In a cemetery on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Fort Washakie, Wyoming, stands a prominent tombstone marking the grave of Sacagawea, the young Shoshoni woman who served heroically with the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805-06. An inscription on the stone, erected by the Wyoming chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1963, states that she died in 1884 and that the Reverend J. Roberts, who officiated at her burial, identified her original grave site in 1907.

A few years later Dr. Charles Eastman, a Sioux scholar commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to trace Sacagawea’s life, found many who claimed to remember her as an old woman. According to them, she left her husband, the trapper Charbonneau, after he took another wife. She then married a Comanche and, following his death, rejoined the Shoshoni’s in Wyoming. There she was reunited with Baptiste, the son born to her on the expedition.

But other contend that Sacagawea died at Fort Manuel, South Dakota, when she was only about 25, and buried in an unmarked grave. On December 20, 1812, a clerk at the fort noted in his journal:

This evening the Wife of Charbonneau a Snake (Shoshoni) Squaw, died of a putrid fever.

¬†Unfortunately, he failed to mention which wife. A dozen years later, however, William Clark (who provided for the education of Baptiste) listed expedition members and their fate in a notebook;¬†next to “Secarjaweau,” he wrote, “Dead.”

Oddly enough, the complete story of one of America’s most celebrated women may never be known.

*Taken from the book, “Strange Stories, Amazing Facts of America’s Past” Readers Digest. Copyright 1989 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.