Sacagawea (c. 1788 – December 20, 1812) was a Lemhi Shoshone woman, who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting as an interpreter and guide, in their exploration of the Western United States. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean between 1804 and 1806.

Reliable historical information about Sacagawea is very limited. She was born in Idaho.  In 1800, when about twelve, she and several other girls were kidnapped by a group of Hidatsa (also known as Minnetarees) in a battle that resulted in the death among the Shoshone of four men, four women and several boys. She was taken as a captive to a Hidatsa village near present-day Washburn, North Dakota.

At about thirteen, Sacagawea was taken as a wife by Toussaint Charbonneau, a Quebecer trapper living in the village. He had also taken another young Shoshone named Otter Woman as a wife. Charbonneau was reported to have purchased both wives from the Hidatsa, or won Sacagawea while gambling.

Sacagawea was pregnant with her first child when the Corps of Discovery arrived near the Hidatsa villages to spend the winter of 1804–05. Captains Lewis and Clark interviewed several trappers who might be able to interpret or guide the expedition up the Missouri River in the springtime. They agreed to hire Charbonneau as an interpreter when they discovered his wife spoke Shoshone, as they knew they would need the help of Shoshone tribes at the headwaters of the Missouri.  Charbonneau and Sacagawea moved into the expedition’s fort a week later. Clark nicknamed her “Janey.”

In April, the expedition left Fort Mandan and headed up the Missouri River. On May 14, 1805, Sacagawea rescued items that had fallen out of a capsized boat, including the journals and records of Lewis and Clark. The corps commanders, who praised her quick action, named the Sacagawea River in her honor on May 20.

She and her husband moved to St. Louis to live in 1809.  Some say she died in 1812 after falling ill, but others claim she left her husband in that year and married a Comanche.  This version of the story says she eventually returned to Wyoming and lived among the Shoshone, dying in 1884.

In 1925, Dr. Charles Eastman, a Dakota Sioux physician, was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to locate Sacagawea’s remains. Eastman visited many different Native American tribes to interview elderly individuals who might have known or heard of Sacagawea, and learned of a Shoshone woman at the Wind River Reservation with the Comanche name Porivo (chief woman). Some of the people he interviewed said that she spoke of a long journey where she had helped white men, and that she had a silver Jefferson peace medal of the type carried by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He found a Comanche woman called Tacutine who said that Porivo was her grandmother.  It was Eastman’s conclusion that Porivo was Sacagawea. In 1963 a monument to “Sacajawea of the Shoshonis” was erected at Fort Washakie on the Wind River reservation near Lander, Wyoming on the basis of this claim.

I don’t know if the girl in the picture today is supposed to be Sacagawea or not, but I took her picture at the recent Photoshop World conference here in Atlanta.  I’d like to think that Sacagawea looked like this.  Who knows?  Perhaps it is the real Sacagawea, still alive after all these years…still exploring the rivers, valleys and mountains of this great land!

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY: on April 29, 1945, the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division liberated Dachau, the first concentration camp established by Germany’s Nazi regime.

Established five weeks after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, Dachau was situated on the outskirts of the town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich. During its first year, the camp held about 5,000 political prisoners, mostly German communists, Social Democrats, and other political opponents of the Nazis. During the next few years, the number of prisoners grew dramatically, with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals, and repeat criminals swelling the numbers. Beginning in 1938, Jews comprised the majority.

Prisoners were used as forced laborers in the construction and expansion of the camp and later for armament production. The camp served as the training center for SS concentration camp guards and was a model for other Nazi concentration camps. Dachau was also the first Nazi camp to use prisoners as human guinea pigs in medical experiments. At Dachau, Nazi scientists tested the effects of freezing and changes to atmospheric pressure on inmates, infected them with malaria and tuberculosis and treated them with experimental drugs, and forced them to test methods of making seawater potable and of halting excessive bleeding. Hundreds of prisoners died or were crippled as a result of these experiments. Thousands died or were executed at Dachau, and thousands more were transferred to a Nazi extermination center near Linz, Austria. 

With the advance of Allied forces in April 1945, the Germans transferred prisoners from concentration camps near the front to Dachau, leading to a general deterioration of conditions and typhus epidemics. On April 27, 1945, approximately 7,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, were forced to begin a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee, far to the south. The next day, many of the SS guards abandoned the camp. On April 29, the Dachau main camp was liberated by units of the 45th Infantry after a brief battle with the camp’s remaining guards.

As they neared the camp, the Americans found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies in various states of decomposition. Inside the camp there were more bodies and 30,000 survivors, most severely emaciated. Some of the American troops who liberated Dachau were so appalled by conditions at the camp that they machine-gunned at least two groups of captured German guards. It is officially reported that 30 SS guards were killed in this fashion, but conspiracy theorists have alleged that more than 10 times that number were executed by the American liberators. The German citizens of the town of Dachau were later forced to bury the 9,000 dead inmates found at the camp.

In the course of Dachau’s history, at least 160,000 prisoners passed through the main camp, and 90,000 through sub-camps. Incomplete records indicate that at least 32,000 of the inmates perished at Dachau and its sub-camps, but countless more were shipped to extermination camps elsewhere.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: A McDonald’s Big Mac has 85 mg. of cholesterol and a Wendy’s Classic Double With Everything has 175 mg. of cholesterol. A single cup of ice cream has more cholesterol than 10 glazed donuts. 


4 thoughts on “Sacagawea

  1. I always wanted to see Dachau, Auschwitz and’/or Buchenwald, but especially Auschwitz. Never been to any of them. I have been to the Holocaust Museum in DC. In fact, we were in the building on the day that the old Nazi sympathizer shot and killed the security guard a few years back. He was the guard who had cleared us through the security entrance and when he notice a bit later that I was wanting to take a photo of some words carved into the wall inside the entrance, he stopped others from entering so I could get the picture. He seemed to be a really nice guy. Then 30 minutes later, he was dead. We heard the shots and were hustled out the building through back stairways and gathered across the street as they weren’t sure there weren’t other shooters. It was surreal, sad and very tragic as the guard was a fairly young man with a family….and he gave his life trying to protect the rest of us. Very sobering and humbling.

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