Sacajawea: If Not For Her, We Could Be Saluting the British Flag
Few women in U.S. history have had more influence on the nation’s history than the young Lemhi Shoshone woman, Sacajawea. It’s very likely that Lewis and Clark would never have reached the Pacific Ocean had it not been for her help. White settlement would have been different. Indian wars throughout the western half of the country would have been altered. We might even be saluting the British flag rather than the American flag. Sacajawea’s role was gigantic.
MY GIRL. She is of our tribe and we are so proud of her out in Inyo County. The Lewis and Clark thing was just a small part of her epic life.
She was actually born with the name Poi Naipi (Little Grass Maiden). She and two of her friends (Nai Nukkwi, Patsu Naipi) were kidnapped by a hostile band of Hidatsa, who had a strange practice of replacing their own dead children with the children of other tribes.
Poi Naipi’s “adopted” parents didn’t like her much so instead of sending her home they freaking sold her to a drunken French guy named Charbonneau. This man was bastard incarnate. To put this into perspective: He had once been stabbed in the face in Manitoba when he was caught raping a young girl there. At this time, being forced to marry him, Poi Naipi was about 9 years old. And, he already had one other child bride.
He was very abusive, he drank a lot, and at some point Poi Naipi started calling herself Tsaikka Tsa Wea. It means in our language, “One Who Carries a Burden.” You see how this got corrupted to Sacajawea over time.
At one point on the L&C expedition Clark caught Charbonneau beating Tsaikka Tsa Wea and her newborn son. Well, Clark and Lewis beat the crap out of Charbonneau and told him to knock it off. Later, after the expedition, Clark paid for Tsaikka Tsa Wea’s son to go to school and live in his home.
That’s not even the cool part though. As an older woman Tsaikka Tsa Wea said “To hell with this, I’m going home.” This was a pretty big thing to do, understand that she had practically been raised by her abusive scumbag husband and it is very hard for women who have been systematically abused since childhood to learn to stand up for themselves, especially against their aggressors. But, she did it. Traveling all by herself, she found the Northern Shoshone encampment on Wind River, where Chief Wusik-He was with some Eastern Shoshone (and some Western at the time) (this would later go on to be the permanent Eastern settlement, those guys are still out there today). She was reunited with her brother, who by that point had been named Daigwani of the Northern Shoshone. Everybody welcomed her home, her friends, her family, and she broke down crying to hear them call her their “Lost Woman” (Wadze Waipu). For her resilience and cunning she was appointed the personal advisor to Wusik-He. As a very old woman was buried with the name “Chief Woman,” later her son and her nephew were buried on either side of her. Those graves are still there on Wind River today.
Poi Naipi and the Wide Ridge Clan, never forget you, your story is always being told. Miikwa katukan, tunna wunupuhantu tung’atiwan naangwunupuhantu