Finding Sacajawea in Sedona

I’ve just finished reading Anna Waldo’s novel about Sacajawea, the young Indian woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition and played a key role in the success of their venture.  Although the book was fiction it was meticulously footnoted with excerpts from the Lewis and Clark journals and other sources. The book is 1,400 pages long. It has received accolades for the way it brings the story of Sacajawea to life. I discovered Sacajawea and her story at a travel rest stop in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. 

 I was surprised to find Sacajawea Plaza as I strolled the streets of Sedona Arizona, since this is not an area of the United States where Sacajawea would have lived or traveled.

In the center of the indoor shopping plaza is a life-size statue of Sacajawea carrying her small son Jean Baptiste in a pappoose. The statue is the work of artist John Soderburg. 

Curious about what a statue of Sacajawea was doing in Arizona I did a little research and found out that Sacajawea became a symbol of independence and self-worth for the American Suffrage Movement and they spread her story throughout the country. Apparently there are more statues of Sacajawea in the United States than of any other woman. 

Sacajawea was a real person who Lewis and Clark praise in their journals for her positive contributions to their expedition. Anna Waldo’s book is fiction and historians warn that the story of Sacajawea has reached mythical proportions. Legends may have developed around her life but they are legends that portray a female heroine who was brave, intelligent, caring–a woman who could ‘think outside the box’ of her life circumstance. We need more female role models like that. 

1 Comment

Filed under Arizona, Art, Books, History, People

One response to “Finding Sacajawea in Sedona

  1. The story of Sacajawea is based on a myth that began when Eva Dye at the turn of the 20th Century was looking for a heroine for the woman’s movement. Dye basically picked up the story where Nicholas Biddle left off. Biddle was commissioned to write about the greatest story in American history that being the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis was dead and there was only William Clark to tell the story. When Clark lost interest in telling his story Biddle allowed his imagination to tell the story without fact. Sacajawea was not hired to lead nor was she hired to interpret. Meriwether Lewis hired George Drouillard who had an education in cartography and was familiar with the indigenous, plant and animal life beyond the Mississippi that had captured the curiosity of President Thomas Jefferson. It was President Jefferson who approved George Drouillard. Jefferson was awarded $2,500 from Congress for his Corp of Discovery which became he Lewis and Clark Expedition. George Drouillard was given $500 from Jefferson’s budget making him the highest paid member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At the conclusion of the Expedition Meriwether Lewis reported the following to Thomas Jefferson “Mr. President if not for George Drouillard the Expedition would have never survived. The present day historian is following in the footsteps of Nicholas Biddle and Eva Dye in allowing the myth of Sacajawea to exist. Cory Skyler Drouillard a descendant of George Drouillard launched a national campaign in 2014 urging the American historian to provide the truth when telling the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Dr. Gary Moulton of the University of Lincoln at Lincoln, Nebraska inspired Cory Skyler Drouillard when it came to George Drouillard then when the press called on Dr. Moulton for a quote he remained mute regarding George Drouillard. Sacajawea did not have a voice when it came to the Expedition however if the present day historian would have taken the time to actually read the Journals of Lewis and Clark they would have discovered it was George Drouillard who was the guide and interpreter.

    Chris Harris
    Publicist for Cory Skyler Drouillard

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