Sacagawea, a lady who assisted Lewis and Clark on their expedition across the unexplored western region of the United States, should be pronounced "sah-KAH-gah-wee-ah," according to the phonetic spelling constantly documented in the explorers' papers, according to Moulton.
The tribe she belonged to had its own language, which was similar to Hidatsa but not identical. Thus her name is generally translated from the Shoshone language as "woman who speaks well."
She was born about 1770 near what is now called St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Toussaint L'Ouverture and a Shoshone woman. Her father was a French Canadian slave trader who had been sent by his government to obtain horses for use in the American West. He married into the Shoshone tribe and was adopted by them. Young Sacagawea was taken along on these trips and became familiar with the tribes they met.
She helped her adoptive parents by working as a nurse for the sick and old, by gathering food, and by teaching others how to plant crops. When she was about 12 years old, her father brought her along on one of his trips and left her in charge while he went on ahead to meet up with another party. She stayed with the men until they found a new village where she could be cared for by their wives.
The most common spelling of her name is [email protected]:@, which is pronounced with a harsh "g" sound rather than a soft "g" or "j" sound. Sacagawea is mentioned seventeen times in Lewis and Clark's journals, spelt eight different ways, each time with a "g." She is the only Native American person named in the journals.
There are several other possible spellings, including Sakegeah, Saghawa, Sajewa, and Sahegee. The first two are found in journal entries written by Lewis and Clark; the last two are found in documents related to the government agency that hired Lewis and Clark. None of these alternative spellings are used very often today, but they all are valid forms of the name.
Sacagawea was born about 1776 in what is now called Montana. Her exact birth date is unknown because no official record of her birth has been found. However, an entry in Lewis and Clark's journals indicates that she was given as a gift to the president of the United States, so she had to have been at least fourteen years old when she met him. Her original name was Sakakawea, which means "smiling face" in Lakota. She married into a French-American family who lived near where Lewis and Clark were exploring. The couple had at least six children. One of their sons went on to have a son who became a famous explorer himself!
Mr. Joseph, The Hidatsa word for "bird woman" was pronounced "Tsakaka-wea" at first. In their log, Lewis and Clark refer to their Shoshone guide as "Sacagawea" 17 times. These two considerations indicate that "Sacagawea" is the closest pronunciation to the original. Sincerely, Guttman, Jon.
Sacagawea (pronounced with a harsh g) translates as "Bird Woman" in Hidatsa. Sacajawea also means "boat launching" in Shoshone. The Hidatsa deduction is widely supported by the Lewis and Clark diaries. In these journals, they mention meetings with various tribes along the way and note the names of their leaders. Sometimes the leaders are called "sachems", which comes from the French word for chief.
In the diary entries, Sacajawea's name is spelled Sacksay and Sakshe. These are close variations of the correct spelling of her name: Sacagawea. The only difference is that one letter is missing from the first version. This shows how the Hidatsa and Shoshone languages are very similar. They both have seven letters in their alphabet so one could say there are similarities between the two languages.
When Lewis and Clark arrived in what is now Montana, they stopped to meet with several tribes. One of these was the Shoshone. Here is what Lewis wrote about his meeting with them: "We met this tribe on the bank of the Missouri a few days ago; they invited us to come up and camp with them, which we did. We found them to be a friendly people, without weapons except some arrows for hunting, which they said they used against the Blackfeet."