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Sacagawea: Biography and Book Critique


The stories about Indian people are always fascinating and mysterious. It does not matter whether they concern the way of life of Indian tribes or explore the life of a separate person, they do it in a way that the readers forget about everything that surrounds them and give themselves away to the book. Sacagawea by Anna L. Waldo is one such book. It presents a story about an Indian girl named Sacagawea; this girl is a hero for many readers for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, there are not so many people who know much about her life and her meaning for Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Her life was saturated with interesting events; her fate full of trials and tribulations evokes the tenderest emotions in everybody who reads about it. Sacagawea is an important Native American historical figure whose early life and participation in the Lewis and Clark’s expedition make her biography remarkable; Anna Waldo’s Sacagawea can hardly receive any negative feedbacks because it presents a well-researched story of Sacagawea’s returning to Wyoming after being absent from there for fifty years.

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Sacagawea’s Early Life

Before discussing Waldo’s book, it is necessary to present the biography of Sacagawea, an Indian girl who became famous to the entire world. Sacagawea was a member of the Indian tribe called Agaidika, which means Salmon Eater. There is hardly anybody who knows the exact date of her birth, but the scholars agree that she was born around 1788. Sacagawea was Shoshone, a tribe that once settled in the northwestern United States, the area that is now occupied by such states as Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. In 1800, when Sacagawea was about 12 years old, her tribe fought with another one, the Hidatsa. The forces were unequal because the Hidatsa were armed with guns, whereas bows and arrows were the only weapons for the Shoshone. The fight ended with Shoshone children being captured, Sacagawea among them (Waldo 77). For several years Sacagawea was a member of their tribe and had to work for them. This is where the part of her biography concerning her early life ends.

Sacagawea Participation in the Expedition

Another part of her biography concerns her marriage and her being discovered by Lewis and Clark while she was pregnant with her first child. When Lewis and Clark’s expedition arrived at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in 1804, they were in need of interpreters from the Shoshone language. Sacagawea spoke this language and this is why she joined their expedition (Waldo 138). She turned out to be more than useful for it, especially in 1805 when she saved Lewis and Clark’s records and journals that have fallen out of the boat. This is why the river was named Sacagawea River in her honor. Sacagawea has also been assisting Lewis and Clark in choosing the most appropriate routes and negotiating with Indian tribes. In 1810, after the end of the expedition, Sacagawea gave birth to a daughter and, in 1812, as many sources state, she died of some sickness.

Book Critique

Sacagawea’s way of life shows how difficult it was to gather information about her. However, Anna Waldo was one of not many writers who succeeded in this. Her book, which took her ten years to write because of thorough research that had to be done, presents a number of details from Sacagawea’s life. Waldo starts by describing the life of the Indian tribe Shoshoni, “most northerly of the great Shoshonean tribes, which all belong to the extensive Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock” (Waldo 3). After this, Waldo gradually passes to Sacagawea’s life in this tribe. Then goes the part in which Sacagawea’s participation in Lewis and Clark’s expedition is discussed. This is where the main distinction between Waldo’s and other books about Sacagawea lies. Waldo’s Sacagawea does not end with the main character’s death. Waldo describes the events that took place far after the day when the illness took Sacagawea’s life. This all shows how well-researched the book is. The only thing that can be criticized about Waldo’s book is that sometimes she uses phrases from the Native Americans’ conversations in their native language; at this, she does not give the translation of these phrases. This hampers the understanding of some parts of the text. Thus, on the whole, Waldo’s book can be regarded as one of the best books about Sacagawea.


In conclusion, Anna Waldo’s book Sacagawea is a result of the author’s hard work and thorough research. The biography of this Native American historical figure has shown that writing about Sacagawea is extremely difficult; a great amount of information has to be gathered before one attempts to present the story of her life. Waldo, however, was quite successful in doing this. Her book Sacagawea reflects different aspects of this girl’s life and explores her childhood, youth, and motherhood which she combined with helping Lewis and Clark in their expedition. Besides, unlike other books written about Sacagawea’s biography, this one explores the events that took place after Sacagawea’s death in 1812.


Waldo, Anna L. Sacagawea. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

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StudyCorgi. "Sacagawea: Biography and Book Critique." November 23, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Sacagawea: Biography and Book Critique'. 23 November.

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