What really happened to Sacajawea?

Is Fort Washakie, Wyoming, the resting place of the famed Shoshone guide who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition? The controversy surrounding the death of Sacajawea began in the early 1900s. She was thought to have died in 1812 of an unknown illness, but research through Shoshone oral tradition by suffragette Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard opened a new chapter in Sacajawea’s life with many unanswered questions.

Sacajawea Cemetery in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Sacajawea Cemetery

 

Sacajawea Cemetery

Fort Washakie lies within the Wind River Indian Reservation, and the Sacajawea Cemetery lays claim to the remains of Sacajawea. A woman around the age of 100 named Porivo died on the reservation in 1884. Reverend John Roberts officiated at her funeral and in 1907 he confirmed the woman was Sacajawea. Interviews conducted in 1925 by Dr. Charles Eastman with members of several Native American tribes also concluded that Porivo was in fact Sacajawea.

Interviewees said she spoke of a long journey in which she helped white men and that she had a Jefferson peace medal. The medals were carried by members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Because of these findings, a monument to Sacajawea was erected at Fort Washakie and a new gravestone was put up.

Sacajawea gravesite in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Sacajawea gravesite

Sacajawea gravesite in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Tombstone

A memorial to Sacajawea’s son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, sits to the left of her gravestone. The memorial states Charbonneau died on the reservation in 1885 but he actually died and was buried in Oregon in 1866.

Monument to Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau at the Sacajawea gravesite in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Monument to Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau

To the right is the grave of Bazil, the adopted son of Sacajawea. The gravestone says he died at the age of 86 in 1886 and was reburied at the site in 1925.

Grave of Bazil at the Sacajawea gravesite in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Grave of Bazil

 

Sacajawea Monument

Further back in the cemetery is a monument to Sacajawea. Some interpretive panels tell about her life and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Sacajawea monument at Sacajawea Cemetery in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Monument

Sacajawea monument at Sacajawea Cemetery in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Monument

 

Chapel

Near the grave, there’s a small log cabin. It was originally located on Wind River and moved to the cemetery in 1916. The cabin is a chapel that was built as a Shoshone mission house and used as a school for many years. The Right Reverend George Maxwell Randall, Episcopal bishop of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, performed his last service in the chapel on August 11, 1873, baptizing 11 Shoshone Indians, including four of Sacajawea’s grandchildren. In front of the chapel is a memorial to two white settlers who were killed on July 23, 1873, near Lander.

Chapel at Sacajawea Cemetery in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Chapel

 

Wind River Trading Co.

Also in Fort Washakie is the Wind River Trading Co., where it’s possible to find handmade Native American crafts, jewelry, and souvenirs. The grave of the great Shoshone warrior Chief Washakie, buried in the town in 1900, is not too far away.

Wind River Trading Co. in Fort Washakie, Wyoming

Wind River Trading Co.

 

Who’s Correct?

Scholars who believe the 1812 death is historically correct claim there were a lot of holes in the research on the death of Sacajawea. Shoshone people on the Wind River Indian Reservation are confident that Sacajawea is buried there, and that perhaps she didn’t boast of her accomplishments to prevent angering fellow members of her tribe who were resentful of white men.

I like to believe that I visited the actual gravesite of Sacajawea, but we may never know what truly happened to the legendary Shoshone woman.

When do you think Sacajawea died? Could this be her actual gravesite?

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