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(1787?-1812)

SACAJAWEA

(By Jonathan Sprout & Peter Bliss)

Long time ago, an Indian girl

Stood upon the banks of the Missouri.

When up the river came Lewis & Clark

On an expedition in a hurry.

There were in search of a northwest passage.

Needing an Indian guide,

They asked this girl to join their party

On an April day in 1805.

 

REFRAIN:  Sacajawea -- Indian girl

                  Young and smart and brave,

                   Sacajawea, Sacajawea

                   Helping them on their way.

 

There was adventure and excitement

As they paddled 'cross the northern plains,

But from the shadows of the Rockies

It looked as though their trip was in vain.

With heavy burdens on aching feet

They could not cross the Great Divide.

Until they met with Shoshoni Indians           

And they were saved by their Indian guide.

 

REFRAIN

 

"I travel with the White Man.

We come to you in peace.

They bring you beads and treasures

From a land they call the East.

We wish to trade for horses

To help us on our way.

Now, brother, pass the pipe of peace.

Let us celebrate today."

 

They never found a northwest passage,

Although they stood where the land meets the sea.

From the Pacific, they headed homeward

Across their land of discovery.

Lewis & Clark—famous explorers.

Wrote of their adventures for the world.

Their expedition might not have made it,

But for the grace of an Indian girl.

REFRAIN

© 1995 Kanukatunes (ASCAP) & CurlyJams (BMI)


She met Lewis & Clark near the present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. She has become a legend in part for the strength with which she faced hardships on the difficult expedition.  After several months of travel, the group was near starvation and in need of horses to help carry their heavy gear over the Rocky Mountains. It was Sacajawea who helped arrange the trade for horses with the chief of the Shoshone Indian tribe - her brother - whom she had not seen since she had been kidnapped by another Indian tribe six years earlier.


Her husband, the French-born fur trader Charbonneau, had two wives. One of them died in 1812. Was it Sacajawea? We don’t know. There are rumors that there was a Shoshone woman who took the name Porivo and lived to a ripe old age of ninety-six. Could that have been Sacajawea? 

Sacajawea was the only woman traveling with Lewis, Clark and the thirty-one other men. She was the symbol of peace, as “No woman ever accompanies a war party.” – William Clark.  

The preferred spelling of her name seems to have changed since Peter Bliss & I wrote the song about her.  In 1995, the most often used spelling was with the “j” in her name. Now, the most often used spelling seems to have a “g” in her name instead. Both spellings are acceptable, as are the different ways of saying her name. You can say Sah-cah-jah-WEE-ah, Sah-cah-jah-WAY-ah, Sah-KAH-gah-WEE-ah, or Sah-KAH-gah-WAY-ah.  I've even heard Sah-cah-GAR-wee-ah from Randy Francom, Interpreter, at Ft. Clatsop in Astoria, OR.  

I met Randy in August 2011 while I was there at Ft. Clatsop researching Sacajawea.  He recommended I read "A Charbonneau Family Portrait" available there at the bookstore.  It's a fascinating twenty page booklet.  Here are a few things I learned:  Sacajawea's death date has been a source of confusion.  In my literature, I have listed that she died in either 1812 or 1884, but it seems evident to me now that she died in 1812.  After the epic journey was over, Clark returned to the area where Sacajawea and her husband Charbonneau had lived.  Later, in 1828, Clark made a "List of Men on Lewis & Clark's Trip."  In it, he wrote "Se car ja we au Dead."  Aparently, she died of an illness, but not until after she gave birth to another child, Lisette, who was adopted by Clark in 1813. 

Sacajawea's son, Jean Baptiste (Pompy), who was the youngest member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, was the last of the group to pass away.  He died on May 16, 1866 in Danner, OR.  There is a historical marker at his gravesite. 


We know about Sacajawea from journals that were kept by Lewis, Clark and a few others on the expedition. Keeping a journal is a great way to measure your growth and a great way to remember your life. I’ve been keeping a journal for thirty-seven years! My journals are among my most treasured possessions.  

Links: 

Ft. Clatsop where Sacajawea, Pompy, Lewis & Clark and the others spent a winter, near the Oregon coast

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail in eleven states

Lewis & Clark National Historic Park, Astoria, OR

One view of Sacajawea

PBS biography of Sacajawea

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