DERARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
OFFICE OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
March 2, 1925.
The Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
My dear Mr. Commissioner:
In pursuance of your instructions of December 13, 1924, relative to investigation and locating the final burial place of Sacajawea or Bird Woman, I enter upon the investigation by the first of January, 1925. As by instructions, I proceeded from Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to Fort Washakie, Wyoming. I fully realized the importance and delicacy of this investigation, therefore I secured special interpreters before I entered upon the work. Mr. James E. Compton, who understood not only the Shoshone language but the Bannocks and he is a well educated Carlisle man, not only this but is well versed in the modern history of his people.
Mr. R. P. Haas, the local superintendent, gave every help possible to find and meet such persons as I thought would give any material evidence concerning “Bazile’s mother” as she was commonly known in her later days, although she was also known as Porivo, Chief Woman. She was also known by the name of Wadziwiper and Poheniv or Grass Woman. Wadziwiper means Lost Woman, who claims to be or others claim for her that she is Sacajawea or Bird Woman, the interpreter and guide of Lewis and Clark Expedition.
I will use Shoshone or Comanche name Porivo for convenience. This statement of her grandson, Andrew Bazile, I marked as Exhibit A establishes fully that Porivo is the mother of Bazile and Baptiste two well-known Shoshone men, all died within three years, namely; Porivo died 1884 — Bazile died in 1886 — Baptiste died in 1888. At the best information I have she was very nearly 100 years of age. If she is Sacajawea or Bird Woman she must have been born in 1788, and according to Lewis and Clark Journals she would be 96 years old when she died. If Baptiste, the son of Porivo is the same Baptiste, the son of Sacajawea, he would have been 80 years old when he died for he was born February 11, 1805, according to Lewis and Clark Journals; and if Bazile, the son of Porivo is the same as Touisant Charbonneau, the child of Charbonneau’s Snake wife whose name is Otter Woman. According to the Gros Ventres testimony, he would be 83 years old, since in Luffig’s application for guardianship for him in August, 1813, he was declared 10 years old. This would make him approximately 1½ to 2 years older than his brother, Baptiste. These were the essential points I set down to guide me in the investigation.
It is well known in history that when Lewis and Clark returned from the western coast they lingered for a short time at the Gros Ventres village, and it is well known that Charbonneau and his two Snake wives remained there when Lewis and Clark’s Expedition proceeded down the river to St. Louis.
The Indians of the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota, insisted that he did not pick up these Snake wives at the village and afterwards marry them, but they insisted he had married them somewhere up the Missouri River, either among the Crow Indians or the Blackfeet and, afterwards drifted [this copy of the typescript has ‘later moved’ in pencil here] to their country and was there only a short time when Lewis and Clark’s expedition came up to their village. It is very evident and in accordance with the customs of the Indians that Charbonneau could not have married the two girls at the same time. He must have married one of them at least a year or possibly two years before he married the second wife. To be sure he kept both of them, Touisant Charbonneau being the child of his first Shoshone wife, namely, Otter Woman, and this wife must have been his favorite for he named his oldest daughter Otter of the Gros Ventres wife by the name of Eagle, nearly twelve years afterwards who was the mother of Bull Eye’s, who now claims that his grandmother Eagle was Sacajawea.
According to the statement of Mrs. Weidemann, a very intelligent woman, daughter of Great Chief Poor Wolf of the Hidatsa Indians, Charbonneau took both of his wives and their children down to St. Louis; a year or so afterwards Lewis and Clark departed from the village to St. Louis. I submit Mrs. Weidemann’s statement as Exhibit K.
The writings of Miss Stella G. Drumm of the St. Louis Historical Society say that after they reached St. Louis and remained for a short time Charbonneau was hired out to the fur company of Chouteau and was sent to one of their forts in the southwest. It is not clear as to what trading post he was attached, but it was on the branches of the Red River of Arkansas River in Oklahoma. However, he returned to St. Louis before 1811 for he had sold what little property he had in St. Louis to William Clark for $100.
In Breckenridge’s Book of Travels he states that in 1811 when he was coming up the Missouri River on boats he saw Touisant Charbonneau and his Snake wife. He was told that the Frenchman was the guide of Lewis and Clark Expedition. He also spoke of his wife as imitating white women’s style in dressing, and he spoke of her as being a commendable woman. In 1813 Manuel Lisa a well-known French fur trader at St. Louis, whose operations in the fur trading business was extensive had sent a large body of men up the river to establish a trading post on the Missouri River in the vicinity of the then Arikiras and Gros Ventres as well as Yankton Nais Sioux country. John Luttig was his chief clerk who kept a daily Journal apparently of the activities and experiences of the party and the fort. September 18, 1812, he made an entry saying “Elie’s Snake squaw died today.” On December 20, 1812, another entry was made by Luttig, saying “Charbonneau’s wife, the Snake squaw, died of Putrid fever, the best woman in the fort.’ The people of the fort had a great deal of trouble from the Indians of the region owing to the American-English War of 1812, during which some of the British traders were inciting the Indians against the Americans. During the winter according to Luttig’s Journal that Charbonneau and Jessiumme were suspected seriously of being involved in the hostile conduct of some of the Indians. Luttig’s Journal stopped suddenly in March, 1813. It is well known among the Indians, Sioux and Rees, that that fort was attacked during that time and killed many of the Lisa’s men. It appears during that time Charbonneau had departed to the Gros Ventres country.
In August, 1813, Luttig made an application at the Orphan Court in St. Louis to have guardians appointed for the children of Touisant Charbonneau deceased, to wit:
Touisant Charbonneau, a boy 10 years of age.
Lizette Charbonneau, a baby girl, 1 year of age.
It appears or can be inferred that when the trouble arose at Fort Manuel Charbonneau had left his children, presumably in care of the Indian wives of the other employees of the fort, when his wife died December 20, and as he disappeared during the attack there, the children were brought down with the remainder of the party to St. Louis.
John Luttig, in his Journal expressed himself strongly against the character of Charbonneau, but he spoke of his Shoshone wife as being the best woman in the fort. He took interest in these children of the Charbonneau woman. He saw to it that they should have a guardian, therefore William Clark was appointed. Apparently he supposed that Charbonneau had been killed in the outbreak at the fort.
In the three points, Dr. Robinson holds as the essential proof that the woman who died on December 20 is the Bird Woman. I find no place in this connection where her name Sacajawea was mentioned nor directly referred to as Sacajawea, except in Mr. Breckenridge’s observation on the boat that Charbonneau was pointed out as guide for Lewis and Clark.
That he had a Shoshone wife with him whom he naturally supposed the one accompanied Charbonneau across the continent with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is apparent that the Bird Woman was not called Sacajawea as far as the public is concerned during this time. Up to this time Sergt. Patrick Gass’s journal was the only one published in 1807. Nowhere in his report was she called Sacajawea, she was only referred to as the squaw or Charbonneaus wife.
After the revision of the Lewis and Clark Journals no one knew at that time outside of Lewis and Clark and Charbonneau that this woman was called Sacajawea. Secondly, the court record shows that Baptiste, the child of Sacajawea was conspicuously absent, this means that Baptiste, had been retained in St. Louis when Charbonneau and his other Snake wife and child had gone back to the Indian country as stated by Breckenridge. Baptiste was too young to be separated from his mother, and in my knowledge of the Indian mothers traits and habits are such she could not have permitted to be separated from her child at that age, especially those time. It was hard enough up to thirty years ago to get a child of 10 years to leave their Indian parents to go to school. It would have been impossible for Clark to retain Baptiste without his mother, but as he determined to either adopt or educate the boy, the youngest member of the expedition across the continent, he had to provide for the Bird Woman in order to keep Baptiste in St. Louis so that lie may see to his education and as he could not trust Touisant Charbonneau to take the child back up the Missouri; therefore he retains him and that is why Baptiste was not mentioned in the Orphans Court when Luttig applied for guardian to be selected or appointed for the children of Touisant Charbonneau, deceased on August, 1813.
The evidence given by Wolfe Chief or the Hidatsa and Mrs. Weidemann shows that Charbonneau did have two Shoshone wives and a Mandan wife besides. They clearly stated that Charbonneau took both of these Shoshone wives with him when he visited St. Louis some time in 1807 to 1808 and it is evident that he had returned with but one Shoshone wife who died on December 20, 1812. In the St. Louis court application for guardians for his children, the child of Bird Woman was conspicuously absent. lt will seem then that this child had been left in St. Louis when Charbonneau returned north in 1811, but the child Baptiste would have been too young to be separated from his mother, the Bird Woman.
When the other two children of Charbonneau namely, Touisant Charbonneau, jr., and Lizette Charbonneau, daughter, were presented at the Orphans Court, John Luttig, was appointed guardian but it was scratched off and substituted by William Clark.
Miss Stella E. Drumm states in her book that Clark was absent at the time of the court procedure, but when he returned he accepted the guardianship of the other children of Charbonneau. It is natural for the Indian woman, and under the circumstances that she would have to become the mother of those children until a certain age when they can be sent to school. This is proven by the testimony of Eagle Woman and by the statement of Mrs. Weidemann when Charbonneau married the bride, Eagle, Hidatsa maiden, in 1819 or 1820. He proceeded immediately with a company of fur traders to St. Louis, although he was supposed to have been killed in the attack at Fort Manuel by the Sioux when they killed many of Lisa’s men. He turned up unexpectedly at St. Louis with his new wife, Eagle, and he takes his old wife again Bird Woman, and the two boys Baptiste and Bazile.
Apparently Toussaint Charbonneau, Jr. had a name of his own by that time, namely, Bazile. These two boys had been educated by William Clark; one was sent to a Protestant missionary teacher and the other was sent to a Catholic missionary teacher, namely, Mr. Welch and Father Neil, until in 1820. Bazile must have been 17 years old and Baptiste 15.
Eagle said they were about 18 and 15. Not more than a year or so remaining in St. Louis according to Mrs. Weidemann’s statement and Eagle’s own account that Charbonneau had obtained employment with one of the fur companies together with his sons and the whole family departs for the southwest. They worked as guides and interpreters in one or two forts in the neighborhood of Neosho and Washita Rivers. During that time they visited some other forts, among them some Spanish or Mexican trading posts where Eagle gives account of seeing “so many sea shells and beads and beautiful blankets.” While they were in that part of the country (it appears to be the western part of Oklahoma and Kansas), when Charbonneau takes another wife, namely a Ute young woman, which causes trouble with the Bird Woman. Charbonneau whips Bird Woman during the absence of his two sons on a trip. The Bird Woman disappears. This statement is corroborated by the Statement of Bazile’s son, namely Andrew Bazile, Exhibit A. Afterwards she drifted among the Comanches. The Comanches were originally a part of the Shoshone Nation; they spoke the same language with a dialect and local difference, just like we say high and low Dutch language.
The evidences of the Comanches, or rather the statements of the Comanches people, bear out this fact although there is no one now living who knew just how and when she appeared among them. In due time she married a man by the name of Jirk Meat from whom she had 5 children. All died in infancy except one son and the youngest child, a girl. She lived approximately 26 or 27 years among the Comanches when her husband, Jirk Meat, was killed in a battle. It is a fact this was the first husband of her own choice and apparently she was devoted to him, therefore at his death she was heartbroken and very much depressed. At that time she was not in harmony with the relatives of her husband, therefore she declared she would not live among them any longer. When she said this the people did not take her seriously but she was in earnest for one day she disappeared, taking with her her little girl. She had in her family a Mexican captive girl whom her son had captured in war and Bird Woman had raised her. She was 15 years old. She gives the information that Bird Woman had taken a small parflesche bag containing dried buffalo meat. It appears from this that she had a definite purpose and point toward which she was going.
Her son hunted for her everywhere, in fact her whole band searched for her in vain. He visited many of the adjacent tribes, namely, Wichitas and Kiowas, but she was not found. A rumor came to them that she was among the white people, whether this was true or not they did not know. She was gone forever. After this they called her Wadzewiper, the Lost Woman. During her life with the Comanches she was called Porivo, which means Wife or Chief Woman. Nothing was ever heard concerning her until the Indians all were placed in reservations and schools were established. Carlisle also came into existence. The son that she left among the Comanches was called Ticannaf. He had three or four children, all dead except one living now, a woman whose name is Tahcutine who gave the story of the life of her grandmother or Porivo or Sacajawea, the Bird Woman. The great grandchild from the Comanches and the great grandchildren from the Shoshones met at Carlisle. They inquired of each other their great grandmothers descendants, which developed that they were many living among the two tribes at the present time, and for the first time they learned that Porivo had reached her tribe the Shoshones; some fifty years after she disappeared from the Comanches. This story of her life as given by the Comanche descendants confirms the testimony of the Shoshones; that when she returned to her tribe she told them that she came from the Comanches, although it took her several years to reach there.
The story of her separation from her husband and her children is corroborated by the statement of Andrew Bazile, a grandchild and the son of Bazile, saying that his father told him that the Bird Woman and her husband separated in the southwest country when he and his brother were young men and they have never seen their father since. They only saw their mother when she came back to them at Fort Bridger, a grey haired woman. The next place where she appeared was in the testimony of Edmond LeClair in Exhibit C.
The story of Sally Ann who accompanied the Bird Woman or Porivo from Portage the Sioux is given fully by this witness, namely, Edmond LeClair. She reached St. Louis somehow a year or two after she disappeared from the Comanches and remained perhaps a year or so at that place, then proceeded up the Missouri River with some of the river fur men. At this time she married an old Frenchman who was employed by the company, the name of this man was not given.
Information came to me indirectly from the Sioux country along the Missouri River that the Bird Woman is known 70 years ago, but the testimony of Wolfe Chief or the Hidatsa and Mrs. Weidemann shows that she had passed up the Missouri River stopping at the various forts until she reached Fort Union at the mouth of Yellowstone River. It does not clearly state how many years she traveled up the Missouri River or how many years she remained at Fort Union, but the story is clear that she proceded [sic?] from Fort Union up the Yellowstone River, Big Horn and Wind Rivers in company with French Indian traders who were sent out from Fort Union to trade with the Rocky Mountain Indians. This story is that her husband was left behind for a few days at fort Union with the intention of joining the party at the mouth of Big Horn River, but he never appeared. It was supposed he might have been killed by some Indian war party. Thus she lost her husband. On this trip she succeeded in reaching the upper branches of the Snake River when she learned from her tribe, some of whom she met, that her two sones [sic] were at Fort Bridger. She worked her way south until she reached Fort Bridger where she found her two sons. The family reunion was natural and a happy one. Bazile, the oldest son, or her step son whom she raised and called her own son was exceptionally devoted to her. It was in his family that she lived and died.
The testimony of Mr. F. G. Burnette, Edmond LeClair, and Andrew Bazile corroborate Porivo’s traveling from Fort Union to the Snake country. Porivo’s life among the Comanches is proved by the testimony of Mrs. Weidemann and the story of Eagle Charbonneau. Hidatsa wife and Andrew Bazile proves the separation of Charbonneau and Bird Woman in the vicinity of the Comanche country which identifies that the Bird Woman and Porivo are the same person, and that Bazile and Baptiste were sons of Porivo or the sons of the Bird Woman. Bazile was not a real son but was a step son whom she raised as her own son. There are many instances among the Indians where a nephew or step son has been more devoted to the mother than the real son, this was the case in the relation of Bazile and his mother.
The Shoshone woman who died at Fort Manuel, was Otter Woman, the other Shoshone wife of Charbonneau who was Bazile’s mother. The child (girl) Lizette does not appear anywhere after the court procedure. It is likely she died in childhood. The child that Porivo or Bird Woman carried away from the Comanche tribe had reached womanhood among the Shoshone people and married a Frenchman by the name of Ely Mayer, who left and went to California; then she married Shade Large. She died soon after without any issue. The testimonies concerning this woman are not taken in due form as I did not think it was pertinent to the investigation of the burying place of Sacajawea.
In the testimony of Mrs. Weidemann, and Eagle tells the story of her trip with Charbonneau to St. Louis and the southwest, and after the break with Bird Woman they joined another large party of fur traders who proceeded to Salt Lake in which Charbonneau was employed, taking with him his Ute wife and the Hidatsa wife, but after winter quarters had broken up, they decided to proceed northeast into the Wind River country. The Ute wife left him. They then proceeded over the mountains towards the Wind River. When they reached that point they followed down the Big Horn River, thence to the Yellowstone River. When they were in this vicinity they met a large body of Crow Indians in camp. Here Eagle found some relatives who gave a white horse to Charbonneau. They proceeded down the Yellowstone River until they reached the Missouri River and down that river they arrived at the Hidatsa village which they had left four or five years before, when they went down to St. Louis. This was about 1825 when they arrived at the village of Hidatsa.
It was on the basis of this wonderful trip that her grandson, Bull Eye’s makes the claim that his grandmother was the Bird Woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark, but it was fully 15 years later that this trip was made as the statement of his own tribeswoman and Mrs. Wiedemann who clears the case, and in the part of his own statement that it was an entirely different trip.
It is also apparent that Charbonneau considered his Shoshone wife, Otter Woman, was his favorite for he named the first child by his wife, Eagle, the same name, namely, Otter the mother of Bull Eye’s. The evidences gathered by Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard are authentic because it came from the Bird Woman at that time, although she was an old woman then, she spoke of the incidences on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At the time history was unknown to even some of the Rocky Mountain white men, much more so with the Indians. One of the striking characteristics and habits of the Bird Woman is that she is very modest in claiming any honors of being guide to that party; one reason for this is the Indian women will put her husband as the head in any matter of that kind. She never considered herself as a guide or interpreter. She evidently assumed that the great duties performed by her were the natural consequences of the expedition; that she was not interpreter and guide as she did not receive any salary and it will not bear too much assumption to say that she did not consider herself important or noted until perhaps some time after, even then she could not have received any published statement about herself as her people were very illiterate at the time of her death; and, as regards to her silence about her wonderful traveling and career, because it was not her choice but fate seemed to have compelled her to live the life that she did, except when she married the Comanche man. She was then a real wife and happy with her husband. Therefore when he was killed she was heartbroken and dissatisfied with the tribe with whom she lived and again the thought of her nativity and tribe took strong hold of her, therefore she departed with her youngest child on her back. Her purpose was clearly defined for she carried it out and in the end she defeated fate.
Within a short time that I am allotted to investigate and locate the burial place of this woman, it was difficult for me to go into all the trails and evidences of her wanderings, but I have only gone to the important points where she actually lived and the tradition still exists of her being there, and follow her back to her nation as hereintofore stated. She died April 9, 1884, and was buried by Missionary Roberts at Fort Washakie, Wyoming.
Not only the identity of Sacajawea, the Bird Woman is proven by the accompanying testimonies taken in the very wide parts of the country in such a manner that they could not have known what the other tribes knew and still they corroborated the truth of the history of her travels.
Porivo or Chief Woman and Sacajawea, the Bird Woman are one and the same person.
Bazile and Baptiste the sons of Porivo or Sacajawea are the same sons of Touisant Charbonneau wife, Sacajawea or the Bird Woman of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, namely; Touisant Charbonneau jr., and Baptiste Charbonneau. This is proven by the statement of Mrs. Weidemann of the story of Eagle’s trip with Charbonneau to St. Louis, southwestern territory and through Salt Lake country; thence back by the way of Wind, Big Horn, and Yellowstone Rivers into the Missouri and back to the Gros Ventres village reaching there about 1825.
Charbonneau was absent from that part of the country between 1819 and 1825 after which he was seen in that part of the country again by the Government officials, Atkinson and O’Fallon.
From there on he was seen by Prince Maximillian, Mr. Larpenteur, and others up to 1839 when he appeared in St. Louis and he has never been seen since.
By the testimonies gathered by Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard, Baptiste was seen among the trappers in the Lemhi country in 1830. Faris speaks of having been lost in the trapping trip for two or three days, but he appeared later.
William Clark Kernley spoke of meeting him in 1843 in the vicinity of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, as a guide, and Fremont in his exploring trip across to the Pacific meets a body of employees of the fur traders, Bent and St. Vrain which was not far from Fort St. Vraine on the south fork of the Platte in a camp which was managed by Charbonneau.
It is stated in Jim Fans’ account of a trapping party in which Bazile Charbonneau and his brother who were employed by Bent and Robideau at Bent’s forts in the southwest on some branches of the Arkansas. Bent and St. Vrain later on opened forts on the south forks of the Platte River and sent their men into the recesses of the mountains for trapping and gathering furs from different Indian tribes.
It is natural that these two men being employed by that fur company wandered up into that country which was approximately adjacent to the country of their ancestors, namely, the Snake Indians to which their mother was a member, namely, Bird Woman. Evidently the older one took upon himself the leadership of the uncle’s tribe at the same time he was still serving Robideau, Bent, St. Vrain, and later Jim Bridger.
What evidence Dr. Hebard gathered came from very competent people, both intelligent and strong men.
The testimony of Drs. Erwin, Patten, and Roberts can not easily be disputed. In the first place they were simple men, secondly, they were Christian men for all three of them were missionaries at different times or simultaneously in which they were engaged in work among the Indians, and all of them had known Porivo, Bazile’s mother or Sacajawea, the Bird Woman.
Sacajawea, the Bird Woman, was not much older than her sons. She was 17 when she gave birth to her son, Baptiste. Bazile, or Touisant Charbonneau, jr., the sone [sic] of Otter Woman the other Snake wife of Charbonneau was born nearly two years before Baptiste. Therefore he was only 15 years younger than the Bird Woman. At the time their mother died they were very old men, she being 96 years old. Not knowing the exact age the Indians said she was about 100 years of age. Baptiste was 80 years old and Bazile was 83. Therefore they did not appear much younger at that age than their mother and they all died within three years.
I submit the testimonies of three different Indian nations, namely, Shoshones, Comanches, and Gros Ventres, the first in Wyoming, the second in Oklahoma, and the third in North Dakota. As there were no authentic records to be found after Clark had finished with them, Bird Woman and sons, we have to accept the tribal traditions and when they corroborated so strikingly well, we must accept it as the truth.
I report that Sacajawea after sixty years of wandering from her own tribe returns to her people at Fort Bridger and lived the remainder of her life with her sons in peace until she died on April 9, 1884, at Fort Washakie, Wyoming, that is her final resting place.
CHAS. A. EASTMAN,
Inspector and Investigator.