pages fly away 21

The Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming is shared by two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone, and the Northern Arapahoe.  At around two million square acres it is the seventh largest reservation in the US by size, and the fifth largest by population.  It was established at the Bridger Treaty Council in 1868.

The goal that day was to drive through the Wind River Reservation and visit the grave of Sacagewa, the Shoshone Indian woman who had joined the Lewis and Clark expedition with her husband and played an important role in their success.  My phone service was still out, so I’d have to go old-school with the Atlas.  The directions seemed simple enough.  It was just a two-hour drive to get there.

Along the way, I pulled over at the National Bighorn Center, only stopping out front to take a picture of a statue of a bighorn sheep with a blue bandana around its neck.  There was so much I was seeing, and still wanted to see, that there was barely time and space in my mind to process it all.  My brain was crackling with fatigue, but still surging forward, already anticipating how much further I could make it that day.

When I got to Fort Washakie, there was an arrow that pointed towards the grave of Sacagewa.  When I followed it, however, I only got as far as the grave of Chief Washakie.  Chief Washakie, who lived between 1810 and 1900 was one of the greatest Indian leaders, not only in Shoshone, but in American history.  He was inducted into the Western Heritage Museum in 1979, and even has a statue in the National Statuary Section of the Capitol in Washington, DC.

He was first named Smells of Sugar, but later changed that to Shoots the Buffalo Running, and was also known as Gourd Rattle, due to his success as a gambler, rolling stones from a gourd.  He proved to be a great warrior during intertribal warfare, and later helped lead the army of General George Crook to victory over the Sioux.  Doing so, he became the first Native American chief to have a military outpost named after him and be buried with full military honors.  One of the legends attributed to him is that of defeating his Crow enemy, Chief Big Robber, and returning with his heart skewered on his spear.

I looked for some sign of Sacagewa in the cemetery where Washakie is interred but could find no mention of her.  Without Google Maps, I was lost.  I had to go back into town and ask a woman at the gas station how to get there.  I’d been on the right road.  I just needed to travel further.

Sacagawea has become a heroine of Western lore, due to her involvement in the Lewis and Clark expedition, where she and her husband acted as guides and interpreters.  At one point, they met a band of Shoshones, and the chief was her brother.  She was able to use that influence to trade for horses.  Sacagewa was pregnant and gave birth during the journey, and from what I understand, just having a woman and child traveling with the party signified that their intentions were peaceful. 

There are two stories on what became of Sacagewa.  The first is that she died in her mid-twenties giving birth.  The second is that she returned to her homeland and married a Commanche, eventually living to be one hundred.

The cemetery was worth searching for and finding.  Colorful wooden crosses, marking the graves of other tribe members surrounded hers.  Flowers adorned many of them.  The statue of Sacagewa made her look like a Native Madonna, barefoot, with a flowing dress to her knees.  Someone had placed a string of shells around her neck and ankle.  The pedestal she stood on had three roses painted on the front of it, and stones and pinecones had been scattered around her feet.

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