“Speaks the Big Belley language” – Sacagawea Dollar Coin

Today, the Sacagawea Dollar Coin remembers the activities of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 211 years ago.

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition provide three different entries describing that long ago Sunday in November.


4th of Novr.   a french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars were Snake Indians, we engau him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpet the Snake language   The Indians Horses & Dogs live in the Same Lodge with themselves


Fort Mandan

4th November Sunday 1804

a fine morning   we Continued to Cut Down trees and raise our houses, a Mr. Chaubonée, [NB: Chaboneau] interpeter for the Gross Vintre nation Came to See us, and informed that he came Down with Several Indians from a Hunting expedition up the river, to here what we had told the Indians in Councl   this man wished to hire as an interpeter, the wind rose this evining from the East & Clouded up—   Great numbers of Indians pass hunting and Some on the return—


Sunday 4th Nov. 1804.   cold last night & white frost this morning.   clear and pleasant.   we continued raiseing our huts. Several more of our french hands is discharged and one makeing a pearogue in order to descend the Missourie & Several of the natives come to our Camp to See us build our huts, and to See our boats &.C—   we got one line of our huts raised So that we got the Eve Beames on & all of large Timber So that it took all the men hard lifting to put the 16 foot eve Beames.


Of particular importance, Lewis and Clark met Charbonneau and Sacagawea on that day.

Roughly 100 years later, the National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume XIII, published in 1906 by George Derby and James Terry White, included a brief biography of Sacagawea:


SACAJAWEA, Indian guide, was born near the sources of the Missouri river, about 1788, a member of the Shoshone tribe.

In her childhood she was captured from her people, by the warlike Minitarees, and sold as a slave to Touissant Charbonneau, a Frenchman, in the Dakotas.

When Merriwether Lewis and William Clark passed through on their western expedition in 1804, Sacajawea and her husband were engaged as guides, and accompanied the expedition to the mouth of the Columbia river and back in 1805-6.

With an infant son, born Feb. 11, 1805, the young mother led the way through perils of savages and mountains and saved the expedition from many a loss and disaster.

As an interpreter her “services became invaluable on reaching the Shoshones. where, by extraordinary fortune, she met her own particular band, whose chief Camcawhait. was her brother.

The expedition was in desperate straits at the time, and the “Bird Woman” obtained from her people food, horses, and guides to lead it through the Bitter Root mountains.

Hostile tribes, everywhere on the route, permitted the whites to pass in peace on observing in the train an Indian woman with a baby on her back.

All western Montana and the mountains of Idaho had been her childhood playground, and here most especially were her deeds remarkable.

With wonderful skill she pointed the way when no guides were at hand, and instinctively threaded the pathways of the wild.

The journals of Lewis and Clark bear ample testimony to the value of her services, later historians have given her much credit, and when Mrs. Eva Emery Dye made her the heroine of “The Conquest ” (1902), Sacajawea “the Pocahontas of the Pacific,” became a national character.

A statue in staff was exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, and a permanent statue in bronze was erected at the Lewis and Clark Exposition at Portland, Ore., in 1905.

The only other facts known about her are that Lewis and Clark left her and her husband at the Mandan town, upon their return, and that she afterward visited St. Louis and was seen returning up the Missouri in 1811, by Brackenridge, the traveler.

Her son, baby Touissant, was educated by Gov. Clark in St. Louis, and his name appears on the Indian lists of 1820 as the recipient of books and clothing.

He was subsequently a guide on the plains during 1840-50, when he made his home at Fort Bridger.


The Sacagawea Dollar Coin shows beside an image, circa 1912, of the monument to her in Portland, Oregon.

Sacagawea Dollar Coin