Monday, May 11, 2015

Sacajawea - day 5 of our American adventure

When we decided to spend a night in Lander I read up on the area and learned that the gravesite of Sacajawea  was nearby on the Wind River Reservation at Fort Washakie.
Sacajawea—heroine of my childhood. Every Idaho schoolchild, at least in my day, knew about her. Born in southeast Idaho, into the western Shoshone tribe, she was kidnapped at a young age by the Hidatsu and taken to North Dakota. She married the French trader Toussant Charbonneau who was hired as a guide by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At age 16 Sacajawea went along, with her infant son, Baptiste, on her back and proved invaluable as a translator and negotiator with the native people they encountered. The part of the story that always made us cheer in elementary school was when the expedition arrived in Idaho and she was reunited with her surviving family members. I remember carefully coloring a mimeographed picture of Sacajawea and her baby and marveling at her courage and strength and importance to the success of the mission.
Here is where we found her.
Sacajawea Cemetary, Fort Washakie, Wyoming
This charmingly decorated little Cemetary is still active, with many nice, new monuments, but mostly the graves are very humble and very old.
Here were a section of Grants—one proper stone, the rest simple and handmade.
There was something quite touching about the small, lovingly crafted stones.

Up the hill a bit was Sacajawea's grave. She is buried between two of her sons, including Baptiste, the baby on her back.
Perhaps you can see that there are many coins and a few seashells left at the foot of the stones.
At the back of the Cemetary there is a lovely bronze statue, depicting Sacajawea holding a sand dollar and standing in the water of the Pacific Ocean.
At her feet visitors have left trinkets and coins and small stones. Among them, a small mirror reflecting the statue.
Some people believe Sacajawea died of a fever at the age of 26 and is buried in North Dakota. The Shoshone believe that that woman was her sister, Charbonneau's second wife, and the real Sacajawea lived among them, lived nearly 100 years, told her stories of that great journey and is buried here with her people. That's what I believe too.
What a lovely thing it was on this beautiful sunny, cold day, to stand on this hillside and look out over the graves and beyond to the fields and the horses and the mountains. She is still a hero to me, who might have merited a grand burial monument in a place of great honor, but this place seemed right. It seemed perfect. I imagine she is at peace here.


  1. She was one of my favorite figures in Idaho history and like you believe her story among her people. In the 5th grade our class did a play on the Lewis and Clark expedition. One of the girls in the class was a descendent of Sacajawea and one of the boys was the grandson of one of the chiefs from that era. It was a wonderful production. We all worked on the mural sized backdrop of the journey. The highlight was the story of the dress wore by lead girl. It was a beautiful white buckskin* with the most beautiful beading. I don't remember that much of the story but boy was I impressed. The chief wore equally elaborate white buckskin (*specially treated dear hides)pants and elaborately beaded tunic. He also wore whole headdress. There were also several props from tribal collections in Fort Hall.

    Sacajawea was one of my Idaho history favorites. Chief Joseph was my very favorite.

  2. This is a beautiful post, Terry. Have you seen the statue of Sacajawea at the Botanical Gardens in Boise? It is beautiful, as is this one.

  3. Anonymous11:52 AM

    What a beautiful post. Sacajawea and Little House on the Prairie is how I became a lifelong lover of history, especially women's history. What a beautiful setting for the resting site of such a phenomenal woman.