Theories about Sacagawea Death

After an eventful life in which Sacagawea of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe managed to accompany Lewis and Clark Expedition in their exploration Western United States, she found her death at the young age of 24 on the December 20, 1812. However, as time went on and her popularity as one of the most accomplished woman in the early years of American exploration of West, stories started to surface about the second place of her death in 1814 and a story of her return to homeland and her Shoshone people. Modern historians today can only find second hand information about her life in those years, and many people today indeed think that she managed to return to her homeland. Here you can find out more about both possibilities.

Sacajawea and Lewis Clark Expedition

According to the official records, after the Lewis and Clark Expedition that happened between 1804 and 1806, and thousands of miles traveled between North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, Sacagawea, her husband Toussaint Charbonneau and young son Jean-Baptiste spent three years living with the Hidatsa people before accepting the initiation of William Clark to settle in St. Louis, Missouri in 1809. Upon arriving there, they entrusted Jean-Baptiste's education to Clark, and birthed daughter Lizette shortly after 1810. Historical documents after that point showed that Sacagawea died in 1812 from unknown disease, leaving behind her healthy one year old girl. By that time her son Baptiste was already in Clark's care, who received his custody from Toussaint Charbonneau in 1813. Court records of that custody transfer mentioned death of Sacagawea, and Clark’s personal notes written between 1825 and 1826 also mentioned her death. After that point there was no more written records about Sacagawea.

However, this is not where the story ends. Some American Indian oral stories continued to claim that Sacagawea left the marriage with Toussaint Charbonneau in 1812 and returned to her Shoshone ancestral home in Wyoming. There he supposedly remained until 1814 where he died from unknown disease. Even though this turn of events has no concrete historical proof, many people accepted it and tried to promote it during the last century. This movement especially gained traction after 1930s, when woman societies who fought for social equality chose to promote Sacagawea as one of the most important women in early American history. In 1933 professor and historian Grace Raymond Hebard from University of Wyoming wrote biography of Sacajawea, where she claimed that Sacagawea lived until her old age with the Shoshone tribes.