March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s Day. Arguably one of the most inspiring and influential women in North Dakota’s history is none other than the interpreter and guide Sakakawea who accompanied Lewis & Clark on the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean.
Sakakawea’s fascinating history can be explored at the North Dakota Heritage Center – the largest museum in the state, located in the Capitol city of Bismarck. An online exhibit dedicated to Sakakawea is place to whet your appetite.
One of the foremost authorities on Sakakawea, Clay Jenkinson, writes about her in the book “A Vast and Open Plain.” Jenkinson details what is known about this American Indian icon. She was probably born among the Shoshone Indians around 1787. She was captured at about the age of 11. She spent the next five or six years among the Hidatsas and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived in late October 1804, she was one of the wives of French-Canadian trader Toussaint Charbonneau.
Jenkinson writes that it is certain Sakakawea joined the expedition primarily to interpret among the Shoshones, and her value must have been considerable because she made the immense journey to the Pacific Coast and back again to the Hidatsa villages carrying her infant child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
Today on International Women’s Day, we salute this pioneering woman who truly is Legendary. Follow in her footsteps along the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota and even enjoying one of the nation’s largest man-made lakes, named in her honor – Lake Sakakawea.