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IN THE SPRING OF 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led an expedition up to the Missouri River and across the rocky Mountains. Their goal was to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, a huge track of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The year before, President Thomas Jefferson had bought the land from France. The Louisiana Territory, which more than doubled the size of United States, was largely unknown. Jefferson organized the Lewis and Clark Expedition, as it came to be known, to seek a trail to the Pacific, discover and record new plants, and learn about the Indian tribes who lived there.
In late 1804 the expedition stopped to spend the winter at a Mandan Indian village in what is now North Dakota. There they arranged for the men , animals,and equipment they would need when they were ready to move west,as soon as the weather turned warm. But they also needed someone who knew the language of the Shoshone Indians , whose land they would cross on their way to the Pacific. That is how they came to employ an Indian woman named Sacagawea. The daughter of a Shoshone Indian chief, Sacagawea had been captured in a raid by Hidaitsa Indians. She had grown up among the Hidatsas and became the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trapper. The two leaders discovered that the only person who could speak the language of the Shoshones was Sacagawea. So they hired Charbonneau as an interpreter after he agreed to take Sacagawea along with him on their expedition into the new American frontier.Sacagawea was only about 16 years old though she had just given birth to her first baby, a boy named Jean Baptiste, she was happy to join the expedition.Lewis and Clark put all their trust in Sacagawea because they needed help from the Shoshone Indians.Without horses from the Shoshones, they would have no way to carry their equipment and supplies across the Rocky Mountains. Very soon the two leaders learned they had trusted the right person. When a boat tipped over and filled with water, Sacagawea calmly and quickly saved almost all of the things that had fallen out of the boat, including the records of the expedition.
As they moved west, Sacagawea began to recognize places she had seen as a child. Then one day a large group of Shoshone Indians came to where the expedition was camped. Sacagawea was home at last.
Sacagawea soon found her brother, who was now a chief. Her eyes filled with tears of happiness.
With Sacagwea's help as translator, the expedition was able to get the horses it needed. Some of the Shoshone Indians were hired as guides.
Sacagawea carried her baby all the way west, and all the way back. She helped make the mission a success in many ways. She found wild food for the explorers to eat.
Many times they were treated as friends by the Indians simply because Sacagawea and her baby were traveling with them.
In every way, Sacagawea showed that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had placed their trust in the right person.