|The Controversy Surrounding Sacagawea's Death|
Most of what is known about Sacagawea comes from the journals of Lewis and Clark, made on their historic trip across the United States in the early 19th century. After 21 months in which Sacagawea's story intersects with that of the expedition, she disappears almost entirely from our view.
The best evidence we have suggests that she died about six years after the expedition, in her mid-20s. Shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Lisette, Sacagawea died around age 25 due to what later medical researchers believed was a serious illness she had suffered most of her adult life. Her condition may have been aggravated by Lisette's birth. At the time of her death, Sacagawea was with her husband at Fort Manuel, a Missouri Fur Company trading post in present-day South Dakota.
Eight months after her death, Clark legally adopted Sacagawea's two children, Jean Baptiste and Lisette. Baptiste was educated by Clark in St. Lous, and then, at age 18, was sent to Europe with a German prince. It is not known whether Lisette survived past infancy. However, there is no record of the girl after the age of one, and most historians believe she died very young.
During most of the 20th century, several generations of Americans believed a theory that originated in 1907 by Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, Librarian, University of Wyoming. According to Dr. Hebard's theory, a person who lived to age 100 on the Wind River Indian Reservation (Wyoming) was the Sacagawea of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Alleged to have been "Sacajawea," which was interpreted to mean "boat launcher," that woman died and was buried on the reservation on April 9, 1884. Dr. Hebard formalized her theory in her 1932 book, Sacagawea: A Guide and Intepreter of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The only written documents that have been found positively identifying that elderly woman are the listing of her name on a November 1, 1877 census roll of the Wind River Shoshone and Bannock Indians, and the woman's April 9, 1884 death certificate. Both of these official documents clearly record her name as "Bazil's Mother." At age 100 in 1884, Bazil's Mother would have been born in 1784, making her 21 years old in 1805 the year Sacagawea set out with Lewis and Clark. Most 20th century books, encyclopedias, and movies have perpetuated this theory, creating the mistaken identity of the Wind River woman.