What does sacagawea mean?
Sacagawea cemented a place in American history when she joined the Louis and Clark expedition.
She had a turbulent youth. Born sometime between 1786 and 1788 she was the daughter of a Shoshone chief, her name meaning “bird woman”. At the age of 12 she was captured by an enemy of the Shoshone, the Hidatsa. She was then sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trapper who took her as a wife.
In 1804, Sacagawea’s husband was hired by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. Charbonneau was asked to join as a translator. When they learned of her Shoshone language knowledge, the explorers also asked Sacagawea to join the expedition.
She was pregnant when they set out with Lewis and Clark and she gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau during the trek. She proved to be an incredibly resourceful asset. She had knowledge of the local foliage and what was and was not edible. Her presence alone was an advantage. An unknown group of men would more likely be met with hostility and suspicion as they traveled than a group traveling with a woman and a young child.
A year after first meeting Sacagawea, the Louis and Clark expedition reached the Pacific Ocean. After the winter weather broke, they returned eastward. Sacagawea later gave birth to a second child; a daughter Lisette. When Sacagawea died in 1812, William Clark took custody of her two children.
In 2006 the US Navy launched the USS Sacagawea, a Lewis-and-Clark class cargo ship. The final Lewis-and-Clark class cargo ship, the USNS Cesar Chavez, was launched on May 5, 2012.