Thank you to Diane for the invitation to join this supra-international female intelligenze and to all of you 'Grrls who have helped me along the way. Allow me now to introduce myself and show you why I chose Sacagawea (right) as my IntLawGrrls transnational foremother.
Sacagawea is best known for her contribution to the Lewis and Clark expedition, which was sponsored by President Thomas Jefferson, funded by Congress, and charged with exploring the newly acquired Louisiana Territory and finding navigational waterways across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Much about Sacagawea’s life is a mystery, but it is thought that she was born around 1788. Daughter of a Shoshone chief, Sacagawea joined the ‘Corps of Discovery’ circa 1804 along with her husband, who was hired as an interpreter for the expedition. Sacagawea was the only female member of the expedition. Further, at the start of the journey she was not even 16 years old, and she was pregnant. After giving birth, she carried her infant son on her back during the grueling two-year trek.
Sacagawea was an interpreter, diplomat, and occasional navigator. Her knowledge of native plants and herbs provided necessary food and medicine for the expedition members. Sacagawea’s courage and quick action was noted in Clark’s journals, when the boat Sacagawea was riding in was hit by a high wind and nearly capsized. She recovered many important papers and supplies that would otherwise have been lost, and her calmness under duress earned the compliments of the captains.
Sacagawea turned out to be incredibly valuable to the Corps as it traveled westward, through the territories of many new tribes. Some of these Native Americans, prepared to defend their lands, had never seen white men before. As Clark noted on October 19, 1805, the 'Indians' were inclined to believe that the whites were friendly when they saw Sacagawea. A war party never traveled with a woman -- especially a woman with a baby. Sacagawea prevented many battles between the expedition group and the natives that were encountered along the way. As a woman, she was a symbol of peace. During council meetings between Native-American chiefs and the Corps where Shoshone was spoken, Sacagawea was used and valued as an interpreter.
Lewis noted in his journal that Sacagawea had “equal fortitude and resolution” to that of the men on the expedition. And, her vote counted equally among the men when they had to decide where to build a fort to settle for the winter when they reached the Columbia River. Whether she died young or lived to an old age remains a mystery, but by all historical accounts, the assistance Sacagawea provided to the famous expedition was critical to its success.