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SACAJAWEA (Cont.)


Later explorations have shown that the Musselshell rises in the Little Belt Mountains, considerably to the north of the sources of the Yellowstone. Modern geography has also taken from the good Sacajawea the honor of having her name bestowed on one of the branches of the Musselshell. The stream once named for her is now known as Crooked Creek: it joins the river near its mouth, in the central portion of Montana. The journal, under date of May 22, has this entry:--

"The river [the Missouri] continues about two hundred and fifty yards wide, with fewer sand-bars, and the current more gentle and regular. Game is no longer in such abundance since leaving the Musselshell. We have caught very few fish on this side of the Mandans, and these were the white catfish, of two to five pounds.  We killed a deer and a bear. We have not seen in this quarter the black bear, common in the United States and on the lower parts of the Missouri, nor have we discerned any of their tracks.  They may easily be distinguished by the shortness of the talons from the brown, grizzly, or white bear, all of which seem to be of the same species, which assumes those colors at different seasons of the year. We halted earlier than usual, and camped on the north, in a point of woods, at the distance of sixteen and one half miles [thus past the site of Fort Hawley, on the south]."

Let us pause here to pay a little tribute to the memory of "the Indian woman," Sacajawea. She showed that she was very observant, had a good memory, and was plucky and determined when in trouble. She was the guide of the exploring party when she was in a region of country, as here, with which she was familiar.  She remembered localities which she had not seen since her childhood.
When their pirogue was upset by the carelessness of her husband, it was she who saved the goods and helped to right the boat.  And, with her helpless infant clinging to her, she rode with the men, guiding them with unerring skill through the mountain fastnesses and lonely passes which the white men saw for the first time when their salient features were pointed out to them by the intelligent and faithful Sacajawea. The Indian woman has long since departed to the Happy Hunting-Grounds of her fathers; only her name and story remain to us who follow the footsteps of the brave pioneers of the western continent. But posterity should not forget the services which were rendered to the white race by Sacajawea.

Sacajawea is believed to have settled down on the Wind River Shoshone and Bannock Indian Reservation in Wyoming and lived to be 94 years old.

Sacajawea coinIn 1999, the U.S. mint issued a $1.00 coin (see inset) featuring the image of Sacajawea in order to celebrate the coming bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition. While many consider the coin to represent long overdue recognition for this remarkable woman's contribution to the expedition, others feel it represents the submission of a Native American to the ways of the white man, and even consider the coin an insult to the Shoshone Indians who are still awaiting Federal recognition.

As an added token of irony (no pun intended), the word "Liberty" appears above Sacajawea's head. As you may recall, Sacajawea was sold as a slave to Toussaint Charbonneau, who then decided to make her his wife...

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Last modified: May 21, 2003