Sacagawea day is celebrated on December 20 each year to honor Sacagawea (also spelled ‘Sakakawea’ or ‘Sacajawea’). She was the daughter of a Shoshone chief and part of the Lemhi band of the Shoshone tribe. Sacagawea is celebrated for the courage she exhibited when at 16, she acted as an interpreter for an expedition that was exploring the Louisiana Territory. In the early twentieth century, The National American Woman Suffrage Association adopted Sacagawea as a symbol of women’s worth and independence, erecting several statues and plaques in her memory, and doing much to recount her accomplishments.
History of Sacagawea Day
Sacagawea was born in May 1788 in the Lemhi Valley, near the Salmon River and the Rocky Mountains, in present-day Lemhi County, Idaho. She was kidnapped at the age of 12 by enemies of the Shoshones, the ‘Hidatsa’ tribe, and was taken to a Hidatsa-Mandan settlement in North Dakota. Sacagawea then became the property of French Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau, who took her as one of his wives in 1804. The origin of the name ‘Sacagawea’ has been disputed over time as some believe it is of Hidatsa origin meaning ‘bird woman’, while others believe it is of Shoshone origin, meaning ‘boat pusher’
The Lewis and Clark expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was sanctioned by President Thomas Jefferson after purchasing 828,000 square miles of almost completely unexplored territory from France. They met with Charbonneau and Sacagawea who provided a language link between English, French, Hidatsa, and Shoshone which would come in handy. They journeyed with the Corps of Discovery on the northern plains, across the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Ocean, and back again. Sacagawea was with her two-month-old son, Jean Baptiste, and was just 16 when they left and was the only woman on the expedition.
Her numerous contributions to the expedition like her knowledge of some terrain, identifying edible plants, and her calming presence when the group was faced with strangers amongst a host of others brought about her being celebrated today. She died of Putrid fever in December 1812 at Fort Manuel in what is now Kennel, South Dakota at the age of 24. Although some say she lived much longer
Sacagawea Day timeline
Sacagawea is born to a Shoshone Chief in present-day Lemhi County, Idaho
Sacagawea is abducted at the age of 12 by raiding Hidatsa tribesmen
Sacagawea is forced into marriage with French Canadian fur trader, Toussaint Charbonneau.
Months after President Thomas Jefferson sanctions it, the exploration begins
Sacagawea and Charbonneau join the exploration due to their language skills
Sacagawea and Charbonneau arrive back at their Hidatsa settlement after the exploration ends
Sacagawea Day FAQs
When was Sacagawea born?
She was born in May 1788.
What did Sacagawea do in February?
She gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in February 1805
Who was Sacagawea's siblings?
Cameahwait was Sacagawea’s brother and a Shoshone chief. He was the leader of the first group of people to be encountered by Europeans in modern-day Idaho. On August 13, 1805, Cameahwait encountered Meriwether Lewis and three other members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
How to Observe Sacagawea Day
Check a map of the expedition
Take yourself back in time by viewing a map detailing the Corps of Discovery Expedition. As it was such an interesting expedition, it would be worth your while.
Watch a documentary on the Corps disvovery
Watch a documentary about Sacagawea and the Corps discovery. It helps you appreciate not just one of the events that shaped America’s history, but the people involved as well.
Explore Sacagawea peaks in Montana and Idaho
Explore Sacajawea Peaks on the eastern horizon above Salmon, Idaho. The peaks overlook the Lemhi Valley, the birthplace of Sacagawea
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Why Sacagawea Day is Important
It appreciates American history
Celebrating Sacagawea day helps to appreciate American history. The events that led up to celebrating Sacagawea greatly shaped American history.
It celebrates women
Women aren’t celebrated as much as men in history. Sacagawea helps people see one of the instances where the influence of a woman greatly shaped American history.
It helps appreciate Native Americans better
Knowing that Native Americans helped shape history in America serves a good purpose. It makes us appreciate them even more than we already do.
Sacagawea Day dates