Lemhi-Shoshone contributions which saved the Lewis & Clark Expedition more than once:
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The Lemhi-Shoshone's Sacajawea
Almost two hundred years ago a young Lemhi-Shoshone girl, Sacajawea walked onto the world stage and played a more important role than any other Native American, male or female. Without question, Sacajawea along with her people and their horses, were the key to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the greatest exploration of the early American West ever undertaken by young and struggling country. Captain Meriwether Lewis, the personal Secretary of President Jefferson wrote in his journals that Sacajawea was indispensable in their successful attempt to reach the Pacific Ocean and return. - The story of Sacajawea is so appealing that it adds the unique charm of bravery and motherhood to this early American epic journey of the Lewis and Clark.
The primary reason for the participation of Sacajawea as member of the Corps of Discovery was to facilitate the acquisition of horses (also known as spanish mustangs or the barb horse) from her people to cross the continental divide to the headwaters of the Pacific Ocean. The primary reason for the participation of Sacajawea as member of the Corps of Discovery was to facilitate the acquisition of horses from her people to cross the continental divide to the headwaters of the Pacific Ocean. As the oral history of the Lemhi-Shoshone is farther substantiated by the various journals of the Lewis and Clark party, the primary leader of the Lemhi Shoshoni was Camahwaite the brother of Sacajawea. In addition, Captain Meriwether Lewis wrote that Sacajawea was a young woman of superior character and showed as much resolution and fortitude as any of his thirty men. The friendship and assistance demonstrated by Sacajawea during the Lewis and Clark Expedition has bestowed a national recognition that makes her an American Indian heroine of a grateful nation.
Even today, no one can fully measure this country’s debt to Sacajawea’s contribution to a young and struggling country. The recent decision by the U.S. Treasury to honor Sacajawea by placing a resemblance of her on the new gold colored one dollar coin further demonstrates not even the limits of time will erode our appreciation for her sincere efforts and friendship. As numerous citations are reviewed throughout the various journals, Sacajawea demonstrated intelligence and extraordinary resolution by assisting her child as well as well as that of the Corps of Discovery in their time of need. Sacajawea’s knowledge of her native homelands helped her identify edible and medicinal plants that relieved the distress of hunger and illness for the members of the expedition. Several times, Sacajawea almost gave up her life as well as her child’s as they continued on this route to the Pacific Ocean. Our country is overflowing with sites on the journey that Sacajawea has made historic by naming that still survive.
Her sentiments and modesty as a American Indian mother seem so less surprising as we read the journals, Sacajawea’s sacrifices for the members of the Corps of Discovery and her people were always honest, constant and unselfish. For she displayed the true meaning of friendship and loyalty at the cost of leaving her people once again.
In the journals of Captain William Clark, he writes “ Indeed she has borne with a patience truly admirable, the fatigues of so long a route, encumbered with an infant, who is even now, only 19 months old.” “In trouble she was full of resources, plucky and determined.” “Intelligent, cheerful, tireless, faithful, she inspired us all.” For her honest display of friendship and loyalty, she received no pay for her efforts during this ordeal. During her short life, Sacajawea went unrewarded; never knowing the results of her efforts for her people nor never knowing the lasting impact this had on all native people of this continent. Without question, there have been more statures erected to Sacajawea to honor her for her contribution to America that that of any other American woman. Very few people have had so much sentimental fantasy expended upon them.
Even today, in the United States, Sacajawea has been canonized, as she has become an object of State pride and interstate rivalry. The nation as whole owes a debt of gratitude to one woman who became great in spite of all, who degraded, enslaved and considered her worthless. What a fine example of motherhood and friendship she has left the world. For Sacajawea is truly the First Lady of this country, and is America. Along the shores of the Clark Canyon Reservoir (named after Captain William Clark of the Expedition) are numerous recreational and archeological sites named after the Lemhi Shoshoni people who assisted the Corp of Discovery in their time of need. It is time for all of America to become aware of the true story behind Sacajawea and her people as well as the other American Indian tribes that provided the essential assistance to the Corp of Discovery.
As we now embark to observe the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this Lemhi Shoshone girl’s aura will once again awaken interest in her contribution to America. It is time for all of America to pay homage to our American Indian heroine. For Sacajawea’s contribution to America is truly an inspiration for all.
Below are entries made in the journals of Lewis and Clark which substantiate the first and only written entries that without question identify Sacajawea as the member of Lemhi Shoshone tribe:
November 4, 1804 - Sacajawea and Toussaint Charbonneau are hired as interpreter and guide. Sacajawea one of Charbonneau's wives was selected because of her knowledge of the territory in which the expedition was heading toward. * Shoshone speaking tribes cover vast amount of territory. (From the present site of San Diego to the Commaches of North Texas throughout the present states of California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. With the Lemhi Shoshone occupying the most northern portion of this country.) * Shoshone speaking tribes are loosely held clans and groups...similar to the pueblos of the Southwest...each tribe occupied specific territorial lands.
February 11, 1805 - Sacajawea gives birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, a little boy who the members of the expedition called Pompey...in the Shoshone language means hair. (American Indian children are naturally born with abundant amounts of hair.) July 19, 1805 Captain William Clark finds the remains of several Indian camps.wicki ups that were made from willow branches, as well as pine trees that had bark peeled from them, Sacajawea informs the captains that her people used the sap and soft wood for food and medicine. * At this point the expedition was beyond the Great Falls in Montana.
July 22, 1805 - Sacajawea informs the captains that she recognizes the landmarks of people's homelands. Just ahead are the three forks of Missouri where her people were attacked by the Mandans and the place that she was enslaved along a number of childhood friends as well as the place her mother and others were killed trying to protect the children. * The plains tribes had acquired guns from the early fur trappers along the Missouri the Lemhi Shoshone have not encountered white people this possession of weaponry gave the advantage to the plains Indians.
July 30, 1805 - Captain Lewis, Charbonneau and Sacajawea walk to the exact spot five years earlier where she was captured and enslaved. * When your life is in the hands of your enemy as a prisoner or a slave, you conform to every wish of your captives for your survival depends on this. Sacagawea
August 8, 1805 Sacajawea points to a high formation called by her people (Lemhi Shoshone) the Beaver's Head because this is shaped like that animals head and this is route utilized by her tribe every summer on their way to hunt the buffalo and the expedition will soon find her people. * South of Dillon, Montana just east of Lemhi Pass which leads into Lemhi Valley.
August 13, 1805 - Captain Lewis and members of the expedition encounter Lemhi Shoshone on the western side of Lemhi Pass, sixty mounted warriors engage this group as warning was echoed throughout the valley as intruders entered the homelands of the Lemhi Shoshone.
August 16, 1805 - Sacajawea is reunited with her people the Lemhi Shoshone, soon Sacajawea recognizes her brother Chief Camehwaite emotional reunion. Sacajawea facilitates the dialogue to assist the expedition to acquire the essential horses and guide, to continue with the expedition over Lost Trail Pass. Sacajawea continues with the expedition, the promises made by the Lewis and Clark to the Lemhi Shoshone is eminent on the expedition's success. Old Toby was also directed to assist the expedition to the land of the Nez Perce through the land of the Flatheads.
April 28, 1806 - Sacajawea communicates with a Shoshone woman prisoner at a Walla Walla Indian village... * Sacajawea is fluent in her native language to speak with another Shoshone speaker. Sacajawea, Sacagawea, Sakakawea photo
May 11, 1806 - Again Sacajawea establishes communication with a Shoshone boy living with the Nez Perce. * Vicinity of Kamiah, Idaho.
July 6, 1806 - Sacajawea directs the expedition towards the Big Hole Valley...this is an easier route. * Sacajawea's knowledge of her homelands is beneficial to the expedition. I doubt that a Mandan of sixteen years of age would be knowledgeable of this shortcut.
July 14, 1806 - Sacajawea informs Captain Clark of trail leading through a pass to the plains where her People, the Lemhi Shoshone would go to hunt buffalo. (Bozeman Pass)
July 17, 1806 - Sacajawea informs Captain Clark of the fort made by her people to defend themselves from attacks by enemies who had rifles and numbers for superior power. * Frequently the Lemhi Shoshone and Flatheads would joint forces to hunt buffalo in Montana as more Plains Indians acquired rifles.
There were at least 3 times that Lemhi-Shoshone were crucial in helping Lewis & Clark to survive and succeed:
1. Sacagawea Lewis & Clark hired her husband, Touissant Charbonneau, at Mandan as an interpreter. She saved their instruments, books, medicines, and probably THE JOURNALS THEMSELVES when her husband swamped one of the canoes and the items were floating away. She also helped them when by coincidence her brother, Cameahwait, was the chief of the Lemhi-Shoshone. She guided the expedition only a few times; in the Three Forks area of SW Montana she began to recognize landmarks such as the Beaver head landmark (photo on left) so Lewis & Clark knew they were in the right area to find her people the Lemhi-Shoshone. When the expedition broke into 4 separate groups, she guided Clark and 10 others towards the Yellowstone River, July 1806. She also found plants for Lewis to record and collect for Jefferson, and she provided edible plants for the Corps to eat. She and her baby also helped the Corps show Indians that they were peaceful and were not war parties. Indian war & raiding parties did not bring women or babies.
2. The Lemhi-Shoshone near Lemhi Pass sold Lewis & Clark 28 horses. By 1805 the Lemhi-Shoshone had about 700 (barb) horses, including some mules. Some of the mules had Spanish Brands, and Meriwether Lewis observed stirrups and other articles of Spanish tack (horse gear).
It took them 11 days for the expedition led by Old Toby to cross the mountains to the Nez Perce people, they were nearly dead and starved as it was. They ultimately ate 4 or 5 of the barb horses for food. (Lewis and Clark descendants are often teased by Lemhi-Shoshone: :"...that, we hope they don't eat our horses.") :P The lack of firearms left the Lemhi-Shoshone at the mercy of the Eastern American Indians who had guns. The Lemhi Shoshone of 1805 fought on horseback and commonly used the bow and arrow, shield, lance and poggamoggon (a weapon with a leather-covered wood handle and a thong at one end tied to a 2-pound leather-covered round stone).
3. Old Toby - If Lewis & Clark would have tried to cross the Rockies without a guide, they would have perished for certain. The Lemhi-Shoshone provided them *Old Toby and he guided them through the Bitterroot mountains. The and Agaidikas and Tukudikas who make up the Lemhi-Shoshone Tribes are considered the first residents of the upper Lemhi Valley, dating back 12,000 years or more. Archaeological research indicates that buffalo, when present were hunted throughout the 12,000 years of Indian occupancy of the Lemhi Valley. Sacagawea - Sacajawea along with her people and their horses.
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