Who Was Sacajawea? What Was Her Role In History?
I think it's fair to say there are some incontrovertible facts in the part Sacajawea played in history.
She was born a Lemhi Shoshone Indian, who at the age of 12 or 13 was captured by a party of Hidatsa Indians [Mandan's] and taken to their range in NorthDakota. At around 15 or 16 she was sold to a FrenchTrapper along with another captive woman.
Most of the history of the exploits of Sacajawea are taken either from the journals of Lewis or Clark or from stories told by other members of the expedition upon their return, most likely told in the waterfront “cantinas”along the Mississippi River.
In order to understand the part Sacajawea played in the Lewis and Clark expedition we need to re-examineIndians culture of the times. Indians lived in harmonywith the environment. Their university was nature and their professors where often the animals, birds and fish they encountered.
The Indian could tell much by watching an Eagle soar high above them. The animal trails were their streets and highways. The width and depth of these trails told of their value. The howling of a coyote at night acted as an early warning system. Observing the foods animals ate served as a warning and a welcome to theIndian.
At age 16, Sacajawea would have learned much of the ways of the Indian. She most likely would have been fluent in Shoshone, Mandan, and French. Her language skills, alone, would have made her valuable to the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacajawea would have known the trails and the landmarks from Fort Mandan to the Salmon River in Idaho.
No two trails and no two mountains look alike to the Native American. The grass and the sagebrush, the trees and the rocks all tell a story if you're Indian. Indians would have had a verbal [Rand McNally] style Atlas extending from the East Coast to the PacificOcean. It wasn't unusual for Indians to speak severaldifferent dialects making it easy to pass informationfrom one tribe to the next and beyond.
Contrary to the popular belief of the White-man, Indian women's rights were never suppressed. They were simply defined. Indians paid close attention to everyone who spoke, even the children. It was a matterof security and self-preservation. Indians could not afford to disregard any warnings. Every member of the tribe could speak and be heard.
Sacajawea, her infant son and husband made the journey from Ft. Mandan to the Pacific Ocean and back to StLouis. The story of Sacajawea begins to fade at this point. It's believed she left her son with Capt Clark and returned to Ft. Mandan were she died a few years later.
What we do know is Sacajawea was a heroic symbol in American History. Sacajawea, perhaps the most celebrated Native woman in American history, is not alone in service to her country. .
Native American women have been serving in the military as nurses and other capacities since the Spanish American War. They receive little or no credit. Maybe it time to give them
the recognition they deserve. .
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