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Thoughts from Dr. Joe:This Montana Adventure, Part III

July 19, 2007|By Joe Puglia

Part three of three

We broke camp early but the adventure was far from over. Heading south, we followed the Yellowstone River, then, taking a quick jaunt through Western Wyoming we tacked our ship, pointed it west and followed the Pacific sun.

This is my last write chronicling discoveries made on this Montana adventure, a class about Lewis and Clark and surviving on the land. My students' moods are euphoric; they savor the sweetness of knowing that they have matched the mountains.

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I sit in the back of the van and realize my scribbled notes on lose pieces of paper were inadvertently burned a previous night while starting a fire.

I am haunted by Sacagawea, her mysterious persona. My last write spoke of my vision of her crossing the river holding tightly to her baby boy Pomp, patiently following the captains in their attempt to find the confluence of the Yellowstone. The land has its own mythology and visions are often sent in the wind and in a moving starlit night.

Sacagawea's life is shrouded by mystery. But we do know that in 1800, when she was about 12 years old, Sacagawea was kidnapped by a war party of Hidatsa Indians, enemies of her people, the Shoshones. She was taken from her Rocky Mountain homeland to the Hidatsa-Mandan villages near Bismarck, North Dakota. There, she was later sold as a slave to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader who claimed Sacagawea as his wife. Charbonneau called her Bird Woman. Her only role in life was to bear children, and be an obedient servant to her man. However, she was about to enter a greater stage.

In November of 1804, the captains and the Corps of Discovery arrived at the Hidatsa-Mandan village. A collision of fates would eventually meld and produce an alchemy that would be at the heart of the greatest adventure on the North American continent.

Shortly after the captains' arrival, Charbonneau petitioned to join the expedition and contribute his interpretative skills. When learning that Charbonneau's woman, Sacagawea, spoke Shoshone, the captains agreed. On February 11, 1805, Sacagawea gave birth to her son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, who would soon become America's youngest explorer.

Although the Corps of Discovery experienced unparalleled dangers, hardships, deprivations, mishaps and uncertainties, their trip was blessed by a success unprecedented in the annals of exploration.

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