What Happened After the Lewis and Clark Expedition? - Sacajawea and the Lost Grave

The difficult to navigate Salmon River contains dangerous rapids...http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
The difficult to navigate Salmon River contains dangerous rapids...http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/ | Source

Shoshone Nation

Not all of the bands in the Shoshone Nation are federally recognized, meaning that not all benefit from political and financial advantages offered by recognition of the US government. This includes college financing, funding for reservations, business partnerships, benefits of the Indian Health Service, and several others Discussions in this matter brought questions to the surface about Sacajawea, which band is her heritage, and the location of her grave. Controversy has roiled, but in interesting ways.

A recent PBS television program put together by researchers of both Caucasian and Native lineage discussed the controversies and what is known about Sacajawea. Within Shoshone Nation, there exist differing opinions.

The Lemhi Shoshone Group

Sacajawea (Sa-cog-a-wee-a) was a member of the Lemhi Shoshone of the Northern Shoshone Nation. The Lemhi are not federally recognized at this writing and seek gain that status. They lived in the Lemhi River Valley and near the Salmon River, salmon being a diet staple.

The Lemhi traded and intermarried with other Shoshone bands and with the Bannock Nation, often traveling back and fort across the Lolo Trail over the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho to trade salmon. The trail was an Indigenous trail and not cut by white explorers.The Lemhi Reservation existed only from 1875 to 1907 and was abolished. Today, the people want to recoup their recognition and assert their independent traditions.

show route and directions
A markerSalmon-Challis National Forest -
Challis National Forest, Shoup, ID 83469, USA
[get directions]

B markerLemhi River -
Lemhi River, Leadore, ID, USA
[get directions]

C markerBitterroot Mountains -
Bitterroot Mountains, Sula, Mt 59871, USA
[get directions]

D markerBeaverhead-Deerlodge Forest -
Deerlodge National Forest, Alder, Mt 59710, USA
[get directions]

E markerSalmon River -
Salmon River, Challis, ID, USA
[get directions]

F markerLolo Trail -
Lolo Trail, Elk City, ID, USA
[get directions]

The Northwest Passage

US Army Captain Merriweather Lewis and three others in the Corps of Discovery moving west through North America arrived the Lemhi Pass in Idoho on August 12 1805. At this time, Ohio had been a US State for only about two years. In a bid to plough transportation through the western US Territories and Native American lands to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Captain William Clark were assigned by President Thomas Jefferson to find a water route - a sort of quest for the Northwest Passage. OF course, there was none to be found south of Canada. today, enough ice has melted in Canada to reveal to NASA satellite cameras a large waterway through to the Pacific.

A small group of Lemhi went across the Bitterroot Mountain with Lewis and Clark to help them organize their canoe expedition for overland travel. That done the Corps of Discovery crossed again into Idaho and was joined by Sacajawea, aged about 18. She married a French trapper, Charbonneau, and between the two of them and a Frenchman on the discovery team, translated from Shoshone to Blackfoot to French and finally to English for Captains Lewis and Clark.

Commemorative signs and monuments are posted along the Lewis and Clark Trail for visitors to observe as they trace the Corps of Discovery journey to the Pacific (see the link above).


To the best of documentation that has been found by researchers and Lemhi Shoshone individuals, Sacajawea was born circa 1788 near Tendoy, Idaho (named after a Chief). In the Autumn of 1800, the Lemhi were planning on spending the fall and winter the three forks of the Missouri River in today's Montana.

The Lemhi were attacked by a Minnetaree band from a local Hidatsa settlement. Shoshone captives included Sacajawea. Sometime in the years 1800 - 1804, she and another Shoshone captive were purchased by the French Canadian, Charbonneau, who lived among the Hidatsa and Mandan nations that own oil wells today in New Town and surrounding lands in North Dakota.

Sacajawea's Journey

show route and directions
A markerLolo Trail, Idaho -
Lolo Trail, ID, USA
[get directions]

B markerCape Disappointment, Washington -
Cape Disappointment, Ilwaco, WA 98624, USA
[get directions]

C markerBozeman Pass -
Bozeman Pass, Bozeman, Mt 59715, USA
[get directions]

Lolo Trail to Cape Disappointment

Lolo Trail was already used by Native Americans to trade salmon and therefore already cut. The trip took 11 days in winter to cross the Bitterroot Mountains and Sacajawea carried a baby on her back the entire way. The surrounding tribes saw a woman and child with the white explorers and considered this a symbol of a peaceful traveling party that they permitted to pass without interference.

At Cape Disappointment on the Pacific Coast, Sacajawea and all the men were asked their opinions about whether to make camp there or not. She said they should look for a starchy vegetable called potas and it was abundant at Cape Disappointment. She was voted down and the encampment that was settled elsewhere went hungry all winter with little food. A whale washed up on the beach and the party went to look at it in January 1806. Sacajawea insisted upon accompanying the white men to see the body of the great animal, although she was denied permission to so do at first. She insisted, noting that she had been the primary guide for hundreds of miles in harsh weather and deserved to see the ocean and the animal. The men relented. She was the only person in her nation to see either of such sights for many years.

Cape Disappointment.  On top of these bluffs is the proposed location of a Memorial to Thomas Jefferson.
Cape Disappointment. On top of these bluffs is the proposed location of a Memorial to Thomas Jefferson. | Source


The Native Americans do not know for certain what happened with Sacajawea after her return to the Lemhi River Valley. Fort Washake Reservation displays a tombstone in its Sacajawea Cemetery, but we do not believe it is hers. The story attached is that she died an old woman of age 84 or older. Scant written documentation that has been uncovered by the Lemhi says that she died at age 24 of a “putrid fever.” She had born two children, a boy that she took on the Lewis and Clark Expedition and a girl named Lisette. Many of the Lemhi Shosone believe that Sacajawea died at age 24 in South Dakota.

The commemorative coin to the right is called the Sacajewea Dollar, but does not display her name at all. She is modelled on an 18-year-old Shoshone woman, but not of the Lemhi Shoshone. Some of the Lemhi people feel that it is a disservice to the memory of Sacajawea to have used a non-Lemhi Shoshone as her model.

Many historians call Sacajawea the most important woman in American History. She led the discovery team hundreds of miles to the ocean and discovered Bozeman Pass on the return trip home, saving the expedition time and toil. She went many miles on horseback and foot in a snowy far North American winter at age 18, carrying an infant and guiding the whites to the Pacific Coast. There is no documentation that she ever complained on the journey and we do not know for sure what happened to her after she returned home.

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Comments 13 comments

LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

I love this Hub. I Fb'd and tweeted it, got sidetracked, came back and read this over again. Excellent work! Excellent. Sharing.

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

Patty ,I havent got time to read this , gotta go to work , I'll be baaaaccckkkkk! I can tell its great though, I love this stuff.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Listening top the researchers from their own tribes and nations about their tribes and nations is better than reading modern mythology by people that haven't been there.

One white researcher took offense that Sacajawea was claled the first woman to vote in America, In fact, she was adamant that no vote was taken near the Pacific Coast about where to camp, but that simply everyone was allowed to speak. Documents from the diaries of men in the Corps of Discovery (which included French native speakers/writers) show that there was a verbal vote. So why the politics? - to support the later suffragettes with the claim "Oh no, no Indian was the first woman to vote." Nonsense. Legends have grown up around Sacajawea becasue we have little info, but she did indeed find the Bozeman Pass, documented in diaries. she traveled back to Montana with the Corps and then returned to Lemhi Valley. A long journey.

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Thanks, Patty, for this interesting tale about a largely unknown heroine.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

Interesting... Some First Nations peoples accorded women a voice in affairs affecting the tribes...and they would certainly never have been so foolish as to ignore the opinion of someone who knew how to find food. Sacajawea's vote may have been the first RECORDED woman's vote in America, but I'll lay odds it wasn't the first ;)

Thanks for this entertaining slice of history.

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

Hey patty , No doubt she was an amazing woman. She must also have been very strong, Such an unbeleivable woman and trip. And Lewis and clark. Such a strange ending. Great hub....

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Right. Many Native American bands placed women in positions of tribal elders with equal voting, from long ago, as did First Nations (whom I'm certain began the practice). The anthopology literature is full of it and of matrilineal societies in the Eastern Hemisphere, in direct opposition to the one researcher that was adamant against Sacajawea. It's a nonsense attempt to rewrite history imo. Maybe a dissertation is riding on it.

ahorseback - It is strange, isn't it? Thanks for writing!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hub. As you know I am about Indian history and I wrote a short hub aobut the Clarke and Lewis expetion which was not half as explicit as yours. Thank you for the joy.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Hello, hello - I;ve added your link! --It's fascinating, isn't it? PBS on TV is providing a lot of in-depth documentaries this year. I'm watching one on Wednesday nights about the people of the Big Apple Circus and how they put together a new show every year in just 30 days' practice. It is incredible. If it weren't for PBS, I'd never have learned of Sacajawa's 2 graves. Thanks so much for posting!

gconeyhiden profile image

gconeyhiden 4 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

well its almost 4 am so i better get some sleep. it was great reading your stuff and i will clock in later in the day.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Glad you like it!

gconeyhiden profile image

gconeyhiden 4 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

talk about native americans voting. I do believe that the Iroquois system of govt greatly impressed Ben Franklin among other founding fathers of the US and some aspects were used as models in forming our own govt. also that Iroquois chieftains needed the vote of approval from the women of the tribe or were outright picked by them not the men. feel free to correct me if i am wrong.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I think you are correct on all counts and I've read several places where our constitution is based on the Iroquois.

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