Sacagawea Level Award

Sacagawea Level Award Patch for Have you ever wondered how the Level Awards got their names? Each award is named after a person (or people) who have made a positive impact on our country.

Hello, my name is Sacagawea. I was a Shoshone Indian, born about 1786 in the territory now known as Idaho. When I was about eleven years old, an enemy tribe captured me. Many stories are told about me, though the facts are often hard to determine. Some say that I was then sold to the Missouri River Mandans, who in turn sold me to a French Canadian fur trader named Toussaint Charbonneau. According to other accounts, my Indian captor lost me to Charbonneau in a gambling game. It is also said that I had a chance to escape at the beginning of my captivity, but I was a loyal friend and chose not to leave my friend, Otter Woman, alone.

Charbonneau took me as his wife. Otter Woman and I were both there, when Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark appeared at the Mandan villages in 1804. The men were heading a large party of explorers, and were on the first leg of their journey to the Pacific. Charbonneau applied for the position of interpreter to the expedition. He was accepted, and it was agreed that I would accompany him on the journey. I left with the explorers on our adventure in April 1805. I had my two-month old baby on my back.

Four months after we left Fort Mandan, we reached the high country beyond the Great Falls of the Missouri. Lewis went ahead of us to explore and he met the Shoshones who had been my people before I was captured. I was overjoyed to see them - it had been so long! Through the crowd, I could see my childhood friend. She ran to me and we hugged. I had not seen her since we were both captured. I was so happy to see that she had escaped and was safe with her family. 

Not only did I find my old playmate in the Shoshone camp, but I also saw my brother! His name was Cameahwait, the Shoshone chief, and when he saw me with the white captains, he promised Lewis and Clark horses and guides so that they could cross the mountains and complete their journey to the sea. Before Lewis and Clark could take advantage of this promise, my brother changed his mind. He decided to take his braves and go hunting, thus stranding the white travelers.

I told Lewis and Clark that Cameahwait might abandon them. Doing this, I severed all ties that bound me to my own people. Though this was a very difficult decision, I wanted the expedition to succeed. Eventually my brother was persuaded to help us and two months later, we reached the ocean!

There is little known about my life after the expedition. In 1812, a wife of Charbonneau died at Fort Manuel in the Dakota Territory. But this may have been Otter Woman. Tradition has it that I lived to be very old, and that I traveled widely in the West.  

My courage and love of adventure was key to the success of Lewis and Clark's great journey. I hope that you too will explore the world around you with courage and fervor!

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