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By Patrick Springer, Published January 09 2005

Spelling of Sakakawea's name still disputed

One of the many disagreements about the young American Indian woman who traveled with Lewis and Clark is surprisingly basic - the correct spelling of her name.

In the Lewis and Clark journals, and in most contemporary historical accounts of the 1804-06 expedition, her name is spelled Sacagawea - or approximations of that version, given the creative spelling of the time.

In the journals, she is referred to by name perhaps two dozen times but referenced more than 100 times, according to Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa woman from New Town, N.D., who portrays her at events and occasions, including official Lewis and Clark bicentennial com-memorations.

On May 20, 1805, Meriwether Lewis refers to her by name for the first time in the journals, to record that the captains named a tributary in her honor: "This stream we called Sâh-câ-ger we-âh (Sah ca gah we a) or bird woman's River." Today the stream in Montana is known as Crooked Creek.

But in North Dakota, she is known as Sakakawea. The spelling adopts the transliteration of Hidatsa, originally a spoken but not a written language, of "Bird Woman" in an ethnography, or written exploration of a culture, printed by the U.S. government in 1877.

Hence, North Dakota boasts Lake Sakakawea and Lake Sakakawea State Park, as well as a statue on the Capitol grounds dedicated to Sakakawea's memory.

Sakakawea also is the spelling preferred by the Three Affiliated Tribes - the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The Forum's style manual also uses Sakakawea as the preferred spelling.

Sacagawea is the spelling for a Shoshone word meaning "boat launcher." Sometimes, that spelling is rendered as Sakajewea, although that spelling appears to be declining.

As a girl, Sakakawea was taken captive by a Hidatsa raiding party near Three Forks, Mont. Historians believe she was probably born a Shoshone in the Rocky Mountains in what is today Idaho, circa 1787.