Sacajawea was born in 1790 and was the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trapper. The pair were hired by Lewis and Clark in 1804 for their epic expedition, largely because of her skills as an explorer and interpreter.
Sacajawea was a Shoshone Indian who had been kidnapped by another tribe, the Hidatsa Indians, around 1802. The Hidatsa later sold her to the Mandans. Two years later, Charbonneau bought her from her captors and took her as his wife, despite the fact that he was already married. She gave birth to her first child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (nicknamed "Pomp"), in February 1805. Lewis and Clark regarded this as an advantage to their position, and felt that other Indian tribes would see her as an indication of their intent to be peaceful.
As well as her guiding duties, Sacajawea shared her knowledge of the culinary and medicinal properties of roots and berries, and helped save documents and supplies when a canoe capsized in May 1805. She was particularly helpful in the Shoshone Indian territory in August 1805, because of her knowledge of the area, and when she discovered that a group they encountered was led by her brother Cameahwait. She was able to persuade the Shoshones to sell the travelers horses so they could travel over the Rocky Mountains toward the Pacific.
On the return trip, Sacajawea proved a valuable guide when she remembered trails from her childhood. The most important of these was a pass, known today as Bozeman Pass, Montana, which led through a mountain gap to the Yellowstone River.
Captain Clark's Journal entry for August 17, 1806 reads:
"I offered to take the little son a butifull promising child who is 19 months old to which they both himself & wife were willing provided the child had been weened. They observed that in one year the boy would be sufficiently old to leave his mother & he would then take him to me if I would be so friendly as to raise the child ... to which I agreed."
Little is known of Sacajawea's life after the Lewis and Clark expedition. Some sources claim she died at a trading post in 1812, while some claim she passed away in the 1880s.