Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning: “Life of Sacagawea”

September 08, 2020

Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning presents Mike Hansen: “Life of Sacagawea,” as its first online learning session for the Fall 2020 Series. The YouTube video can be accessed via the HCLL Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/headwaterscenterforlifelonglearningparkrapidsmn. A retired high school history teacher, Hansen is past president of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Foundation. His presentation to HCLL on April 16, 2013 was presented to a packed audience at Northwoods Bank, and has been one of the most popular of the recorded programs available for check out at the Park Rapids Area Library. As a result, the HCLL board selected Hansen’s program as one of eight to be uploaded and shared via YouTube. The Covid-19 virus makes large gatherings impossible this fall, so HCLL’s board creatively produced an online series for viewing pleasure. HCLL will resume in-person programming as soon as it is safe to do so.

“No one really knows what Sacagawea looked like, and yet there are at least 19 statues of her,” reported Hansen. Hansen says that what we do know about this remarkable woman is from the journals of Lewis and Clark, which were painstakingly written with bird quill on elk and deer skin from dried ink brought on the expedition. Later, all 11 volumes were transcribed. Sakagawea was probably born in 1788 in what is now Idaho, as a Shoshone Indian. She was kidnapped and most likely sold as a wife to the trader Charbonneau, and taken hundreds of miles from home to North Dakota. On November 4, 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition hired Charbonneau and Sakagawea as interpreters. Hansen points out that they were not expected to be guides, but rather interpreters. In addressing the spelling of her name, Hansen joked, “All of you who spell it with a ‘J,’ go sit in the corner.” That spelling was an error of a transcriber, but it became the most familiar spelling. Lewis and Clark, who often did not agree on the spelling of ordinary words, did agree on the “Sacagawea” spelling. The journey and its use of Sacagawea’s knowledge of places and language is recounted in detail by Hansen in this video.