Today, we are not celebrating Columbus Day, because finally, in 2017, we as a society realize how wrong it is to celebrate a man who caused a genocide. Finally. Instead of celebrating a man who thought he was in India when he was, in fact, not, we’re choosing to celebrate a far more important person: Sacagawea.
Sacagawea, also known as Sakakawea or Sacajawea, was born in 1788 to the Agaidika of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe in what is now Idaho.
While it is hard to find definitive facts about her, it is known that she was sadly kidnapped and sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, a trapper from Quebec, to become his wife. She was pregnant with her first child when she met the famed Lewis and Clark and signed onto their expedition.
(Yeah, she helped lead an uncharted expedition from the midwest to the Pacific Ocean while pregnant, and gave birth on the road. I don’t ever want to hear another man doubt a woman’s physical strength again. Thanks.)
Ultimately, Sacagawea played a key role in the historic expedition by serving as a translator, peacekeeper, and guide.
On their return trip home from the Pacific Ocean, Sacagawea suggested to Clark that they cross through the Yellowstone River basin (now known as Bozeman Pass). This route would ultimately be decided as the optimal route for the one and only Northern Pacific Railway.
The rest of her life following the expedition is, sadly, a bit of a mystery.
Based on old journal entries, two main theories exist: either that she passed in 1812 of a fever not long after giving birth to her daughter, or that she left her trapper husband, escaped through the Great Plains, and married into a Comanche tribe, living until 1884. We can only hope the latter is true, seeing as it’s a more fitting ending to a story about a strong Native woman who was instrumental to American history.