Sacagawea Day Date in the current year: December 20, 2024

Sacagawea Day Sacagawea Day is observed annually on December 20. It commemorates the death anniversary of a Native American woman who is best known for traveling as a guide with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Sacagawea, also spelled Sacajawea or Sakakawea, was a Native American woman from the Lemhi Shoshone tribe. She was born in May 1788 near present-day Salmon, Idaho. When Sacagwea was about 12, she was captured by the Hidatsa tribe during a raid; about a year later, she was forced to marry Quebecois trapper Toussaint Charbonneau, who either won her while gambling or purchased the girl from her captors.

In 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark of the Corps of Discovery, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase, hired Charbonneau, who claimed to speak several Native languages, and Sacagawea as their guides. 

Sacagawea proved to be a valuable asset to the expedition. She helped rescue the records and journals that had fallen out of a capsized pirogue, acted as an interpreter when the corps encountered a Shoshone tribe (and found out in the process that the tribe’s leader was her brother), helped find and cook food, and even gave up her beaded belt, which Lewis and Clark traded for a fur robe intended as a gift for President Jefferson. In addition to acting as a guide and interpreter, Sacagawea was a valued member of the expedition because she brought her infant son along; having a woman and a child traveling with them helped Lewis and Clark demonstrate that their intentions were peaceful.

Accounts of Sacagawea’s death vary. A number of historical documents suggest that she died on December 20, 1812 of an unknown illness. However, there are oral traditions claiming that Sacagawea left her husband, married into another tribe, lived a long life, and died in 1884. However, this tale isn’t supported by any actual evidence.

In the early 20th century, the National American Woman Suffrage Association adopted Sacagawea as a symbol of women’s independence and worth. Multiple statues and plaques have been erected in her honor to highlight Sacagawea’s contribution to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Sacagawea Day is not celebrated in any official capacity, but history museums and education centers hold various events on December 20 to educate people about Sacagawea’s contribution and role in American history.

How can you observe Sacagawea Day? It you can make a trip, you can visit the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which winds nearly 4,900 miles through 16 U.S. states, Sacagawea Peak in Oregon or Sacagawea Peaks in Montana, or one of the many monuments and memorials dedicated to Sacagawea.

Other ways to celebrate include reading a book or watching a documentary about Sacagawea, checking out the interactive map of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and spreading the word about the observance with the hashtags #SacagaweaDay, #SacajaweaDay, and #SakakaweaDay.

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Sacagawea Day, observances in the United States, unofficial holidays, death anniversary, Lewis and Clark Expedition