This month the seventeen year old Sacagawea, or Sakakawea, saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, hunted for food to feed men who were tired of dried fish, and voted over where the Lewis and Clark Expedition would winter along the Oregon coast. She had begun her travels at sixteen with her French Canadian husband, Charbonneau, an black slave named York, who despite his efforts and another’s promise, would never be freed, and a gaggle of white men who did not speak her language.
She had been abducted around ten or twelve and taken 1500 miles from her home. By the time she was sixteen, she had learned the skills to survive, married and gotten pregnant. She was now the mother of a nine-month-old boy, who would one day visit Europe, learn many languages and return to a distinguished career as a western guide. She had borne him thousands of miles and would nurse him over another ten months on her travel back to Missouri and her settling there.
She was a valuable part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. To understand is to spend a little time actually reading about her. Her husband was paid $500.33 for his services. She was not.
Cokie Roberts writes that Clark wrote Charbonneau regarding her value:
[”your woman, Who accompanied you that long and fatiquing and dangerous route to the Pacific Ocean and back, deserved a greater reward for attention and service on the that route than we had the power to give her at the Mandans….”]
That’s how it was then. Now?
I Own My Vote, PUMA, The Denver Group, Just Say No Deal