Intrepreter for Lewis and Clark Expedition
During the fall of 1800, while the Lemhi Indian tribe was wintering near the three forks of the Missouri River, in what is now Montana, they were attacked by a bank of Minnetaree Indian raiders from the Hidatsa village. Several Shoshoni prisoners were taken, including Sacajawea. Between 1800 and 1804, she and one other Shoshoni captive were purchased by Toussaint Charbonneau was well established on the upper Missouri at the time Lewis and Clark arrived there on October 16, 1804.
Trousaint Charbonneau was a French-Canadian fur trader that had won Sacagawea in a game of chance with the Mandan Indians. He knew that Sacagawea was critical to dealing with the Shoshones when the expedition reached the mountains. And without Charbonneau, no Sacagawea. So, on March 11, when the captains sat down with him to make a contract, it was Charbonneau who took the high ground and tried to dictate the terms of their contract. Lewis and Clark told him that he would have to pitch in and do all the work the enlisted men had to do and would have to stand a regular guard. Charbonneau replied that ?let our situation be what it may he will not agree to work or Stand guard.? There was more: ?If miffed with any man, he wishes to return when he pleases, also have the disposal of as much provisions as he Chuses to Carry.? The captains flatly told him ?NO? and told Charbonneau to move out of the fort, taking his family with him, and they hired Mr. Gravelines as interpreter. Because of her husbands greatly inflated ego, Sacagawea came very close to not being included in the great expedition.
After 4 days of living in the Mandan village, Charbonneau sent a message to the captains via one of the Frenchmen ?to excuse his Simplicity and to take him into cirvise.? Had he come to his senses on his own? Did the Frenchmen tell him what a fool he was, what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he was passing up? Or was it Sacagawea who said that she absolutely had to go see her people and participate in this great adventure? However it happened, Charbonneau was ready to crawl! The captains sent word for him to come to the fort for a discussion. He showed up on March 17. ?We called him in,? Clark reported, ?he agreed to our terms and we agreed that he might go on with us and C & C.?
The roster for the expedition was complete. The permanent party that would be heading west consisted of the 3 squads of enlisted men, each with its sergeant, plus the 2 captains, and 5 persons from outside the military, namely Drouillard, York, Charbonneau, Sacagawea and her infant son Jean Baptiste. So, at the beginning of April 1805, they would be ready to head out, into the unknown, where no white man had ever been before!!