Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Sacajawea by Joseph Bruchac 2000

Rating: 3/5

IQ "But that path also led into the heart. I learned to see with clear eyes into my own heart and into the hearts of others. I learned courage. [...] But one never knows how much strength one truly has until that strength is tested. I found that my strength was enough to carry me there and back safely-and to carry you as well." pg. 193 Sacajawea

Sacajawea is a historical fiction novel about Sacajawea, a Shoshone guide for the Lewis & Clark expedition. The novel starts off from the time when Sacajawea was captured (at the age of eleven) and taken to live with another tribe, the Manatrees. The novel is also told from the viewpoint of Capt. William Clark.

Sacajawea's personal life isn't much discussed in history and that's why I picked up this book, to learn more about what Sacajawea was like as a person. Also I had many questions like, how did she feel about being on the Lewis and Clark expedition? Did she like her husband and all the people on the expedition? This book starts to answer those questions, but they;re never completely answered. To be fair, a book about a person can obviously never fully know what they were thinking unless the person has told them, however I think the feelings of Sacajawea could have been expanded on a bit more, the chapters were very brief and didn't provide a full portrait of her.

What I did like about Sacajawea was learning more about her life story. She was kidnapped at the age of eleven (and already engaged) by the Manatrees and then she was given to a French trader who married her and another Shoshone woman, Otter Woman. The French trader was Touissant Charbonneau and I believe they only had one child together, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (nicknamed Pompy by Capt. Clark). She was about sixteen when she was pregnant and her husband is a cowardly, clever, old man whereas Sacajawea is a brave, resourceful, and clever young woman. Her journey is an interesting one, but it's more factual than tangible. I didn't really connect with her. I also liked reading the alternate viewpoints of Sacajawea and Capt. Clark. Sometimes, Sacajawea's descriptions of events and objects were confusing (due to her not fully understanding the English language and American ways) and then Capt. Clark would clear them up. Also, Sacajawea was very modest, so she would act like her heroics were no big deal, but Capt. Clark would give her due credit and vice versa.

Another deligthtful aspect of the story is the beginning of each chapter. Each of Sacajawea's chapters would start with a traditional tale of her people, or a tale from one of the tribes that she met on her journey. Captain Clark's chapters started with a real journal entry. Both Sacajawea and Capt. Clark are telling their story to Pompy, who is very inquisitive and since he doesn't remember the journey (though he accompanied Sacajawea, resting on her back) he asks them to tell him about it. Another good part is learning about all the tribes and how they named each tribe and geographical feature. Native Americans have their own names for their tribes, but Lewis & Clark gave them different names.

I would have liked to read more about other members of the company. Sacajawea talks generally about them, that the men all treated her respectfully. The only man she talks about is York, Capt. Clark's slave and that is still only a brief mention. Capt. Clark goes into a slight bit more detail in discussing who gets lost or in trouble, but not much about their background. The book is very short, so the author could have gone into more detail about the men.

Sacajawea provides a good introduction to the Lewis and Clark expedition, but it doesn't provide much more than an introduction.I found it in the YA section of my library, but it reads like a children's book, appropriate, easy words and quick. 4th grade and up.


  1. I liked Buffalo Dance, Frank X. Walker's poem cycle about York. Not so much detail about the expedition, but quite a lot about the things that York might have felt or thought. Sacajawea is a minor character, so you still won't get much speculation about what she thought about things, but for myself, I was okay with that.

  2. I do want to read more about York so thanks for the recommendation! Elizabeth you're so friendly, always leaving comments :) do you have a blog, so I can stop by?


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