Essential Books on Sacajawea
There are numerous books on Sacajawea, and it comes with good reason, she was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who, in her teens, helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition in achieving their chartered mission objectives by exploring the Louisiana Territory.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s most consequential figures to guide travelers through unfamiliar lands, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best books on Sacajawea.
Sacajawea: Guide and Interpreter of Lewis and Clark by Grace Raymond Hebard
This remarkable study rescues from undeserved obscurity the name and reputation of Sacajawea – a true Native American heroine. The volume also unravels the tangled threads of her family life and traces the career of her son Baptiste (the “papoose” of the Lewis and Clark expedition). It also describes her personal traits, the significant services she rendered during the expedition and while she acted as counselor to her own people, discloses the true meaning of her name and describes her “lost years” among the Comanches. The text is enhanced with 21 illustrations, including a map, and 6 appendices containing testimonies by Indian agents, missionaries, teachers, and Shoshone tribespeople.
Bird Woman the Guide of Lewis and Clark by James Willard Schultz
Through James Willard Schultz’s fascinating discussions with various elderly Native Americans, he is able to reconstruct the events of Sacajawea’s life, from her traumatic childhood and adolescence, being captured and taken away from her home by a raiding party of Minnetarees, to her unhappy marriage to the interpreter Toussaint Charboneau, through to her life assisting in the exploration of the Pacific Northwest.
This hallmark among books on Sacajawea is an extraordinary piece of oral history that provides fascinating insight into the life of an astonishing figure in American history and the role she played in nineteenth-century exploration.
James Willard Schultz, was a noted author and explorer, who wrote a number of books on Native Americans and their history during his time spent with the Blackfoot Indians. He was given the name Apikuni, meaning Spotted Robe, by the chief, Running Crane. This work was first published in 1918 and Schultz passed away in 1947.
Sacajawea by Joseph Burchac
Captured by her enemies, married to a foreigner, and a mother at age sixteen, Sacajawea lived a life of turmoil and change. Then, in 1804, the mysterious young Shoshone woman met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Acting as interpreter, peacemaker, and guide, Sacajawea bravely embarked on an epic journey that altered history forever. Hear her extraordinary story, in the voices of Sacajawea and William Clark in alternating chapters, with selections from Clark’s original diaries.
Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, and back. Lewis and his partner, Captain William Clark, made the first map of the trans-Mississippi West, provided invaluable scientific data on the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and established the American claim to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
Ambrose has pieced together previously unknown information about weather, terrain, and medical knowledge at the time to provide a vivid backdrop for the expedition. Lewis is supported by a rich variety of colorful characters, first of all Jefferson himself, whose interest in exploring and acquiring the American West went back thirty years. Next comes Clark, a rugged frontiersman whose love for Lewis matched Jefferson’s. There are numerous Indian chiefs, and Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition, along with the French-Indian hunter Drouillard, the great naturalists of Philadelphia, the French and Spanish fur traders of St. Louis, John Quincy Adams, and many more leading political, scientific, and military figures of the turn of the century.
Journey of the Heart by Charlotte Ellington
Captain Clark shifted his stance uncomfortably. The French trader, Charbonneau, and his wife, Sacagawea, stood before him offering their services as interpreters and guides through the unchartered territory of The Louisiana Purchase. But Sacagawea was just a young girl, Clark silently observed. She couldn’t be more than fifteen years of age, and she was obviously expecting a child! Besides, Clark knew that Charbonneau had a reputation for being difficult and untrustworthy.
Captain Clark looked toward Captain Lewis, who appeared troubled also. Both men knew they would need horses to cross the western mountains, and Charbonneau had assured them that Sacagawea could negotiate with her native tribesmen for them. The Shoshone were known for their fine line of horses. Sacagawea stepped forward confidently then, smiling as she presented the captains with a beautiful buffalo robe. Her gentle, self-assured manner moved them. Yes, they would take the chance.
They could not cross the mountains without horses. Thus began their journey. It was a precarious one full of uncertainty, danger and physical adversity. But it was also a rich and powerful journey, laced with adventure, joy and love. Sacagawea proved to be an invaluable asset. When the expedition ended, and Captain Clark and Sacagawea parted ways, Clark could hardly contain his anxiety and pain. He sent a letter to Charbonneau, desperately urging the family to follow him to St. Louis, where they could establish a residence close to his.
The Journals of Lewis and Clark; edited by Bernard DeVoto
In 1803, the great expanse of the Louisiana Purchase was an empty canvas. Keenly aware that the course of the nation’s destiny lay westward – and that a “Voyage of Discovery” would be necessary to determine the nature of the frontier – President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back.
From 1804 to 1806, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, Lewis mapped rivers, traced the principal waterways to the sea, and established the American claim to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
Together the captains kept this journal: a richly detailed record of the flora and fauna they sighted, the native tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring landscape they traversed, from their base camp near present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River, which has become an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of natural history.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Sacajawea, check out our list of The 5 Best Books on Sitting Bull!