The men of the tribe fished and hunted, decided when and where the bands would travel in search of food and protected the women and children against enemies. The women were in charge of raising the children and running the camps.
Girls had many teachers. From her father and older brothers, Sacajawea learned to make weapons, defend herself and trap, hunt and fish. Her mother, aunts and older sisters taught her the rest of the many skills she needed.
By the age of six or seven, she was making her own clothes. The job was far more difficult than it would be now. The tribe didn't have textiles, buttons, zippers, thread, sewing machines or metal needles. Everything had to come from nature. In today's world, Sacajawea would be considered poor, but the concept of poverty as we know it didn't exist for her. In her world, the Earth provided what she needed.
To make her dresses, leggings and moccasins, she skinned a deer and scraped the hair from the hide with her knife and a scraper she made from an elk bone. She made soft leather of the rough hide by soaking it three times in deer or elk brains and smoking it.
"The children started learning almost as soon as they could walk. All the kids were left with an aunt and uncle if they were too little to go out gathering food. Twenty or 30 kids at a time would stay with an aunt and uncle. The next time, it would be another aunt's and uncle's turn. Discipline was a hand and a switch. Everybody disciplined the children. If you saw kids doing something wrong, you corrected them." Eloise Lopez Smoking involved digging a hole, positioning sticks around it to make a tripod and filling it with chips of cedar, quaking aspen or red-pine wood. When the chips had burned to coals, she draped the hide over the tripod to catch the smoke. Smoking helped waterproof the leather and changed its color from gray to soft yellow. Unlike chemical tanning methods used now, it left the leather's pores open, allowing it to breathe and keep her cooler in hot weather.
She cut the leather into the proper shapes and sizes with her blade, made by smashing obsidian into shards against another rock. For thread, she used thin strips of sinew cut from the back of a deer or an elk. Her sewing needles were thorns or pointed bones with holes drilled with a bone awl. It took about three weeks to make a dress.
The unrelenting need for food was a dominant fact of life. Gatherers had to be in the right places at exactly the right times to harvest roots, berries, nuts and wild vegetables when they were ready. The men hunted and fished by following the migratory patterns of game.