The Dollar Coin's Obverse Design

By Glenna Goodacre depicts the young Shoshone woman,
Sacagawea, portrayed in three-quarter profile. In the Shoshone
verbal legend, Sacagawea is described as having large dark eyes, a
feature included in this portrait relief. On her back, Sacagawea
carries her infant son Jean Baptiste, who she carried and cared for
on her entire 3,000-mile portion of the expedition with Lewis and Clark.
 
 

An Historical Summary of Sacagawea. From the U.S. Mint

In July 1998, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin accepted the
recommendation of a citizens advisory committee and announced his
decision that the new one dollar coin bear the image of Sacagawea.
While many in our generation are unfamiliar with the story of the
young Shoshone woman who played a critical role in the Lewis and
Clark expedition, Sacagawea has been well known to other
generations of Americans. Our grandparents and their parents knew
Sacagawea, and according to the historian Dayton Duncan, honored
Sacagawea with more statues in this country than any other
American woman. And our children know Sacagawea, as her story
is taught in classrooms across the nation. Stephen Ambrose's 1996
book "Undaunted Courage" and Ken Burns' 1997 PBS program on
the Lewis and Clark expedition have simply recovered her memory
to our generation.

While not a great deal is known about the young woman, what we
do know is remarkable. At about the age of 11 she was captured
by an Hidatsa raiding party and taken from her Shoshone tribe. She
was subsequently bought (or possibly won in a bet) from the
Hidatsa by the French-Canadian trader, Toussaint Charbonneau,
who made her his wife. Historical information as to when
Charbonneau took Sacagawea as his wife is sketchy and sometimes
inconsistent. The Lewis and Clark journals specifically refer to
Sacagawea as Charbonneau's wife in an entry dated November 4,
1804.

Earlier that year, when Sacagawea was about 15 and six months
pregnant, Charbonneau was hired by Captains Lewis and Clark, not
so much for his own skills but for those of Sacagawea. She knew
several Indian languages, and being Shoshone, could help Lewis and
Clark make contact with her people and acquire horses that were
crucial to the success of the mission. Even more remarkable, the
Lewis and Clark journals subsequently refer to the birth of her
firstborn baby in an entry dated February 11, 1805. Sacagawea
would go on to play an integral role in the Lewis and Clark
expedition, all the while carrying and caring for her infant son ó a
working mother.

In fact, Sacagawea did help Lewis and Clark find the Shoshone and
trade for the horses they needed. But her contribution far exceeded
anything Lewis and Clark had bargained for. She provided crucial
knowledge of the topography of some of the most rugged country of
North America and taught the explorers how to find edible roots
and plants previously unknown to European-Americans. With her
infant son bound to her back, she single-handedly rescued Captain
Clark's journals from the Missouri whitewater when their boat
capsized. If she had not, much of the record of the first year of the
expedition would have been lost to history.

Most crucially, however, Sacagawea and her infant served as a
"white flag" of peace for the expedition, which was as much a
military expedition as a scientific one. They entered potentially
hostile territory well armed but undermanned compared to the
Native American tribes they met. Because no war party was ever
accompanied by a woman and infant, the response of the Native
Americans was curiosity, not aggression. They talked first, and
Sacagawea often served as the translator. Not a single member of
the party was lost to hostile action.

It is worth noting that Clark wrote with a tone of regret to
Charbonneau that Sacagawea "who accompanied you that long
dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocean and back
diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout
than we had in our power to give her [sic]." Clark's sense of
indebtedness to Sacagawea is reflected in his accepting, a few years
later, responsibility for educating Sacagawea's son and,
after Sacagawea's death at the age of 25, for a daughter as well.
The story of Sacagawea is rich with the symbols and values that
make our nation great. It is fitting and proper that after almost 200
years, we repay this national debt in the coin of the realm
Sacagawea helped define.
 

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO SACAGAWEA.

(Quoted from PBS's Online Jim Ronda)

Sacagawea came back to St. Louis a citizen of the West and someone who
had citizenship no place. Where does she belong? Where is her home? Does
she belong at a Hidatsa village? Does she belong with her Shoshoni relatives?
Does she belong back at Fort Clatsop? Can she ever belong in St. Louis? If
ever there was a person in the expeditionís history who was displaced, who
was person out of time, person out of the world, person who belonged
nowhere, itís Sacagawea. Whereís where is her home? One of the last
glimpses that we have of her is in 1811 when a traveler described her as a
woman wearing the cast off clothing of white women, drifting through life in
St. Louis, seemingly alone, having given up her children to the care of William
Clark. Where does she belong? An orphan in a world made by the
expedition. A woman alone, a woman wearing the cast off clothing of others.
 

Sacagawea or Sacajawea?

Various historians disagree over
the pronunciation, meaning-
either "Boat Launcher" or "Bird
Woman", and spelling of her
name - listed as either
Sacagawea or Sacajawea, as
well as a few other spellings, but
all agree that her bravery and
fortitude were instrumental to the
success of Lewis & Clark's "Corps of Discovery."