Authored by Melissa Horrocks
For Grade 3


Time Allotment
Resources Needed


Although no two accounts of her life are the same, Sacajawea is famed as a courageous woman who played an important part of the settling of the west. Sacajawea was a Shoshone princess whose tribe inhabited the northwestern part of the country. Country still unexplored by white men. When she was only eleven years old her tribe was attacked by the Hidatsa, a rival Indian tribe. Before she could get away, she was captured by an enemy brave and taken from her home in Idaho. As a slave in North Dakota, Sacajawea learned a new language and skills that she had never learned in her own tribe. Unlike the Shoshone, the Hidatsa stayed in one place building homes from clay and timber. They also farmed which was very different from the Shoshone. Sacajawea learned to grow corn, beans, and squash. It wasn't long, however, before she experienced another sudden change in her life. Accounts of what happened next vary, some say she was bought and others say she was won in a gambling bet by French Canadian trader Toussaint Charbonneau. Either way, Sacajawea became one of Charbonneau's many Native American wives.

In 1804, Charbonneau was employed by Lewis and Clark to accompany them on their expedition west though the Louisiana Territory. Charbonneau was not very highly thought of by other fur traders who often referred to him as a knave, sneak and a scoundrel. He could, however, make himself understood by most of the river Indians. This wasn't the only reason Charbonneau was hired on though, Lewis and Clark were contemplating how useful Sacajawea would be on their journey, especially if they came in contact with her old tribe. Sacajawea was, at this time, only sixteen years old and expecting the couples first child. She delivered a baby boy just two months before they set out on their journey. The baby was christened Jean Babtiste and nicknamed "Pomp" meaning firstborn in Shoshoni. Some of the men thought that the young Shoshone woman with her new baby would be a hinderance and were not anxious to take her along. Others saw that it would be to their advantage to have them. The men hoped that Sacajawea and little Pomp would be seen as symbols of peace so that their expedition would not be mistaken by the Indian tribes as a war party.

On April 7, 1805, the Lewis and Clark party set out on their expedition to explore the unknown Northwest. The group consisted of thirty-one explorers, Charbonneau, sixteen year old Sacajawea, and the two month old Pomp. The newborn was simply wrapped up and strapped to Sacajawea's back on a cradle board. It was a very exciting time for everyone involved. The explorers were doing what they loved best, exploring, and Sacajawea was beginning a great adventure that would lead her back to her home and people.

Sacajawea was a great help on the journey. Any of the men who had doubts about her before quickly replaced them with admiration. She knew more about the Indians they encountered on the way than anyone else in the group. She taught them that the sign of peace for these Indians was to dab their cheeks with red paint. Often times she would save the men from starvation by finding fruits and nuts that small animals had hidden to save for the winter.

Sacajawea was always cheerful, Captain Clark wrote in his journal that she was uncomplaining. Along with her spunk and energy she was also known for her ability to keep a cool head. One day while Charbonneau was at the helm of the ship, a strong wind came up that nearly caused the boat to capsize. Charbonneau panicked in the confusion and many of the much needed supplies were dumped into the river. It was Sacajawea who saved most of the expedition's valuable supplies. Although she couldn't swim and was still holding the baby, she managed to keep her cool and pick up anything that floated near her as she balanced herself in the stern. In his journal Clark wrote that Sacajawea was able to preserve most of the light articles that were washed overboard in the accident. Had she not done this, he further wrote, they would have been deprived of most of the necessary items for their journey. They were between two and three thousand miles from any place where they could replace the lost items.

The highlight of the journey for Sacajawea was when they passed through the land where she grew up and found her old tribe. She learned that many of her relatives had been kidnapped or killed in the attack five years before, but that her brother had become chief. Sacajawea threw her blanket around his shoulders and exclaimed, "We are of one blanket!" (Belcher-Hamilton, 26, 1989) Then she sucked on her fingers. This was a Shoshone tradition that meant, "You are from my tribe, the people who suckled me." (Belcher-Hamiliton, 27, 1989) Although Sacajawea did not stay with her people, since her loyalties were now committed to the white men, she was able to negotiate a trade that enabled the expedition to obtain much needed horses to continue their journey.

After leaving Shoshone country the journey must have been the hardest, but also the most exciting for Sacajawea. She and Pomp, along with the rest of the group, suffered through as many of the discomforts of being in the wilderness as nature could offer. Gnats and mosquitoes were so thick the group would have to cover their heads with nets. Rattlesnakes were a constant danger. Food was scarce and did not contain the necessary vitamins for one to stay healthy. If this were not enough, the weather was seldom in their favor. Usually either the heat was unbearable or else the cold was causing frostbite. For all of the hardships though, Sacajawea must have felt great excitement to be part of such an expedition. Imagine her amazement at seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, after only ever having seen lakes and rivers. By the time the expedition returned home, the group had traveled through present day Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

It is interesting to note that nearly all of the information we have concerning Sacajawea, her life and her accomplishments, come from the journals of Lewis, Clark, and a few of the other explorers who took time to write about the expedition. This makes it hard to decipher exactly what happened to her following the expedition when she no longer had ties to these men. Some historians believe that she died of a fever on December 20, 1812, while still a young woman. Others believe that she lived until 1884 on a Shoshone Indian Reservation where she died of old age. Regardless of which one is correct, Sacajawea was a remarkable young woman whose perseverance and resourcefulness while traveling with the Lewis and Clark Expedition helped make the journey west a success. It is said that there are more memorials and monuments to honor Sacajawea than any other woman in U.S. History. For most people she will be remembered as the courageous young girl with a baby strapped to her back, gathering food for the men as they made their way through the great unknown territories of the West.


Belcher-Hamilton, Lisa. (1989). Sacajawea: Her Spirit Soared.
Cobblestone. January. p. 24-27.

Howard, Harold P. (1989). Sacajawea. Norman, Oklahoma: University of
Oklahoma Press.

Lake, A.I. (1990). Women of the West. Vero Beach, Fl: Rourke Publications, Inc.

Blumberg, Rhoda. (1987). The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark. New York City, NY: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books.


1. Students will compare challenges they have had to face to those that Sacajawea experienced.

2. Students will be able to describe the contributions made by Sacajawea and the context in which they occurred.

3. Students will be able to recognize that we have ways of communicating through gestures just as the Native Americans did in Sacajawea's time.

4. Students will be able to identify at least three of the ways we communicate with gestures today.

5. Students will be able to identify ways the group may have used the natural resources available in the different environments to meet their basic needs.

Time Allotment: Approximately 1 week or 5 class periods.


Resources Needed:

Map of the United States
Handouts from the Appendix
The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark by Rhoda Blumberg.



1. Values Whip. Starting at one end of the room and going quickly around to the other side, like a whip, ask the students each to share what they feel is one of the hardest things they've ever had to do. Give them a minute to think about it before they start. It can be something that was physically, emotionally, or mentally hard for them to do.

2. Mini-Lecture. After discussing some of the hard things that the students in the class have had to do, introduce Sacajawea. Give them the background on her life and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Compare the hardships she had to face to some that were mentioned earlier in class.

3. Turn-2-Think. Have the students divide into groups of four by counting off 1-4. Have them count off again within their groups so that each member has a number. Instruct them to draw a card from the question pile (See appendix). Each member is to think of the answer and then they are to draw an answer card (See appendix) to see who will answer.

4. Think-Pair-Share. Remind the students of some of the gestures Sacajawea made to communicate with both those of her own tribe and those from other tribes, for example, sucking her fingers, throwing the blanket around her brother, and painting their cheeks red. Then ask them to get into groups of two and think of some of the gestures we use today to communicate with one anther. Some examples would be shaking hands, waving, kissing on the cheek, or pointing at certain things like our ears to indicate that we can't hear. Then have each group pair up with another group to share their ideas. Each group will then share three of their ideas with the class.

5. Mapping Activity. Using Rhoda Blumberg's book, The Incredible Journey of Lewis & Clark, as a reference, show the students the general route of the expedition from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean. Discuss the geography of each area and brainstorm ideas of how they used the natural resources of each area to meet their basic needs. Blumberg's book also gives examples of what the group ate in each different area they were in, buffalo in Montana, salmon in Idaho, and whale blubber from near the ocean, as well as how they used different materials to make clothes. Compare the student's ideas to those in the book and ask the students if they have any more suggestions. Then have each child make a small flag of something the group used or may have used to meet their basic needs and let them put it up on the map in the area that they would have used it.

Picture This. Have each student choose three things Sacajawea did that they think demonstrates courage or resourcefulness and have them illustrate each thing, adding a one line caption to explain the picture.


1. The Values Whip activity will be assessed based on participation.

2. The three contributions that each group makes in the Think-Pair-Share activity will be assessed informally.

3. Participation in and contributions to the questions asked in Turn-2 Think will be assessed informally through observation.

4. Each child's idea for and placement of a flag during the map activity will be assessed.

5. Pictures of the three things they learned about Sacajawea, her courage and her resourcefulness will be assessed.


Answer Cards

Team member #1 answers

Team member #2 answers

Team member #3 answers

Team member #4 answers

Team member #1 answers

Team member #2 answers

Team member #3 answers

Team member #4 answers




Think-Pair-Share Question Cards

What are Sacajawea's greatest strengths?

What might have been different if Sacajawea had not accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition?

How do you think Sacajawea might have changed emotionally, intellectually, and physically on the journey?

What do you think was her biggest challenge on the journey? Why?

What can you tell about the morals and values of Sacajawea based on her actions?

For what single action do you think Sacajawea will be remembered for?

What part does cultural background play in the life and accomplishments of Sacajawea?

What would you say was the highlight of Sacajawea's life?

Who do you think made the biggest impact on Sacajawea? Why?

What were the advantages and disadvantages of Sacajawea's age when she went on the expedition?

What sequence of events in Sacajawea's life led up to her joining the Lewis and Clark party?

If Sacajawea had kept a journal of the expedition what kinds of things might she have written about?

What adjectives might you use to describe Sacajawea?

What symbol would best represent Sacajawea? Why?

Knowing a little about her personality, what kind of mother do you think Sacajawea was?


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