Personally, I would like to ask, what is all of this fuss about? She cannot be buried in other places. She is here on the hill in the cemetery. She can only be buried in one place. . . . Fraud is not with the Indians in matters of this kind. They do not put up a story just to have it startling and out-of-place.
James McAdam, to Grace Raymond Hebard through interpreter James E. Compton, Fort Washakie, July 21, 1929
Some of our people say she was the same woman, others say she was not.
Statement of Mrs. Weidemann, Elbowwoods, N.D., February 3, 1925, to Charles Eastman, in Sioux
So many women were there that she might have been there and not noticed, but there were women, many of them.
Hebe-chee-chee, to Grace Raymond Hebard through interpreter James E. Compton, Fort Washakie, July 22, 1929
Se car ja we au Dead.
William Clark, Cashbook for 1825-1828
Before there was a West there, Native American women lived in and traversed and transformed the terrain that would, in time, become the West. But the arrival of the West meant that most of those women would be dislodged and erased, relegated to the status of missing persons. When you go looking for missing persons, you may not find them, but you are bound to find out a lot of other things. That was what happened when I went looking for the Shoshone woman we know today as Sacagawea.
It seems odd to imagine this most famous Indian woman among the "missing." Pocahontas aside, no one has been more
in evidence as a representative of indigenous women's history than Sacagawea, the Native American woman who went west with Lewis and Clark.1
Sacagawea has, of course, been an emblem of Indian womanhood for audiences as diverse as turn-of-the-century white women's rights activists and fans of western movies. An image of her appears on the newest U.S. dollar coin. There is no question that she has been represented often and in varied media, from books to sculpture to musical theater.2
For someone about whom so much has been said, written, painted, and even sung in years long since her death, some fairly basic pieces of Sacagawea's story are missing. We don't know where or when she was born, and we're not sure where or when she died. We can't say for certain how many children she had; we don't even really know how to say or spell or translate her name. Even this highly celebrated indigenous woman has left a surprisingly faint trail.
But trails appear faint either because they are neglected, even erased, or because those who try to follow them don't know how to read the signs, or because the signs point in different directions. Women's traces have often faded through neglect, and sometimes been deliberately obscured, obliterated, or falsified. Women have added to the difficulty of the search by insisting, all too often and sometimes for good reasons, on covering their tracks. Tracing indigenous women in the nineteenth century means, moreover, coping with white writers' racial and gender stereotyping, cultural blindnesses, and desired to imagine the country they desire not as peopled but as empty. Thus pursuing the search means thinking hard about how to read the signs.3
My purpose in seeking Sacagawea was not to write a definitive biography of her, or even to try to analyze everything that has been said or written about her.4
I wanted first to think about what we might learn by taking seriously the idea that women move through space as well as time. I also wanted to examine the ways in which race—more a potent construct of the human imagination than a biological reality in this world of interethnic interaction—affected women's movements and their legacies. I knew that even if I didn't find the historical woman Sacagawea and prove able to explain precisely where and when and how she had been, I might still learn something about some indigenous women. I would surely learn something about the difficulty and the promise of tracing the lives of women who move around.
Searching for Sacagawea has shown me ways in which Native women's movements and their knowledgeable actions in the early nineteenth century eluded, delimited, created, and transformed the West, at a time when "West" meant little more than the wish, the intent, and the action of extending American domination into a place not everyone agreed should be understood as a part of the United States.5
This West was made real, in no small degree, through the act of writing things down. Where the power of the written word faded, so too did the West itself.
The more I looked for Sacagawea, this most written-about Indian woman, the more I tried to find the historical person divested of her burden of embodying stereotype and legend, the more I saw shadows of other women who led lives distant from the literary. Her story, the one that leaked into the chronicles of American expansion, seemed to reveal many women, moving around, mastering a host of languages and skills, turning the terrain they traversed into a densely populated, confusing place. Following her often faint, sometimes invisible trail, a trail that often crossed European Americans' tracks but as often led away from them, I found a profusion of women's footprints, leading in many directions. I finally had to ask: Was she one woman, or several, or even many?
Where previous seekers had tried to create a consistent individual woman's biography, I saw overlapping, often irreconcilable stories of a host of women. As Plains Indian women came into focus, the more "the West" receded. Yet the West did not disappear entirely from view. Just as Native women's thoughts and movements revealed both a world before the West and the limits of American authority, so too did such women take part in erecting the West.
I began, as anyone who has gone looking for Sacagawea does, with the testimony of the men of the Corps of Discovery, the transient band of soldiers and civilians sent by President Thomas Jefferson of the United States to explore a large piece of North American territory that the U.S. had recently bought but that it by no means controlled. She was perhaps fourteen, or maybe seventeen, when the men of this expedition first laid eyes on her; as Rocky Mountain frontiersman Charles William Bocker would later remark, testifying to white men's interpretive handicaps, "It is difficult to tell an Indian girl's age or a squaw's age."6
Several men of the corps kept journals in an effort to fix as precisely as possible their own whereabouts and activities on particular dates. She might well have been among the Indians who greeted Lewis and Clark as they arrived at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages, not far from where the Knife River joins the Missouri in present-day North Dakota, near the place she lived with her French husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, and his other young Shoshone wife, said by some to have been named Otter Woman.7
But whether or not Sacagawea had seen the men of the expedition before, their written journals suggest that she came to their attention on November 11, 1804.8
On that day, as on most to follow, the Americans of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery would refer to her not by name but according to the conventions of race and sex, in this case as one of "two squars of the Rock mountains, purchased from the Indians by a frenchmen."9
The expedition had established itself in winter quarters in a fort adjacent to the Mandan-Hidatsa villages. Charbonneau, who had lived and worked in Indian country for at least a decade, was looking for employment. He hoped to use his claim to fluency in Hidatsa, his knowledge of a more widely understood sign language, and his experience trapping and trading among indigenous people to hire on as an interpreter with the American expedition commanded by Captains Lewis and Clark. After some negotiation, Charbonneau signed on with the Corps of Discovery and moved with his wives into the Americans' fort.
For nearly the next two years, written records testify to where Sacagawea was and what she was doing. She traveled westward with the expedition to the Pacific Ocean, and back as far as the Mandan villages. But no one, herself included, could have known in November 1804 what her presence would come to mean to Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery, or to later generations. So it is perhaps not surprising that no one bothered to write down her name.
Even had they done so, Lewis and Clark and the others who kept journals were such haphazard spellers that on the few occasions when they later tried to render her name into English their representations were more remarkable for variety than for clarity. In the years since, a fierce battle has raged about the proper meaning, pronunciation, and spelling of that name: Tsi-ki-ka-wi-as (Hidatsa, "Bird Woman"); Sakakawea (Anglicized Hidatsa); Sah ca gah we ah (Clark's sometime usage); Sa cah gar we a (Lewis's attempt); Sacajawea (Nicholas Biddle's spelling, based on advice from Corps of Discovery member George Shannon, a rendering from the Shoshone meaning "Canoe Launcher").10
Clark had such trouble wrapping his tongue around her name that he sometimes called her, simply, "Janey."11
Generations of American schoolchildren learned to know her as "Sacajawea, Guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition." Each time I refer to her here as "Sacagawea," I rub against my own ingrained habit. The woman I learned to call Sacajawea, and now struggle to call Sacagawea, did not read or write, and did not pronounce her own name with English inflections. Indigenous women's names often reflect clan affiliation, but no scholar has suggested that the name Sacagawea was either a Shoshone or Hidatsa clan name. Shoshone naming practices reflect people's experiences and accomplishments more often than their clan associations. Sacagawea never attained familial status among the matrilineal Hidatsas; she was captured young, and never adopted by the Hidatsas before being sold, or lost, to Charbonneau.12
Later Hidatsas, as we shall see, insisted that she had never been their captive at all.
In the years after she parted from the Corps of Discovery, according to Shoshone, Comanche, and white testimony, she went by a number of different names, also in different languages. She had been known in Comanche as Pohe-nive, or Grass Woman; Nyah-Suqite, meaning "The Flirt"; Wadze-Wipe, or Lost Woman; and Porivo, or Chief. And then in Shoshone, she was known as Yanb-he-be-jo, or the Old Comanche Woman; and in English, as "Bazil's Mother."13
If the power to specify one's own name is one of the ways we measure individuality and freedom, the capacity of nations and languages to assign people definitive names is a measure of the power of states, villages, and kin groups—although in practice, the names of individuals and of groups of people often change as life goes on and people move around (consider, for example, the fact that American women have conventionally been expected to change their names after marriage). The woman I am calling Sacagawea may well have been called, and have called herself, a number of names. That English-speaking representatives of the United States have never been able to determine, finally, how her name should be pronounced or spelled or translated, let alone whether this assortment of names refers to one person, demonstrates the incompleteness of American domination of this woman, people like her, and the terrain they traversed. Early-twentieth-century Shoshones were careful to explain to interviewers that the woman they knew as Porivo was called Sacajawea by whites.14
I settle for an imperfect and imposed representation of her name—Sacagawea—to acknowledge that there is much we will never know about her, or many others whose impact on history was no more visible, and no less substantive, than the influence of air upon lungs.
If in 1804 she was called by the Hidatsa name Sakakawea, as many have argued, it was not the first name she had known. She had, after all, been born Shoshone, probably somewhere in what would become the state of Idaho. At the age of nine or ten or eleven or twelve, camped with her band at the Three Forks of the Missouri River in what is now Montana, she endured a calamity that would change her life forever. As Meriwether Lewis understood the story, probably partly through Charbonneau's translation, she and other children and women of her Lemhi Shoshone band were captured by Minnetarees (identified in the 1920s as Gros Ventres, and more generically designated as Hidatsas) and taken, on foot or on horseback, hundreds of miles east to the Missouri River villages. There, she may have spent the next four or five or six years of her life. She learned a new language, new skills and customs, as a captive slave. Barely into her teens, she acquired the designation of "wife of" Charbonneau (who himself went by several names in different languages) when he either bought her or won her in a gambling game.15
White men like those of the Lewis and Clark party conventionally referred to married women by their husbands' names, and most mentions of Sacagawea in their journals follow this practice, calling her "the interpreter's wife" or "Charbono's wife." But since she was Indian rather than white, she would also be described in terms of both her race and her gender, as "Charbonneau's squaw" or "the Indian woman" or "the squar." Then as now, such generic and impersonal designations obscured as much as they revealed.
And so, unfortunately, the problem of locating and identifying and then telling the story of Sacagawea is not simply a matter of deciding on her name and going from there. For here was an indigenous woman who was, first by virtue of race and sex, and then because she was in places where writing white men weren't, largely invisible to the information-gathering mechanisms of the United States. Modern nations extend their authority over people and places by turning them into statistics: names, dates of birth, places of residence, dates of death; dots or lines or areas on a map. In her time, the United States was only just beginning to map the territory it claimed, relying heavily on the willingness of such Native people as its agents encountered to share their own stories and maps and their work and their knowledge of the countryside. Nineteenth-century American officials made estimates of indigenous group populations chiefly for military purposes, thus they paid far closer attention to the numbers of adult males than of women or children. And male or female, Indians were explicitly excluded from national census counts, on the grounds that they were not taxed, and not expected to become citizens.
Even when the U.S. government wished most ardently to count Native people, many Indian groups frustrated the government's intention by moving around. The Shoshones, for example, practiced a mixed economy of fishing, hunting, and gathering that required seasonal migrations over substantial distances and a measure of mobility on a day-to-day basis.16
The Hidatsas, who lived during the winter along with the Mandans in the Missouri River villages, had occupied most of those villages for less than twenty years at the time Lewis and Clark quartered among them. They lived in outlying settlements during the summer, and they ranged and raided over an area covering hundreds of square miles.17
Before she went to the Pacific with the American party, the teenaged Sacagawea had covered a lot of ground, unbeknownst to white authorities. Her knowledge of the requirements of travel, her eagerness to journey to Shoshone territory, and her confidence in her own experience and skill in getting around the country the corps was about to "discover" at least matched those of the expedition's men. She readily joined the party even though she was far gone into pregnancy and knew that she would be carrying along and caring for a newborn baby. Neither the captains nor any of the other diarists voiced any reservations about subjecting a new mother and a tiny infant to such an exacting journey, even when she, described as "one of the wives of Charbono," endured a long, painful labor and delivery within the walls of Fort Mandan. They needed her to translate among the Shoshones, thus could make no allowances for feminine weakness. Their view of indigenous women, moreover, led them to believe that she would be able to endure more hardship than most white women, although their white successors on trails westward would rely, similarly, on women's ability to move and to work without making concessions even to the rigors of childbirth.18
Sacagawea was by no means the first indigenous woman the Lewis and Clark party encountered. Maybe part of their indifference to her name came from the fact that their travels had already brought them into contact with many Native women who were doing things they regarded as remarkable but whom they never named, instead tending to homogenize and dehumanize them as "squars" or "squas" or "squaws." These women's tracks crossed the expedition's, and Sacagawea's, in many places, and that mingling often provides the first clue to the existence, and the journeys, of so many others.
Sacagawea herself met up with one such woman on August 17, 1805, when the expedition reached the camp of her people, the Lemhi Shoshones, on the eastern flank of the Great Divide. As Lewis reported:
Capt. Clark arrived with the Interpreter Charbono, and the Indian woman, who proved to be a sister of the chief Cameah-wait. the meeting of these people was really affecting, particularly between Sah cah-gar-we-ah and an Indian woman, who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her, and who had afterwards escaped from the Minnetares and rejoined her nation.19
According to their journals, the captains then moved to open discussions with Sacagawea's brother, Cameahwait, while the women renewed "friendships of former days," until Sacagawea was needed to translate for the men. What Lewis failed to acknowledge was that, for a period spanning five arduous months, the Lewis and Clark expedition simply retraced the footsteps of this unnamed Shoshone girl, who years before, as a ten- or eleven- or twelve-year-old, had been taken captive and forced to travel the long road eastward, then seen her chance to escape and, leaving her cherished friend behind, made the journey from the Mandan villages back to her people, on her own. Like Ginger Rogers dancing in high heels with Fred Astaire, this girl did what Lewis and Clark would, but under pressure, and backwards.
We do not know for certain whether Sacagawea's friend was among the Shoshone women who helped Lewis and Clark to inscribe a line of American presence across the continent, by carrying the expedition's baggage across the Great Divide. A number of Shoshone women did that job, with the assistance of Sacagawea and Charbonneau. By the time they reached the Continental Divide, expedition journal-keepers, who had their own ideas about how work ought properly to be divided between women and men, had seen and remarked often on the amount of heavy physical labor Native women did. The journal-keepers expressed views consistent with the Enlightenment belief that women's work provided a marker of a society's evolution from savagery to civilization; the more physical effort women were expected to exert, the lower the society on the evolutionary scale.20
Clark, who had brought his own bondsman, York, on the journey, compared Teton Sioux women to "slaves." He thought them "Chearfull fine look'g womin" who nevertheless "do all their laborious work & I may Say perfect Slaves to the Men, as all Squars of Nations much at War, or where the Womin are more noumerous than the men."21
Arikara women, Clark said, were "Small and industerous, raise great quantitites of Corn Beens Simnins &c. also Tobacco for the men to Smoke they collect all the wood and do the drugery as Common amongst Savages."22
Shoshones, Lewis observed,
treat their women but with little rispect, and compel them to perform every species of drudgery. they collect the wild fruits and roots, attend to the horses or assist in that duty, cook, dress the skins and make all their apparal, collect wood and make their fires, arrange and form their lodges, and when they travel pack the horses and take charge of all the baggage; in short the man dose little else except attend his horses hunt and fish. the man considers himself degraded if he is compelled to walk any distance; and if he is so unfortunately poor as only to possess two horses he rides the best himself and leavs the woman or women if he has more than one, to transport their baggage and children on the other, and to walk if the horse in unable to carry the additional weight of their persons.23
Lewis and Clark may have told themselves that female drudgery marked a society as "savage" and therefore in need of Enlightening conquest, but Lewis admitted that Shoshone women were "held more Sacred among them than in any nation we have seen and appear to have an equal Shere in all Conversation."24
As they faced the forbidding prospect of crossing the Continental Divide, both captains were glad to avail themselves of Indian women's skill and strength when convenient, as was clearly the case when Shoshone women drove pack horses and carted their excess baggage across the divide.
When one Shoshone woman teamster stopped by a stream and sent her two heavily laden horses forward with "one of her female friends," Lewis asked Cameahwait what was keeping her. The chief explained that she had stopped to "bring forth a child and would soon overtake us," which she did. Lewis struggled to make sense of the new mother's extraordinary strength and mobility. Forgetting his own witness at Fort Mandan to Sacagawea's prolonged and excruciating labor, he relied instead on the well-established scientific practice of treating indigenous women as examples of a species rather than as human individuals. "It appears to me," he wrote, "that the facility and ease with which the women of the aborigines of North America bring forth their children is reather a gift of nature than depending as some have supposed on the habitude of carrying heavy burthens on their backs while in a state of pregnancy."25
Thus one indigenous woman's achievement was classified as belonging not to the history of conquest, or even to the analysis of human physical conditioning, but instead to the domain of Enlightenment nature study.
While many Indian men's names are recorded in expedition writings, only one woman's name, apart from that of Sacagawea, appeared in any version of those journals. Watkuweis, an elder member of a Nez Perce band, had experienced a life that in many regards resembled the one Sacagawea was living. Her name translated into English as "returned from a far country." She had long before been captured by Blackfeet or Atsinas, taken to Canada, and sold to a white trader, living for several years among whites before finding her way back to the Nez Perces. According to Nez Perce oral tradition, she retained a positive view of whites and convinced the men of her band to assist the Corps of Discovery.26
Watkuweis's long, multicultural west-to-east-and-back-again voyage, less literally than that of Sacagawea's Shoshone friend, but no less significantly, anticipated that of the expedition. Her words and actions in September 1805, like the work and willingness of Shoshone women, bound North American geography in a new way, linking Indian and white experience in diverse places to the new political order the Americans were trying to establish. But describing her part in stitching the region Americans wanted to name as their West to the eastern core of their country proved too difficult a task for William Clark. Watkuweis would be literally erased: Clark omitted her name from his revised journal entry.27
Women like Sacagawea and Watkuweis, and the unnamed Shoshone woman who assisted the corps, played the role of minor and transient characters in the expedition's story. In their own lives, however, and in the lives of the people with whom they worked and loved and fought and moved and resided, these indigenous women were often featured players. Relegated to the timeless and wordless realm of nature in expedition narratives, their history, then, took place mostly out of view of American authority, sometimes in collaboration with American aims, sometimes indifferent to the American presence, and sometimes in resistance to American domination.28
Wherever they lived beyond the sight and the reach of Euro-American authority should not be regarded now as part of an inevitably Western history. Their bodies, and the bodies of unnamed and unnumbered indigenous people like them, indeed marked not just the extent, but also the limits of the American power required to call a place "our West."
Even Sacagawea herself, who has so often stood as a complicit emblem of that conquest, had a life apart from it: perhaps a very long life. Nothing better reveals the limits of American dominion in her time, a period possibly spanning ninety or more years, than the mystery of what happened to her after she parted from the Corps of Discovery on August 17, 1806. On that moving occasion, Clark acknowledged her role as "interpretes" on the journey to the Pacific and wrote glowingly of Sacagawea's Shoshone-French son Baptiste, "a butifull promising child" whom Clark promised to educate and raise "in such a manner as I thought proper." Clark clearly liked and respected her, and had witnessed her bravery, resourcefulness, and sense of adventure on many occasions. He had watched once, on shore, as one of the pirogues swamped and she managed, with quick wits and reflexes, to save vital instruments, medicines, and papers as they began to float away.29
One day when the expedition was in quarters at Fort Clatsop in the winter of 1805-1806, Clark determined to lead a small party on a rugged trip to view a beached whale. Sacagawea begged to be taken along, telling the captains that "she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it very hard she could not be permitted to see either (she had never yet been to the Ocean)."30
On Christmas day of 1805, Sacagawea gave Clark the gift of ten white weasel tails, a sure sign of her own esteem for him.31
She recognized landmarks, carried messages between the captains, and took part, repeatedly, in the laborious process of translating conversations between the Americans and the diverse people they met. On many occasions she had slaked the expedition's hunger with her skill at gathering roots and greens the men would not have even known were there, much less understood were edible. But at their moment of parting, employing the habit of speech that would do so much to obscure her life and the lives of so many women before and after her, Clark referred to her not by name, but as Charbonneau's "Snake Indian wife." Declining to utter Sacagawea's name, he blurred her trail as surely as if he'd thrown a bucketful of sand across her moccasin tracks.32
What happened then? Not long after Clark returned to St. Louis, he wrote a letter to Charbonneau at the Mandan villages, imploring him to bring Sacagawea and Baptiste to St. Louis, where he promised to give Charbonneau land and livestock and pledged to educate Baptiste, whom he called "my little dancing boy." He explained to Charbonneau that "your famn [wife] Janey had best come along with you to take care of the boy until I get him." But he also told Charbonneau, "Your woman who accompanied you that long dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocian and back diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout than we had in our power to give her at the Mandans."33
Sacagawea and Baptiste and Charbonneau apparently made the journey to St. Louis in 1810, where Clark sold Charbonneau some land and set about arranging and paying for Baptiste's education. Charbonneau, however, decided to sell the land back to Clark within a few months and to return to trapping on the Missouri. The six-year-old Baptiste remained behind, where he was educated at the expense of William Clark.34
Now comes the critical question: Did Sacagawea remain in St. Louis with her son or return to the villages with her husband? Charbonneau had signed on with a trader named Henry Brackenridge, who wrote in his own journal as the expedition departed St. Louis on April 2, 1811:
We have on board a Frenchman named Charbonet, with his wife, an Indian woman of the Snake nation, both of whom accompanied Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, and were of great service. The woman, a good creature, of a mild and gentle disposition, was greatly attached to the whites, whose manners and airs she tries to imitate; but she had become sickly and longed to revisit her native country; her husband also, who had spent many years amongst the Indians, was become weary of civilized life.35
What "native country" did this most mobile and multicultural woman wish to revisit? And should we see Brackenridge's use of the term as an implicit acknowledgment that the trans-Mississippi region was by no means simply part of the United States? As for the unnamed female passenger, surely the "wife" referred to was Sacagawea; after all, she was the only woman who fit Brackenridge's description. In any case, if she was the woman who went up the river with Charbonneau, then it was probably she whose death was described by the trader John C. Luttig, at the Mandan villages, on December 20, 1812: "This evening the wife of Charbonneau, a Snake squaw, died of a putrid fever. She was the best woman in the fort, aged about twenty-five years. She left a fine infant child." The child, unnamed here like her mother, Luttig would later identify as a daughter called Lizette.36
Most historians of the Lewis and Clark expedition regard the Brackenridge and Luttig statements as definitive proof that Sacagawea's story ended in 1812. They further cite a notation on the cover of William Clark's cashbook for 1825-1828, "Se car ja we au Dead," as proof of her early demise.37
But some of those who reckon their histories using different geographies, and featuring different people in starring roles, have told very different, much longer and more complex and contradictory tales. These stories encompass a much wider terrain, a landscape only episodically describable as the American West.
Some investigators wondered whether the Shoshone wife who returned to the villages with Charbonneau in 1811, and died there in 1812, was indeed Sacagawea. She surely had gone with him and with the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the time of the 1805 departure from the Mandan villages she was, according to expedition journals, not his only Shoshone wife. Those who sought Sacagawea during the early part of the twentieth century lived in and traveled to places that were, by that time, regularly bounded and incorporated into the western part of the United States. At the same time, they questioned the idea that the story of Sacagawea, or of Native women more generally, was nothing much more than a subplot in narratives of the American West such as the tale of the Lewis and Clark party. They asked whether the vagaries of translation and white men's habit of referring to indigenous women by anything but their own names may have affected English-speakers' understanding of what and whom they were seeing, and of what and whom others had seen.
In December 1924 the federal government hired Sioux physician and author Charles Eastman to investigate the life story of Sacagawea. Eastman's job was to settle a dispute among historians in Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas over where and when the indigenous woman had died. It was not an idle question. As has so often been the case in the history of the American West, there was government money at stake. The Anglo-American feminist historian Grace Raymond Hebard, of the University of Wyoming, had begun to lobby Congress to appropriate money for a monument to Sacagawea (whom she called Sacajawea) on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.38
Since 1905 Hebard had been collecting evidence among white agents and missionaries at Wind River showing that the woman who had accompanied Lewis and Clark had found her way back to Shoshones at Fort Bridger sometime in the 1850s, and had lived on the reservation at Fort Washakie until her death in 1884. The North Dakota historian Doane Robinson and others insisted that there was no question that Sacagawea had died in 1812, and they took their case to their own representatives in Congress. Opposition to Hebard's position and her efforts was so strenuous that the commissioner of Indian affairs asked Eastman to make an official inquiry.39
Eastman examined the documents Hebard had gathered from white informants and then set out on his own tour of Wyoming, Oklahoma, and North Dakota to interview Shoshones, Comanches, and Hidatsas in an effort to learn what Indians knew about the life of Sacagawea. He looked at the Luttig and Brackenridge journals, examined Hebard's evidence from three Christian missionaries he described as "both intelligent and strong men" who "had known Porivo, Bazile's mother or Sacajawea, the Bird Woman," and collected the "testimonies of three different Indian nations, namely, Shoshones, Comanches, and Gros Ventres." Eastman insisted that "we have to accept the tribal traditions and when they corroborate so strikingly well, we must accept it as the truth." But he also relied on his "knowledge of the Indian mothers traits and habits," derived in part from watching Indian women deal with the wrenching experience of seeing their children taken off to government boarding schools.40
By March 2, 1925, after a short but intense investigation, Eastman concluded that Sacagawea, known to the Shoshones as Porivo, had, as Hebard argued, lived until 1884, sometimes in a tepee and sometimes in a government-built wooden house, and died at Wind River. The woman who died in 1812, Eastman believed, was Charbonneau's other Shoshone wife, Otter Woman, because
Baptiste [at age six] was too young to be separated from his mother and in my knowledge of the Indian mothers traits and habits are such that she could not have permitted to be separated from her child at that age, especially those time. It was hard enough up to thirty years ago to get a child of 10 years to leave their Indian parents to go to school. It would have been impossible for Clark to retain Baptiste without his mother.41
According to Eastman, sometime after going back to the Mandan villages Charbonneau returned to St. Louis with a new Hidatsa wife named Eagle. He then took his two surviving wives ("Sacajawea," a name Eastman translated as "Bird Woman," and Eagle) and their children, one of whom was Baptiste and the other, Otter Woman's son, to work translating and trapping in the fur trade in western Oklahoma and Kansas. Trouble ensued when Charbonneau brought home yet another young wife, a Ute girl. After a dispute between Sacagawea and the Ute wife, Charbonneau beat the Shoshone woman, and, Eastman explained, "the Bird Woman disappears." She managed to find her way to a band of Comanches, and lived among them for "26 or 27 years." During this time she married a man named Jerk Meat and bore five more children, the youngest of whom she took with her when she left the Comanches following Jerk Meat's death in battle. After that time, her Comanche son tried and failed to find her, and the Comanches referred to her as "Wadze-wipe": Lost Woman. This was the woman, Eastman maintained, who made her way to Fort Bridger, and from there to Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation, where she lived until 1884.42
It is not difficult to reconcile Eastman's version of Sacagawea's life with Clark's belief, by 1825, that she was dead. For one thing, since she was not literate, she had no way of maintaining personal contact with Clark across long distances, save through intermediaries, Charbonneau in particular. Purportedly, by 1825 she had already run away from Charbonneau, following a severe beating, and was trying to evade pursuit. In such a case, she would have worked frantically to cover her tracks. To have Charbonneau believe her dead would have aided her escape. For his part, it would have been logical for Charbonneau to believe that no lone woman, particularly one who had recently suffered a heavy physical assault, could survive long on the southern plains, in territory she did not know well.
But Eastman's and Hebard's linking of discrete stories does not quite biography make. From 1806 forward, events Eastman and Hebard would try to associate with Sacagawea's life may have happened to or because of her, or for that matter, to or because of a woman or women with whom she had a great deal in common.
While Sacagawea disappeared from Euro-American view in the years after 1806, she, or mobile, skilled Indian women like her, imprinted their presence in several indigenous oral traditions.43
The stories other Indians told about her, however, varied from tribe to tribe, and within tribal groupings. These stories, like the ones European Americans recorded, were not products of some authentic and unmodified "native" knowledge, but were historical artifacts very much shaped by the past and present politics of gender and nation.
When Charles Eastman visited the Fort Berthold Reservation at Elbowwoods, North Dakota, in the winter of 1925, some of his Hidatsa hosts seized the opportunity to remind him of the history of conflict between themselves and his own Sioux people. Two Hidatsa men, Bull Eye's and Wolf Chief, insisted that if there was any Shoshone girl in their villages with Charbonneau that winter of 1804-1805, she must have been captured not by Hidatsas but by Crows. As Bull Eye's, the grandson of Charbonneau and Charbonneau's third, Hidatsa wife, Eagle, told Eastman, "We never have any Snake captives here. . . . Our friends the Crow Indians are the ones who have battled with them and it is my impression that if there is any Snake captives they must have been taken by the Crow Indians and not by the Gros Ventres. Our tribes were so surrounded by our Sioux enemies it was impossible for our people to go very far from our village, either in hunting or warfare."44
"I don't want to dispute the records of Lewis and Clark," Gros Ventre chief Wolf Chief explained to Eastman, presumably in English, on that same interviewing trip to North Dakota, "but they were undoubtedly misinformed." Standing on his authority as "hereditary chief of the Gros Ventre Indians," Wolf Chief said:
Our people never go to the Rocky Mountains for the purpose of warfare or hunting because we are absolutely surrounded by our enemies. Therefore we could never have taken any captives from the Shoshoni people. It must have been taken by our friends, the Crow tribe, who made war with the Shoshonis and that Charbonneau must have married these Shoshoni women up the river among the Crows and later came down to our tribe with them and remained with us here a little while when the Lewis and Clark expedition came here and found them here.45
Although Eastman was present as a representative of the United States, both Wolf Chief and Bull Eye's seemed to regard relations between Indian nations and the United States as marginal matters compared to the history of Hidatsa conflict with the Sioux. Thus Wolf Chief took pains to inform Eastman that Sacagawea played no role in Hidatsa tradition, and Lewis and Clark were little more than minor figures:
The fact [is] that they were mere visitors here and then taken away by Lewis and Clark as mere employees, that they did not impress our people's minds as important people. And when Lewis and Clark returned here, Charbonneau and his wife did not stay here very long, and then, as you say, went down to St. Louis, Missouri. . . . I think I have told you the reason why my people did not know very much about Sacajawea, the Bird Woman. I repeat, that she was not a member of our tribe and she was not a captive of our tribe and she did not stay here long and our people did not realize that she had taken an important part in the expedition and therefore we did not include her in the milepost of our history. This is all I can tell you.46
Not all Hidatsas, however, dismissed the "Bird Woman" as a figure beneath notice.47
Another Gros Ventre/Hidatsa informant told Eastman a very different story, speaking, as Eastman carefully noted, in Sioux, although she "could have given it to me in Gros Ventres or English, as well." Adopting white naming practices, Eastman identified this multilingual woman only as Mrs. Weidemann (or Waidemann or Weidmann) and interviewed her in the presence of her husband and a Gros Ventre translator. This eighty-year-old woman, however, claimed authority as the daughter of Poor Wolf, the hereditary chief of the Gros Ventres, who "died 26 years ago at the age of 102. He was born about 1797. . . . He is Tribal Historian." Explaining that her father had been present throughout Lewis and Clark's sojourn at the Missouri River villages, and that he had been "of very clear mind up to his death," she told her father's story about "a Frenchman who came down from North with two Shoshoni wives. . . . One was called the 'Bird Woman' or Sacajawea, the other was 'Otter Woman.' . . . who they were we know very little about them." Mrs. Weidemann explained that Sacajawea had gone along with Lewis and Clark but that Charbonneau's other Shoshone wife had remained "at our village, she being not well." When the Corps of Discovery returned to the village, they left the "Frenchman and his wife, Sacajawea," there, but a year or so later Charbonneau and his two wives went down the river with some fur traders. "We never know what become of these Shoshoni Women thereafter."48
But as Mrs. Weidemann spoke further, in the language of the people Wolf Chief called "our enemies," she told a story that provided the crucial clue Eastman and Hebard needed to argue that Sacagawea had lived on past 1812. And this clue revealed and relied on the story of yet another indigenous woman who traversed a wide landscape and made her own history, yet remained virtually invisible to American authorities who wished to name her country "West." In about 1820, Mrs. Weidemann said, Charbonneau had married "Eagle, who was very pretty Gros Ventres girl." Eagle then accompanied Charbonneau on "a wonderful trip" down the Missouri River, "and she was gone for quite a number of years, and she returned to her tribe, strange to say, from up the river." Continuing, Mrs. Weidemann told Eastman "the story that Eagle told herself of the trip, which she gave to my father when she came back, and my father has repeated so many times to our tribe and our family that I still remember the substance of it. I will speak it as if Eagle is speaking," she explained:
When Charbonneau took me down the river among the white people we came to a great town called St. Louis. We stayed there a year or so when Charbonneau found one of his Shoshoni wives, the "Bird Woman" Sacajawea, in a little town about St. Louis, called Portage [Portage des Sioux, Missouri]. This woman had two sons with her, one was about 18 and the other 16. The older one was called Bazile, the other Baptiste. They were bright young men and talked French quite well. The Shoshoni woman, herself, talked French too. After a while Charbonneau wanted to take his wife back and I consented, then we lived together for a little while at St. Louis, when Charbonneau was employed by the Fur Company and we were sent southwest on a big river, almost as big as the Missouri River. On this trip we came to a great many trading posts and we stayed at one place for a year, and we stopped another place two years. We came among many Indian tribes that I never heard of, some were called Wichita, some were called Comanches, and Utes, and other tribes who came to trade at these posts where we were. After [a] while Charbonneau, my husband, took another wife, a pretty Ute woman. I did not complain but Bird Woman made serious complaint and made it unpleasant for the Ute Woman. Finally Charbonneau punished her severely and in a day or so afterwards she disappeared. At this time her two boys were away on a trip. . . . When the boys came back they made it very serious for Charbonneau and they were not friends after that.49
Mrs. Weidemann explained further that her father had recalled, late in life, that he had heard that "the Bird Woman" succeeded in returning to her tribe, the Shoshone people in Wyoming, and "lived to be a great old age—died at Fort Washakie, Wyoming." Her father had also remembered a time when a party attached to the Missouri Fur Company had stopped at a fort downriver, and that "among the wives of the Frenchmen and employees" was a "Bird Woman" who went up the river with the rest. For Eastman, as for Hebard, this story provided the basis for the claim that the aged Shoshone-Comanche Pohe-nive, who was also Porivo, was Wadze-wipe and even, indeed, Sacagawea of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Mrs. Weidemann was, however, far more circumspect. "Some of our people say she was the same woman, others say she was not. That's all we knew of the Shoshoni guide of Lewis and Clark."50
For Mrs. Weidemann, if not for her Sioux interlocutor, the featured player in her story was not Sacagawea but Eagle, whose own adventures were hardly bounded by the Shoshone woman's disappearance. "The following summer," Mrs. Weidemann explained, still speaking as if she were Eagle,
the Fur Companies organized a large body of employees with many packed mules to visit the mountain Indians toward the northwest and Charbonneau and I and the Ute woman joined the party. We traveled a long while until we reached a great Lake, the whites called it Salt Lake. . . . In the summer we moved Northeast, over the mountains, but before we moved some Utes visited our winter quarter who were related to Charbonneau's Ute wife. When we were moving Charbonneau's Ute wife wouldn't go, but she went home with her relatives. We never saw her again after that. We moved north and east slowly until we reached Wind River, and down the Big Horn until we came into the Yellowstone River; the men made boats and put all the furs in them and we floated down the Missouri River; from there we reached home at the Gros Ventre village.
"This," concluded Mrs. Weidemann, "was the story of Eagle's wonderful trip."51
It was also, of course, the story of an unnamed Ute woman's wonderful trip and her determination to step out of the frame of the story Mrs. Weidemann would tell to Dr. Eastman in the latter's native tongue. The Ute woman traveled on. We cannot know where, exactly, she went.
Bull Eye's, Eagle's Hidatsa grandson, had nothing to say about Charbonneau's fourth wife, but he was very much interested in the Frenchman's third. Indeed, he insisted that virtually everyone else had got the story of Lewis and Clark's Indian woman interpreter confused, because the woman in question was not a Shoshone named Sacagawea but, instead, his own Hidatsa grandmother! "My grandmother's name," he told Charles Eastman, "is Eagle, but her husband Charbonneau cannot talk Gros Ventres very well so they simply called her Bird Woman."52
Mrs. Weidemann, however, explained that "Bull-Eyes mistaken this for the Lewis and Clark trip, therefore, he claims that his mother was the guide on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which is not true."53
Though Mrs. Weidemann's story differed from that of Bull Eye's, both she and Eagle's grandson knew Hidatsa traditions of women's journeys through country not yet an American West but still jointly occupied by Indians and whites and their mutual offspring.54
And both made a point of telling Eastman, with great precision, that Eagle had been killed by a Sioux war party near Glasgow, Montana, in 1869.55
Mrs. Weidemann's testimony suggested that Sacagawea might have lived into the 1820s, and have traveled further in regions still not quite under U.S. domination. But Mrs. Weidemann stopped far short of asserting that the woman who died at Fort Washakie, and the woman who had traveled, for a time, with Eagle, were one and the same: "Some of our people say she was the same woman, others say she was not."56
Charles Eastman, however, was on a roll. Two weeks after he visited North Dakota, he was in Lawton, Oklahoma, where he interviewed We-sue-poie, a seventy-five-year-old Comanche woman, "concerning the traditions of Porivo, or supposed to be Sacajawea, 'or Bird Woman.'" Eastman found no one among the Comanches who could say just how and when the woman they called Porivo or Wadze-wipe had appeared among them, but We-sue-poie explained that she had "a clear memory of the tradition of her disappearance from this tribe." Porivo, she said, was the
wife of Jerk-Meat, and she had five children. When her husband was killed she was very much depressed and she had some difficulty with her husband's people. She was not satisfied with her situation, among the band with whom she lived. She had said she was going to leave the tribe but the people didn't think she meant it. One day she disappeared and took with her her youngest child, who was a little girl, on her back, they said. She also took some provision in a par fleche bag. The tribe hunted for her everywhere but found no trace of her. Her son went to the nearby tribes to see if she run to any of these, but no one saw her at all.
However, said We-sue-poie, "we have learned from the school boys who went to Carlisle School that she had reached the Shoshone people and she lived there a number of years and died at a very advanced age."57
Among those schoolboys was a Shoshone named James McAdam, who in 1929 told Grace Hebard through an interpreter that he had lived with his great-grandmother, Porivo, and his grandfather, Basil, until 1881, when he went off to attend Carlisle. He remembered that she and her sons, Basil and Baptiste, spoke French and that "she herself distinctly told me a number of times that she had relatives in Oklahoma. She said to me, 'You have relatives down with the Comanches in the South.'" When McAdam went to Carlisle
I saw some Comanche Indians, and I asked them about Sacajawea, or Poheniv, or the Grass Woman, or Porivo—Chief, or Wadze-wipe—Lost Woman. These boys, Comanche Indians from where Oklahoma is, said they knew of Indians in the North, although she, Sacajawea or Porivo, considered herself a Comanche Indian or as belonging to the Comanche branch of the Shoshone Indians. This was the beginning of the direct connection of Sacajawea of the Comanche and of the Shoshones under Washakie and the connection of our Sacajawea with the Sacajawea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.58
By the mid-1920s, when Eastman and Hebard conducted their interviews, Shoshones and Comanches, numbers of them government-educated, had begun to travel back and forth between Oklahoma and Wyoming as relatives tracing their descent from a common great-grandmother. James McAdam visited Oklahoma, where, he recalled, Comanches told him that until they had learned about her fate from Shoshones, they believed "that the whitemen had stolen Wadze-wipe."59
Baptiste's daughter, Barbara Meyers ("commonly known as Maggie Meyers among the Indians"), told Hebard, through the interpreter James E. Compton, that she had recently had a three-month-long visit from a Comanche woman who was her cousin and that "the two families visit back and forth from Oklahoma to Wyoming annually."60
Thus by the mid-1920s, some Comanches and Shoshones recognized a common ancestor, known to them as Porivo and to local whites as Sacajawea. Their newly forged kin tie provided the rationale for annual intertribal, interstate vacations. But Eastman and Hebard pursued their own drive to assemble a linear biography of a unique person, Sacagawea. They had to fill in silences, push some evidence hard, and ignore information regarding the presence of native women like Otter Woman, Sacagawea's Shoshone captive friend, the Nez Perce woman Watkuweis, the Hidatsa woman Eagle, and a Ute woman whose name we do not know. These women, like Sacagawea, deployed their own movements, speech, and actions in knowledgeable and strategic fashion, and in obscurity.
A number of Shoshone men and women explained to Eastman—and to Hebard, who conducted interviews with several of them in 1926 and 1929—that it was common knowledge at Wind River that Porivo (whom they would later call by the Shoshone name of Pohe-nive, or Grass Woman), who first appeared among them at Fort Bridger in the 1850s and lived with them until 1884, had "come from the Comanches." Two Shoshone women, Te-ah-win-nie (Susan Perry) and Enga Peahrora (daughter of the famed Shoshone chief Washakie), explained that Porivo spoke Comanche dialect, but also spoke French and, according to Te-ah-win-nie, spoke Gros Ventre and Assiniboin as well. She recognized as her sons two men named Basil and Baptiste, both of whom spoke French and claimed to be the products of her marriage to a Frenchman.61
Basil's son Andrew Basil, better known to the Shoshones as Oha-wa-nud, told Eastman that "I remember very well her story of her life among the Comanches."62
Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that Porivo, whom all Shoshone interviewees agreed had first appeared among them as a gray-haired, Comanche-speaking adult woman, had made a long and arduous trek from the southern plains to the northern Rockies in years when U.S. government expeditions were still trying to map the country she walked or rode across. She was, no doubt, a resourceful person.
James McAdam would explain, in 1929, that Porivo had told him that she had a French husband she called "Schab-ano."63
But by then McAdam had had plenty of time to refine his account not only to conform with the stories of his Comanche friends and relations, from as far back as his years in school at Carlisle, but also with an eye to pleasing the interviewers and reservation officials who seemed determined to prove that Porivo was Sacagawea, "Canoe Launcher" or "Bird Woman." Andrew Basil had told Eastman four years earlier that Porivo "never told very much about her French husband, neither did she tell much about her life with the Comanches. She seemed to want that part of her life unknown, except that occasionally, she would tell something of the Comanches."64 She seemed to want that part of her life unknown.
Eastman's and Hebard's connection between the Shoshone woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark, the woman who appeared among the Comanches sometime after 1820 and left them after 1850, and the woman who arrived at Fort Bridger in the late 1850s and went on to live at Wind River until 1884 required both Indian mobility and the existence of outposts of the U.S. government. The mobile Native Americans in question were Comanche and Shoshone people who claimed descent from the woman they called Porivo as well as other names. They made use of agencies intended to restrict them—the Wind River Reservation, Carlisle School—to construct a history that could never be verified by state mechanisms.65
A Sioux government employee and a white feminist professor would come together to promote this story as "official" truth. Their detractors would never buy their account, insisting to the end that Lewis and Clark's "Bird Woman" had met a sad and untimely end, six short years after the peak experience of her life, her trip across the West with the Corps of Discovery. But we may observe that Porivo, and Wadze-wipe, not to mention Watkuweis and Eagle and unnamed Shoshone and Ute women, had some adventures of their own.
One hot July afternoon in 1929, Grace Hebard and James Compton drove out to an alfalfa field near Fort Washakie to interview Hebe-chee-chee, a Shoshone man whose name meant "a very, very old woman." As they sat and talked in Hebard's automobile, Hebard asked Hebe-chee-chee whether Sacagawea had been present at negotiations over the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, which had resulted in the creation of the Wind River Reservation. His reply may stand as the honest but frustrating solution to our search for a missing person. "I cannot recall whether Sacajawea was there or not," Hebe-chee-chee told Compton, who translated the old man's words from Shoshone into English for Hebard. "So many women were there that she might have been there and not noticed, but there were women, many of them."66
We will never know the truth about Sacagawea; we will never even know her name. But the more we seek her, the more we find indigenous women traversing a territory that was not yet the West. They left an impression on places and people with their thoughts and words and deeds, reacted to the world around them, and too often covered their tracks as they determined, or were forced, to move on. They challenged white men's ideas about what women ought to be, even as white men made barely acknowledged use of their skills, bravery, and strength. They also sometimes challenged Indian men's ideas of how women ought to behave; as Shoshone James McAdam recalled of his great-grandmother Porivo, "There was another reason why the Indians did not exalt over her work—the fact that Indian men did not like to see a woman go ahead of them."67
Ironically, the costs of claiming their actions and celebrating their wonderful journeys may have been so high that these nineteenth-century Indian women opted, instead, to say little and move on. Still, they have left traces in the always unreliable, yet undeniable repositories of memory and story. We know little about them, but we do know that they were present, and moving, in a fully inhabited landscape that Americans wanted to call "empty." They explored and discovered, took risks, and made history, most of which we will never know. Their paths intersected with the lines of writing across paper that stored, and lent authority to, the movements and intentions of the agents of the American empire. And sometimes these Native women helped to create that empire, making fires, cooking roots, skinning animals, carrying bundles, bearing children, speaking to friends and strangers. Their American contemporaries lacked the language to describe their lives. And the dearth of our understanding of their experiences tells us in the clearest possible terms that, all too often, where they were, the West wasn't. At least, not yet. Chapter 1. Seeking Sacagawea
The epigraph sources are, in order: "Testimony Taken on the Shoshone Indian Reservation, Wyoming, July 21, 1929, by Grace Raymond Hebard, through an Interpreter, James E. Compton, of Fort Washakie, with James McAdam," Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Grace Raymond Hebard Collection, Acc. 8, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie (hereafter cited as Hebard Papers); "Statement of Mrs. Weidemann, Elbowwoods, N.D. The daughter of hereditary Chief of Poor Woolf of the Hidatsa Indians (She speaks Gros Ventres, Sioux, and English)," February 3, 1925, Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman Vindication folder, Box 17, Hebard Papers; "Testimony Taken on Shoshone Indian Reservation, July 22, 1929, by Grace Raymond Hebard through an Interpreter, James E. Compton, of Fort Washakie," Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Hebard Papers; and William Clark, cash accounts book for 1825-1828, Graff Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois, cited in James Ronda, Lewis and Clark among the Indians
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), p. 258; and Harold P. Howard, Sacajawea
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), p. 189 (this document was discovered in 1955). 1
. Rayna Green, "The Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture," Massachusetts Review
16, no. 4 (autumn 1975): 698-714; Patricia Albers, "Introduction: New Perspectives on Plains Indian Women," in The Hidden Half: Studies of Plains Indian Women,
ed. Patricia Albers and Beatrice Medicine (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1983), pp. 1-28; Alice B. Kehoe, "The Shackles of Tradition," ibid., pp. 53-75; Clara Sue Kidwell, "Indian Women as Cultural Mediators," Ethnohistory
39, no. 2 (spring 1992): 97; Nancy Shoemaker, "Introduction," in Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women,
ed. Nancy Shoemaker (New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 2.
There is a growing and increasingly sophisticated literature on indigenous women. See Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983); Jacqueline Peterson, "Women Dreaming," in Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives,
ed. Lillian Schlissel, Janice Monk, and Vicki L. Ruiz (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988); Devon Mihesuah, Cultivating the Rosebuds: The Education of Women at the Cherokee Female Seminary, 1851-1909
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994); Tsianina Lomawaima, They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of the Chilocco Indian School
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994). For a useful bibliography, see Elizabeth Jameson and Susan Armitage, eds., Writing the Range: Race, Class, and Culture in the Women's West
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), pp. 616-621. 2
. For the most complete tracing of the importance of Sacagawea as an American myth, see Donna J. Kessler, "Sacagawea: A Uniquely American Legend" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1993). 3
. On these points, see Albers, "Introduction"; and Kehoe, "Shackles of Tradition." 4
. For biographies of Sacagawea, see Grace Raymond Hebard, Sacajawea
(Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1933); Howard, Sacajawea;
and Ella E. Clark and Margot Edmonds, Sacagawea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979). For a comprehensive study of representations of Sacagawea, see Kessler, "Sacagawea." Sacagawea was the subject of a best-selling epic novel by Anna Lee Waldo, Sacajawea
(New York: Avon, 1979). For an extended treatment of the Sacagawea story from the point of view of a Shoshone woman and descendant, see Esher Burnett Horne and Sally McBeth, Essie's Story: The Life and Legacy of a Shoshone Teacher
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998). 5
. Thus I use "West" here to refer to the process so insightfully described by Patricia Nelson Limerick in Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1987). I use "American" to refer to activities and ideas associated with the expanding modern nation, the United States of America. 6
. "Interview of December 12, 1926, with Mr. Charles William Bocker," Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Hebard Papers. 7
. Statement of Mrs. Weidemann (also spelled Waidemann): "These two Shoshoni women were very young, one being 16 years old and the other about 18. One was called the 'Bird Woman' or Sacajawea, the other was 'Otter Woman.'" 8
. Hebard, Sacajawea,
pp. 90-93, 111. 9
. William Clark, journal entry of Sunday, November 11, 1804, in The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition,
ed. Gary Moulton (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-1999), 3:232-233. Four other expedition members, Lewis, Sergeants John Ordway and Patrick Gass, and Private Joseph Whitehouse, kept journals as well. Commentators since Grace Raymond Hebard have noted the propensity of white male observers to refer to Indian women not by name but generically. See Hebard, Sacajawea,
p. 290; Kessler, "Sacagawea," p. 75; Albers, "Introduction," p. 3; and Green, "Pocahontas Perplex." 10
. On the controversy over Sacajawea's name, see Helen Crawford, "Sakakawea," North Dakota Historical Quarterly
1 (April 1927): 5-15; Hebard, Sacajawea,
pp. 98n, 283-295; Howard, Sacajawea,
p. 16n; Irving Anderson, "Sacajawea, Sacagawea, Sakakawea?" South Dakota History
8 (1978): 303-311; and Kessler, "Sacagawea," pp. 274-282. 11
. Clark was said to have referred to Sacagawea as "Janey" on two occasions, once at Fort Clatsop, and later in an August 20, 1806, letter to Charbonneau following the expedition. There has been a further controversy over whether to read Clark's handwritten rendering of her name as "Janey" or "Jawey." Grace Hebard wrote letters to dozens of people attempting to settle the matter, but decided in the end to accept Thwaites's rendering of the nickname as "Janey." For a specimen of that correspondence, see William E. Connelley to Grace Raymond Hebard, March 15, 1928, Sacajawea Manuscript—William Connelley file, Box 17, Hebard Papers. 12
. On practice involving women captives, see Katherine Weist, "Beasts of Burden and Menial Slaves: Nineteenth Century Observations of Plains Indian Women," in Albers and Medicine, eds., Hidden Half,
p. 41; on gender in Hidatsa culture, see Janet Spector, "Male/Female Task Differentiation among the Hidatsa: Toward the Development of an Archaeological Approach to the Study of Gender," ibid., pp. 77-100. 13
. Charles Alexander Eastman to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, March 2, 1925, typescript in Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman (Dr.)—His Conclusions folder, Box 17, Hebard Papers; Hebard, Sacajawea,
pp. 285-293; "Affidavit of Andrew Basil or Oha-wa-nud, age 74 years, Shoshone alottee No. 206" and "Affidavit of Enga Peahrora, Shoshone allottee No. 305," both January 15, 1925, Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman (Dr.) and Others folder, Box 17, Hebard Papers; "Testimony Taken on July 21, 1929, Sunday Morning, by Grace Raymond Hebard through an Interpreter, James E. Compton of Fort Washakie, Wyoming, Quantanquay,
" and "Testimony Taken on Shoshone Indian Reservation, July 22, 1929, by Grace Raymond Hebard through an Interpreter, James E. Compton, of Fort Washakie, Hebe-chee-chee,
" Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Hebard Papers. I emphasize that these spellings are variable and approximate. 14
. Affidavit of Enga Peahrora; "Sacajawea, by Andrew Basil," Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Hebard Papers. 15
. Ronda, Lewis and Clark,
pp. 256-260, offers a synthesis of testimony from members of the expedition on Sacagawea's early years. 16
. Ibid., pp. 150-151. 17
. Ibid., pp. 70-75. 18
. Lewis's entry for February 11, 1805, in Moulton, ed., Journals,
3:291. On women and childbirth on overland trails, see John Mack Faragher, Women and Men on the Overland Trail
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979); Julie Roy Jeffrey, Frontier Women
(New York: Hill and Wang, 1979); Sandra Myres, Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800-1915
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982); and chapter 2 of this book. 19
. Lewis, August 17, 1805, in Moulton, ed., Journals,
5:109. An edition of Lewis's journal by Nicholas Biddle, cited in Bernard De Voto, The Journals of Lewis and Clark
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953), p. 203, renders the same episode even more emotionally:
We soon drew near to the camp, and just as we approached it a woman made her way through the croud towards Sacajawea, and recognising each other, they embraced with the most tender affection. The meeting of these two young women had in it something peculiarly touching, not only in the ardent manner in which their feelings were expressed, but from the real interest of their situation. They had been companions in childhood, in the war with the Minnetarees they had both been taken prisoners in the same battle, they had shared and softened the rigors of their captivity, till one of them had escaped from the Minnetarees, with scarce a hope of ever seeing her friend relieved from the hands of her enemies. 20
. See, for example, Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
(New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), pp. 57-59: "The women are submitted to unjust drudgery. This, I believe, is the case with every barbarous people. With such, force is law. The stronger sex imposes on the weaker. It is civilization alone which replaces women in the enjoyment of their natural equality." For a critique of such language, see Weist, "Beasts of Burden and Menial Slaves." 21
. Clark, journal entry of September 26, 1804, in Moulton, ed., Journals,
. Clark, journal entry of October 12, 1804, ibid., p. 161. 23
. Lewis, journal entry of August 19, 1805, ibid., 5:161. 24
. Lewis, journal entry of August 21, 1805, ibid., p. 140. 25
. Lewis, journal entry of August 26, 1805, ibid., p. 171. 26
. Ronda, Lewis and Clark,
pp. 159-160. 27
. Ronda, ibid., p. 159, provides a splendid bit of detective work in tracing Watkuweis. 28
. Sherry Ortner, in "Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?" in Woman, Culture, and Society,
ed. Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974), analyzes the widespread tendency to identify women with nature and men with culture. 29
. Clark, journal entry of May 16, 1805, in Moulton, ed., Journals,
. Clark, journal entry of January 6, 1805, ibid., 6:168. 31
. Clark, journal entry of December 25, 1805, ibid., p. 157. 32
. Clark, journal entry of August 17, 1806, ibid., 8:306. 33
. Hebard, Sacajawea,
pp. 83-84, quotes the letter in full, and explains in a footnote that "Captain Clark's letter to Charbonneau of Aug. 20, 1806, was discovered in the possession of Mrs. Julia Clark Voorhees and Miss Ellen Voorhees. It was published in the Century Magazine,
October, 1904. It was also published in the Thwaites edition of the Lewis and Clark journals, vol. III, 247." 34
. Ibid., 88-90. 35
. Ibid., pp. 90, 93, citing Henry M. Brackenridge, "Journal of Voyage up the River Missouri," in Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., Early Western Travels, 1748-1846,
ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark, 1904-1907), vol. 6. 36
. Hebard, Sacajawea,
p. 111, citing John C. Luttig, Journal of Fur-Trading Expedition on the Upper Missouri, 1812-13
(reprinted later in an edition by Stella M. Drumm, New York: Argosy-Antiquarian, 1964). 37
. Clark, cash accounts book. 38
. Hebard, like a number of other white women in the woman suffrage movement, saw Sacagawea as a symbol of women's leadership. See Jan C. Dawson, "Sacagawea: Pilot or Pioneer Mother?" Pacific Northwest Quarterly
83, no. 1 (January 1992): 22-28; Gail Landsman, "The 'Other' as Political Symbol: Images of Indians in the Woman Suffrage Movement," Ethnohistory
39, no. 3 (summer 1992): 247-284; and Kessler, "Sacajawea," pp. 94-141. 39
. See correspondence in Sacajawea Manuscript—Kendrick, John B. (Senator) file, Box 19, Hebard Papers; Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman (Dr.)—Testimony file, Box 17, Hebard Papers. 40
. Eastman to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, March 2, 1925. See also Hebard, Sacajawea,
p. 93. 41
. Hebard, Sacajawea,
p. 93. 42
. Ibid. 43
. For the most recent example of Indian narratives of the Sacagawea story, see Horne and McBeth, Essie's Story. 44
. "Statement of Bull Eye's," to Charles Eastman through interpreters Charles Hoffman and Eagle, typescript, Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman Vindication folder, box 17, Hebard Papers. 45
. "Statement of Chief Wolf Chief, Judge of the Indian Court and Chief of Gros Ventre," Sacajawea manuscript—Eastman Vindication folder, box 17, Hebard Papers. Both Eastman and Hebard were careful to note when they had conducted interviews with the aid of translators. In this case, Eastman noted "two interpreters present," but did not indicate that the interview had been translated. 46
. Ibid. 47
. Janet Spector, in "Male/Female Task Differentiation among the Hidatsas: Toward the Development of an Archaeological Approach to the Study of Gender," in Albers and Medicine, eds., Hidden Half,
p. 94, notes that "the distinctiveness of male and female activity patterns among the Hidatsa (and other sexually segregated groups) suggest that generalizations about the 'culture' of the group must be made with great caution." 48
. Statement of Mrs. Weidemann. 49
. Ibid. 50
. Ibid. 51
. Ibid. 52
. Statement of Bull Eye's. 53
. Statement of Mrs. Weidemann. 54
. The best description of such terrain is Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 55
. Statement of Mrs. Weidemann; Statement of Bull Eye's. 56
. Statement of Mrs. Weidemann. 57
. "Statement of We-sue-poie, Lawton, Oklahoma, a Comanche woman 75 years old, concerning the Tradition of Porivo, or supposed to be Sacajawea, 'or Bird Woman,'" Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman (Dr.) and Others file, Box 17, Hebard Papers. 58
. Testimony of James McAdam. 59
. Ibid. 60
. "Sacajawea, by Barbara Meyers, Testimony taken September 7, 1926," Sacajawea Notes and Manuscript—Testimony folder, Box 20, Hebard Papers. 61
. "Affidavit of Susan Perry or Te-ah-win-nie, Shoshone allottee No. 238, born 1836, interviewed by Charles Eastman, January 15, 1925," Sacajawea Manuscript—Eastman (Dr.) and Others folder, Box 17, Hebard Papers; Affidavit of Enga Peahrora. 62
. Affidavit of Andrew Basil. 63
. Testimony of James McAdam. 64
. Affidavit of Andrew Basil. 65
. For a thoughtful examination of the relation between human mobility, Indian reservations, and the built environment, see John M. Findlay, "An Elusive Institution: The Birth of Indian Reservations in Gold Rush California," in State and Reservation: New Perspectives on Federal Indian Policy,
ed. George Pierre Castile and Robert L. Bee (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992), pp. 13-37. 66
. "Testimony Taken on Shoshone Indian Reservation, July 22, 1929 . . . Hebe-chee-chee.
. Testimony of James McAdam. =