who had afterwards escaped from the Minnetares and rejoined her nation.

Clark recorded also their reunion in his journal

The Intertrepeter & Squar who were before me at Some distance danced for the joyful Sight, and She made signs to me that they were her nation

Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia

The Shoshone agreed to the trade for their horses. They also provided guides to lead the expedition over the Rocky Mountains. On the trip over the mountains, they had to eat tallow candles to survive. When the expedition reached the Columbia River, Sacagawea gave Lewis and Clark her beaded belt so they could trade for a fur robe they wanted to give to President Thomas Jefferson.

Clark wrote in his journal on November 20, 1805

One of the Indians had on a robe made of 2 Sea Otter Skins the fur of them were more beautifull than any fur I had ever Seen both Capt. Lewis & my Self endeavored to purchase the roab with different articles at length we precured it for a belt of blue beeds which the Squar—wife of our interpreter Shabono wore around her waist.

When they reached the Pacific Ocean, they built a winter fort. On July 6 during the return trip, Clark wrote The Indian woman informed me that she had been in this plain frequently and knew it well.... She said we would discover a gap in the mountains in our direction which is now called Gibbons Pass. On July 13, Sacagawea told Clark to cross into the Yellowstone River basin, what is now known as Bozeman Pass. While traveling through what is now Franklin County, Washington, Clark wrote The Indian woman confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter, and the wife of Shabono our interpeter we find reconsiles all the Indians, as to our friendly intentions a woman with a party of men is a token of peace.

Sacagawea with Lewis and Clark at Three Forks

At the end of the journey, Clark wrote to Charbonneau

You have been a long time with me and conducted your Self in Such a manner as to gain my friendship, your woman who accompanied you that long dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocian and back diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout than we had in our power to give her at the Mandans. As to your little Son (my boy Pomp) you well know my fondness of him and my anxiety to take him and raise him as my own child... If you are desposed to accept either of my offers to you and will bring down you Son your famn [femme, woman] Janey had best come along with you to take care of the boy until I get him.... Wishing you and your family great success & with anxious expectations of seeing my little dancing boy Baptiest I shall remain your Friend, William Clark.

Sacagawea and her husband spent three years among the Hidatsa after the expedition. In 1809, William Clark invited them to move to St. Louis, Missouri. William Clark enrolled their son, Jean-Baptiste, in a Saint Louis Academy boarding school. Sacagawea had a daughter, Lizette, sometime after 1810.[11]

Questions Surrounding Sacagawea’s Death Date and Place

Sacagawea’s death has been a constant controversy even to this date. Two sites lay claim to her burial with strong tradition linked to both. History tells us that Charbonneau had (at least) two wives, with Sacagawea and Otter Woman, both Lemhi Shoshone, the only ones named. With little written documentation concerning either woman’s death, speculation and supposition abound as the questions linger.

1812 - Mobridge, North Dakota[12]
Sacagawea is honored by an obelisk marker in Mobridge, North Dakota as a member of the Shoshone tribe “for efforts and contribution to the Corps of Discovery expedition.” This marker dates her death as December 20, 1812, and states that her body must be buried somewhere near the site of old Fort Manuel located 30 miles north of the marker. This date is supported by two independent and contemporaneous journal entries, and the fact that William Clark adopted her children in 1813.

An 1811 journal entry made by Henry Brackenridge, a fur dealer at Fort Manuel Lisa Trading Post on the Missouri River states that both Sacagawea and Charbonneau were living at the fort. He wrote that Sacagawea had become sickly and longed to revisit her native country.[13] The following year, John Luttig, a clerk at Fort Manuel Lisa recorded in his journal on December 20, 1812, that “This Evening the Wife of Charbonneau, a Snake Squaw, died of a putrid fever she was a good and the best Woman in the fort, aged abt. 25 years she left a fine infant girl.”[14] At her death both her children, Lizette and Jean Babtiste, were entrusted to Clark who formally took their guardianship by a St. Louis Orphan’s Court proceeding dated August 11, 1813.[15]

1884 - Fort Washakie, Wyoming[16]
The Wind River Reservation in Wyoming is also the supposed burial site of Sacagawea. In 1924 Dr. Charles Eastman was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate where Sacagawea’s body might rest. He interviewed many elder Native Americans and learned of a Shoshone woman named Porivo who had claimed she was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific.

According to the oral narrative told to Eastman, Porivo had lived in Wyoming with her two sons, Bazil and Baptiste*, who spoke several languages including English and French. The details state that Sacagawea left her husband, Charbonneau, married a Comanche, and later in life (during the 1860's) returned to her people where she died in 1884, at an advanced age, only known as “Bazil’s mother”. This information was supported by Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard of the University of Wyoming in her book “Sacajawea: Guide and Interpreter of Lewis and Clark” published in 1933. A modern gravestone placed in 1963 states her death date as April 9, 1884.

*It should be pointed out that Sacagawea’s son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (1805-1866) lived in California for a least a decade prior to his 1866 death as he traveled from there to Oregon, and this does not fit the narrative provided for Porivo.


  1. Wikipedia Contributors. “Sacagawea.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Mar. 2019,
  2. - Sacajawea and her people Lemhi-Shoshone Tribes
  3. Hidatsa - The Hidatsa are a Siouan people
  4. Toussaint Charbonneau - was a French Canadian explorer and trader, and a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the husband of Sacagawea
  5. Wikipedia - The Corps of Discovery was a unit of the United States Army which formed the nucleus of the Lewis and Clark expedition
  6. Fort Mandan - Fort Mandan was the name of the encampment which the Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark built for the winter
  7. Lewis and Clark Expedition - The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States
  8. Louis and Clark Journals - The Journals of the Louis and Clark Expedition
  9. Jean Baptiste Charbonneau - Jean Baptiste was the son of Sacagawea and her French-Canadian husband Toussaint Charbonneau
  10. Cameahwait - Cameahwait was the brother of Sacagawea, he was a Shoshone chief
  12. Margolies, John, photographer. Sakakawea Monument, Route , Mobridge, South Dakota. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,
  13. Brackenridge, H. M. & Thwaites, R. G. (1905) Brackenridge's Journal of a voyage up the river Missouri in. [Cleveland, Ohio: The Arthur H. Clark Company] pg 33
  14. Luttig, J. C., Drumm, S. M. (1920). Journal of a fur-trading expedition on the upper Missouri 1812-1813. St. Louis: Missouri historical society. pg 106
  15. Original Adoption Documents. Orphans Court Records, St. Louis, Missouri, August 11, 1813.
  16. Sacajawea - Wind River Country

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Comments: 26

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It's too bad that the article you link to does not cite its sources-- at least in the body of the article. I was unable to get to the end of it-- maybe references were included there; the site jumped me to a German language advertising web site before I was able to complete reading the article.

One thing I have to remind myself against is "presentism" -- using today's standards and values when reviewing details about the distant past. We might find their practices horrifying by today's standards, but they followed different standards back then.

posted by Jillaine Smith
It cited Journals in several places in the article. You may have accidentally bumped a link. I was knocked out and went back in.

“Presentism” didn’t in this case isn’t the least bit applicable. She suffered. Her parents suffered. She was kidnapped. She was traded. Call it commerce, slavery, human trafficking, it isn’t “presentism”. It wasn’t good for her or her family.

posted by DrO (Pirkle) Olmstead
I have to agree with Jillaine. There are so many details presented as facts without sources. I will read again more carefully, but I did not see references to journal articles. I saw an image of one I will check out. I will also check out the novel mentioned.
posted by Paula J
Thanks for your interest in this profile. The blog page linked in your post contains both fact and fiction about the life of Sacagawea. However, it does state one thing universally understood; the majority of what is known about her comes from the Lewis and Clark journals. As you continue research into your family and connection to Sacagawea, I recommend starting with scholarly works surrounding the Corps of Discovery to get the best understanding of her life. This WikiTree page about the expedition may assist Lewis and Clark. Best wishes in your searching!

RP - Team Member: Native American and Westward Ho! Projects

posted by Ronald Prentice
edited by Ronald Prentice
My interest is the quotes of the husband’s journal, not Lewis & Clark. His contemporary notes of how he met her would be more accurate than their third hand knowledge at a later time. I was referring to those quotes. Any earlier life quotes by L&C are unreliable comparable to day-by-day journaling of her spouse.
posted by DrO (Pirkle) Olmstead
His notes would be quite important, but I am not aware that Toussaint Charbonneau was literate or kept a journal. It is established that he did not speak English, at least in the timeframe of the Corps of Discovery, and another French Canadian who spoke both English and French interpreted for Lewis and Clark during the expedition. Therefore, I would assume any journals/papers of Charbonneau's would be in French. Do you have links to a source? If so, they would be a welcome addition to both this profile and his own.



posted by Ronald Prentice
edited by Ronald Prentice
I have never seen anything that suggested Charbonneau could write or kept any kind of records.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
From what I have read, re: the Shoshone language....Sacagawea...would be the correct spelling, as the g was frequently used, Not the j, which changes the "guh" sound to a "juh (like "j"azz) one. I've been told by many native American Indian people that it is pronounced...Suh-CAH-guh-way-yuh, as almost All native languages of all the Indian tribes put their accent on the 2nd syllable, Not the 3rd! Hope this lessens confusion.
posted by Anonymous Spencer
Hello Profile Managers!

We are featuring this profile in the Connection Finder this week. Between now and Wednesday is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. We know it's short notice, so don't fret too much. Just do what you can.



posted by Abby (Brown) Glann
Sacagawea had no surname at birth so the name of her tribe is used in that field. This profile needs to be merged into Shoshone-1
posted on Unknown-557796 (merged) by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Shoshone-1 and Unknown-557796 appear to represent the same person because: clear duplicate
posted on Unknown-557796 (merged) by Laura (Daniels) Nixon

A couple of things:

If this profile needs to remain project-protected, WikiTree now requires that a project co-manage it. Please add [email address removed] as a co-profile manager if you'd like to retain project management.

Second, per WikiTree's Native Americans naming guidelines, we place the tribe name (Shoshone) in the "last name at birth" field.

posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Jillaine Smith
Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 84th Congress, 1st Session, Vol. 101, Part 3, PG-3479

Designation of a Lake created by Garrison Dam in North Dakota as..."Lake Sakakawea",++Indians,+Sakakawea&source=bl&ots=VB73ygg5Pf&sig=ACfU3U2HrfE5ddpBzotn8PpTN975v11IBg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiWrOiql_3nAhVomeAKHRNPAYIQ6AEwEXoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=Congress%2C%20%20Indians%2C%20Sakakawea&f=false

posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Arora (G) Anonymous
Her name as acknowledged by her Tribal Nation is Sakakawea, the spelling you have is a currupted form centuries old, but not correct according to her Tribe.

Note worthy about the "Honoring of her"- Sakakawea to join National Statuary Hall, Washington D.C. acknowledges her. (Cspan Video News)

many other links to other significant things to do with her, "gov." and other links

posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Arora (G) Anonymous
edited by Arora (G) Anonymous
This is so very true just like her history is not all correct. She had two older boys before Jean. The other two were too much like their father. Jean on the other hand was more at her hip and is why Lewis took a liking to him. I can say more but was told to stay off of it. I am one found to be the missing link to family stories. Was found in the late 70s and lost for a little time but the government did get back in the path of my where abouts lol. As the story goes never really lost just retold with less details.
posted by Anonymous Martinez
I've corrected her given name.

Please cite your sources for the additional children.

posted by Jillaine Smith
There is no evidence of any earlier children. She was only about 16 when her son was born, very unlikely she had children before then. .
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
After the boat incident where her husband caused the items to float down the river and she alone, saved the items, and for all the hard work she had already done, when they decided where to stay for the winter, she had an equal vote.

Meltzer, Brad, Heroes for my Daughter, pgs 28-29, Harper Collins Publishing

posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Lisa (Kelsey) Murphy
Source: Dennis, Yvonne Wakim and Hirschfelder, Arlene, A Kid's Guide to Native American History, pgs 116-117, Chicago Review Press, 2010
posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Lisa (Kelsey) Murphy
Yay, Terry!! This is great!!
posted on Unknown-251232 (merged) by Paula J