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Sacajawea gives a talk at Carson Valley Museum

by Teya Vitu

Sacajawea was just one of the names the Shoshone woman who journeyed with Lewis and Clark carried in her life.

Lewis and Clark called her Janey and she was known as Porivo late in live, some 75 people learned Sunday at the National Women in History Month event at the Carson Valley Museum.

Throughout March, the Carson Valley Historical Society has presented women portraying noteworthy women in American history such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mary McLeod Methune and Emily Dickenson.

Scarselli Elementary School teacher Bonnie Williams portrayed Sacajawea as an old woman recounting her life that took her from North Dakota as far east as St. Louis and to the West Coast.

Williams in the guise of Sacajawea, wearing a blue coat given to her by Chief Red Hair (Clark), welcomed the roomful of visitors to her “home” but immediately cautioned them that her name changed many times in her life and that Sacajawea is “not my name any more.”

The woman who accompanied Lewis (Chief Long Knife) and Clark was first called Grass Child and the Minataree tribe renamed her Sacajawea after killing her mother and abducting her.

A white man named Charbonneau married her and the pair joined up with Lewis and Clark.

“Again I had a new name and a new way of life,” Williams said as Sacajawea. “They called me Janey.”

After the Lewis and Clark journey, Sacajawea settled for a while in St. Louis but Charbonneau went away.

“I kept my white man’s name, Janey, but I had a new life to learn,” she said.

Later, a man who saved her life in illness called her Lost Woman and then when she arrived at a fort, she got her last name: Porivo – her name for this presentation by Williams.

Williams said there is debate on when Sacajawea was born and died. She said she based her Chautauqua presentation on historical fact, Indian lore and Indian tradition.

Sacajawea may not have been as much a guide, as always thought, but Williams believes as a woman with an infant she may have played a critical role in convincing Indian tribes that Lewis and Clark were not a war party.

The Carson Valley Historical Society and the museum each year celebrate women’s history month.

“There have been a lot of women that have gone unsung in history,” said Liz Paul, the society’s publicity chair.

The Carson Valley Museum was especially busy Sunday. Along with the Sacajawea presentation, the East Fork Art Gallery in the museum had a reception for its newest member, Melba Oliver.

Oliver, who lives in Carson City, specializes in watercolors and has several of her works prominently displayed in the gallery.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Oliver said. “It’s like a wonderful birthday party.”