There is argument about how Sacagawea should be spelled. But the consensus among scholars is that, even though less popular, it should be spelled with a ‘g.’ Captain William Clark was an especially bad speller, so he affectionately referred to her as Janey in his journal.

Captured as a young girl by a rival tribe, she became a slave, and later married the abrasive Charbonneau, only to find herself pregnant at age 16 (she had a difficult labor, and Meriwether Lewis helped with the delivery), then trekking over the Rockies with a team of white explorers with baby in tow.

She was a vital part of the expedition, was the first woman (that we know of) who took part in a vote on American soil, hit it off with the captains of the expedition (especially Clark), and is one of the most remembered and honored Native Americans. Sacagawea loved the white men’s more civilized ways. Her papoose, Jean-Baptiste (whom the spelling-challenged explorers called Pompey), was entrusted to Captain Clark’s care when he was 10.

It’s a beautiful story…

as long was you don’t think about how her skillful presence that aided the expedition would bring change that would actually be the demise of the Native American culture. Who, though, could have predicted what would happen when white man began to move westward. Even after Lewis & Clark returned to the east, many said that probably no one from the civilized world would ever travel that far westward again. It was too wild!

So, this great triumph of white man making it to the west coast brings with it the somber realization of what that “triumph” meant for those who were already there. What would Sacagawea think today?