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Photo: Map of route After years of hoping to be reunited with her people, Sacajawea chose to stay with Charbonneau instead of remaining with her brother and her tribe. She may have felt unwelcome. Most of her family was dead, and the man to whom she had been promised no longer wanted her because she´d had Charbonneau´s baby. Politics may also have played a part. The tribe had long feared its enemies´ rifles. Its leaders may have told her to stay with the white men and assist them in hopes of gaining alliances with the well-armed newcomers.
The Shoshonis provided the expedition with the horses it desperately needed to cross the mountains, and a guide to lead the way. The guide´s name was Deetobi. Lewis and Clark called him Old Toby. Today, he is best known as a guide who twice managed to get lost. Some Lemhi people say he was never lost, but saw the white men as potential enemies and deliberately misled them. The more confused they were, the less likely they would be to return to their hosts´ homeland.
With help from the Nez Perce tribe, the expedition reached the Pacific by way of the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers early in November. When a vote was held to decide the location of the party´s winter camp, Sacajawea was allowed to join the men in voting. As a further sign of her status, the captains humored her request to be permitted to go and see a beached whale.
The return journey that began the following spring was less eventful for Sacajawea. Her routine was well established, the country wasn´t quite the vast question mark it had been on the westbound trip, and there were no boat mishaps or family reunions for her. The corps reached the Mandan villages on Aug. 14, 1806.
A few days later, Clark paid Charbonneau for his services - Sacajawea received nothing - and left for St. Louis. Charbonneau, Sacajawea and Jean Baptiste, now a toddler, stayed to resume the life they´d known before Lewis and Clark paddled into their lives.
Sacajawea never saw the homecomings for the expedition´s leaders, never met the great white father in Washington who conceived it, never suspected how famous it would make her. She did have the satisfaction of knowing she had performed useful services, seen an ocean, traveled farther than virtually any of her people and made important friends - especially Clark.
And she may never have thought of herself in quite the same way again.
For its only woman, the Voyage of Discovery was a time of personal discovery. She exchanged a life of oppression for a breath of liberation and, though she may never have known it, a place in history. Her time with Lewis and especially Clark, who on at least one occasion restrained her husband from beating her, allowed her to see herself as a person of value rather than as a slave or possession.
She had had the adventure of a lifetime.

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The Idaho Statesman - Always Idaho -
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