Native History: Sacajawea Gives Birth to Young Explorer Pompey
Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trapper, had been hired to act as an interpreter but only if he brought his young wife, Sacajawea. She had been captured by a Hidatsa war party in 1800 and taken to their villages where she was later sold to Charbonneau as a slave who later took her as a wife.
The expedition anticipated they would need horses from the Shoshone to cross from Montana over the Continental Divide and felt Sacajawea’s help as an interpreter with the Shoshone would be greatly beneficial. That turned out to be true but the addition of a woman and a small child proved beneficial throughout their travels by helping convince various tribes the group’s intentions were peaceful as a war party would not be accompanied by a woman and baby.
The child suffered some typical illnesses during the trip but only one of a serious nature, despite times of little food and extreme cold. On the return trip in the spring of 1806, when the expedition was delayed with the Nez Perce until weather moderated and allowed them to cross over the Bitterroot Mountains, young Pomp was quite sick for two and a half weeks. It may have been mumps or tonsillitis although no one knows for sure. He was treated with “poultices of wild onions and a plaster of sarve (salve) of the rozen (resin) of the long leaf pine. Beaswax and bears oil mixed,” according to the journals.
Captain Clark became particularly fond of young Pomp. One unusual sandstone formation along the Yellowstone River in Montana was named “Pompeys Pillar” by Clark in recognition of the little boy. Clark etched his name in the sandstone and that still remains as the only physical evidence still remaining of the expedition.
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