Bird Woman (Sacajawea) the Guide of Lewis and Clark (Illustrated) - James Willard Schultz - ebook

Bird Woman is James Schultz’s biography of Sacajawea culled from the first-hand accounts of various elderly Native Americans who personally knew her. Schultz weaves together the key events in Sacajawea’s story, from her traumatic childhood and adolescence, being captured and taken away from her home by a raiding party of Minnetaree, to her unhappy marriage to the interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau, through to her life assisting in Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Pacific Northwest.“A dazzling glimpse into a vanished past.” — The New York Times.

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Bird Woman (Sacajawea) the Guide of Lewis and Clark

James Willard Schultz

Published by Klondike Classics, 2018.



Bird Woman (Sacajawea) the Guide of Lewis and Clark: Her Own Story Now First Given to the World by James Willard Schultz. First published in 1918.


Bird Woman (Sacajawea) the Guide of Lewis and Clark (Illustrated) published 2018 by Klondike Classics. All rights reserved.


ISBN:  978-1-387-61295-6.


Cover image: Corps of Discovery meet Chinooks on the Lower Columbia, October 1805 (Charles Marion Russel, c. 1905).

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page


I: Earth Woman and Hugh Monroe

II: Hugh Monroe and the Snake Chief

III: Monroe Starts on his Mission and Meets Sacajewea

IV: Bird Woman’s Story of Her Capture

V: The Escape of Her Companions

VI: Charboneau Win a Wife by Gambling

VII: Earth Woman Begins Her Story

VIII: Bird Woman Meets Lewis and Clark

IX: Up the Big River

X: With Her Own People Again

XI: To the Everywhere-Salt-Water

XII: The Rest of Her Story


Further Reading: James Willard Schultz Collection


I DEDICATE this book to my son, Hart Merriam Schultz, or Ni-tah’-mah-kwi-i (Lone Wolf), as his mother’s people name him. Born near the close of the buffalo days he was, and ever since with his baby hands he began to model statuettes of horses and buffalo and deer and other animals with clay from the river-banks, his one object in life has been to make a name for himself in the world of art. And now, at last, he has furnished the drawings for one of my books, this book. His own grandfather, Black Eagle, was a mighty warrior against the Snakes. What would the old man say, I wonder, if he were alive and could see his grandson so sympathetically picturing incidents in the life of Bird Woman, a daughter of the Snakes?

James Willard Schultz



March 1, 1918.

I: Earth Woman and Hugh Monroe

AWAY back in the 1870’s, fired with boyish zeal for great adventure, I went from New York to Fort Benton, Montana, to see something of life on the buffalo plains. It was my good fortune to fall in at once with the late Joseph Kipp, the most noted Indian trader of the Northwest, and his mother, a full-blood Mandan, and widow of Captain James Kipp, American Fur Company Factor in the Mandan village in 1821, and later. I lived with my new-found friends for many years, and a nomadic life it was. Wherever the buffalo were most plentiful, there we were; some winters living and trading in the lodges of the Blackfeet, and other winters in hastily built but comfortable log trading-posts which we put up here and there. In my way of thinking, it was an ideal life that we led. Wherever we roamed, from Canada south to the Yellowstone, and from the Rockies far eastward upon the plains, we felt that, in common with our Blackfeet people, the country was ours, all ours! No part of it had as yet been ploughed, nor fenced, and Fort Benton, at the head of navigation on the Missouri, was the only settlement upon it. During the busy season, from October until spring, I helped in our trade with the Blackfeet tribes for their buffalo robes and furs. At other times I hunted with my Indian friends, and even, on several occasions, went to war with them against other tribes. It was all great fun, life on the buffalo plains!

The evenings were as full of quiet enjoyment as the days were of exciting adventure. With the setting of the sun came story-telling time, and around the lodge fires, or before the mud-daubed fireplaces in our rude posts, the people gathered to smoke, and eat broiled buffalo tongues, and in turn relate weird tales of the gods, tales of war, and hunting, and of far trails, all the various happenings which made up the history of the past. Were the narrator Mandan or Arickaree, Blackfeet or white man, the conversation was always in the Blackfeet tongue. I soon mastered it, and was then always called upon to contribute my share to the evening entertainments. And thus it was that I got from my almost-mother, Mrs. Kipp, and her equally aged companion, Crow Woman, and from Hugh Monroe, and Black Horn, an old Gros Ventre warrior, some interesting tales about Sacajawea, the heroine — yes, the savior — of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and other tales about the two great leaders and some of their men. But before relating them, I must say a few words about the narrators themselves.

Mrs. James Kipp, Sak’-wi-ah-ki, Earth Woman, was the daughter of Ma-to-to’-pa, Four Bears, one of the Mandan chiefs who welcomed Lewis and Clark to the Mandan villages in 1804, and of whom, in 1832, Catlin wrote so highly. She was born in 1803, and before her marriage to Captain Kipp, in 1821, and afterward, often heard Sacajawea relate tales of her adventure on the long trail to the Western sea, and back. And from her father and mother, and others, she got the story of the coming of the first Long Knives, Lewis and Clark and their men, to the Mandan country, and of their experiences there.

Is-sap-ah’-ki, Crow Woman, was an Arickaree, and was born in the village of that tribe, located on the Missouri, some distance below the Mandan villages. The two tribes were at times united in defense against their enemies, the Sioux, Assiniboines. Crows, and others, and so, from earliest childhood, Is-sap-ah’-ki and Sak’-wi-ah-ki were playmates and firm friends.

Soon after she was married Crow Woman went out on the plains with her man and a small party, on a buffalo hunt. They were attacked by a war party of Crows and all killed, excepting Crow Woman, who was captured by the leader of the Crows and became one of his wives, his slave wife. The Crow never treated her unkindly, but in the many years that followed, her one desire was to return to her own people. When, at last, the opportunity came, she escaped from the Crow camp, only to fall into the hands of a war party of the Kai’-na, a tribe of the Blackfeet, and its leader, Lone Otter, made her his third wife. More years passed, and then, one spring, when the Kai’-na came to Fort Benton to trade. Crow Woman heard Mrs. Kipp speak to her son in the Mandan language, and ran to her, stared at her, and cried in that, to her, almost forgotten tongue: “Oh, who are you? Are you not Ma-to-to’-pa’s daughter?’’

“Yes! Yes! And you — who are you that speaks to me in my own language?”

“I? Why, I am Crow Woman! Your Arickaree friend in the long ago,” she cried. And at that the two embraced and wept tears of joy.

A little later, when Crow Woman had told her her story, Mrs. Kipp asked her if she was contented with her lot.

“I have no children of my own,” she replied, “but I love my almost-daughter, the daughter of a dead wife of Lone Otter. I have raised the child. I love her as though she were my very own. But for her, I would long ago have again tried to escape and return to my people.”

“Your relatives, and mine too, are all dead. But you shall be free. Before the setting of this sun you shall be free, and you shall remain with me so long as we live!” Mrs. Kipp cried. And she went at once to Lone Otter, and bargained with him, and paid him a fabulous price, thirty horses, a gun, ten blankets, and much tobacco, for Crow Woman and his daughter that she loved.

Would that I could have been present at the meeting of those long-parted friends! Their life together, and their love for their adopted daughter were simply ideal. After the buffalo were exterminated, and we settled down at Fort Conrad, the old women and the girl planted a garden by the river each season, and laboriously watered the hills of corn, beans, and squash with buckets which they carried up the steep bank. Beside the garden they built a shelter of boughs to protect them from the sun, and from which to watch their growing crops, and thither I went on hot afternoons, to sit with them and listen to their tales of the long ago. And while they talked they did wonderfully beautiful colored porcupine quill embroidery work on buffalo leather and buffalo robes that remained to us after our trade had vanished. One piece of work that they undertook required two summers to complete it! It was a huge sun, embroidered in all the colors of the rainbow on the flesh side of a fine head and tail buffalo cow robe!

Here, to this garden shelter by the river, also came Hugh Monroe, or Mah-kwi’-i-pwo-ahts, Rising Wolf, to exchange reminiscences with his old-time women friends. And as I sat and listened to them I thanked my stars that I was there, and that I understood the Blackfeet language as well as they did. Monroe could not speak Mandan nor Arickaree; they could not understand English. The Blackfeet was the language common to us all.

Hugh Monroe, or Rising Wolf, as he was best known, was the son of Captain Hugh Monroe, of the English army, and Amélie Monroe, a daughter of the De la Roche family, French émigrés in Canada. He was born in Three Rivers, Province of Quebec, July 9, 1798, and on May 3, 1814, was apprenticed to the Hudson’s Bay Company. In the following spring he arrived at the Company’s post, Mountain Fort, on Bow River, the main fork of the South Saskatchewan River. He was immediately detailed to live with the Pi-kun’-i, the so-called Piegan tribe of the Blackfeet confederacy, and a few days later went south with it for the winter. He was the first white man to see the great plains and mountains that lie between the upper reaches of the Saskatchewan and the Missouri rivers. He soon married a daughter of Lone Walker, head chief of the tribe, by whom he had a fine family of stalwart sons and daughters. Not long after his marriage he severed his connections with the Hudson’s Bay Company, became a “free trapper,” and lived for the most of the time with his chosen people, the Pi-kun’-i, to the time of his death, in 1896. He was a man of high character, and was loved by all who knew him.

Earth Woman, Crow Woman, and Rising Wolf, what wonderful changes they witnessed as they grew from youth to old age! They saw the very beginning of the great fur trade in the Northwest, and its end with the extinction of the buffalo, and the near-extermination of the beaver! They saw the keel boats and the batteaux of the early traders give way to powerful “fire boats” on the Saskatchewan and the Missouri, and these in turn superseded by railways that brought hordes of settlers to the broad plains!

Perhaps the crowning event of their long lives was a trip by rail to Great Falls after it had become a city. I there talked with them over the telephone, and they marveled! In the evening I gave them a ride on the electric cars, and finally took them to the power house; there they saw red-blue-green flashes of electricity playing about the dynamos, and were completely overcome with astonishment!

“I am sick, heartsick!” Earth Woman exclaimed after we had gone out. “All my life I have prayed to the gods, as my father and mother taught me to do. And now, this night, I have seen with my own eyes that white men, and not Thunder Bird, are makers of the lightning. Perhaps there is no Thunder Bird! Perhaps there are no gods! The sun himself, maybe he is nothing but a ball of fire, by white men set rolling across the sky to make the days!”

“Hush! sister, hush!” Crow Woman told her.

“Doubt not! What if the white men do make lightning? That has nothing to do with us —with our beliefs! Our ancient ones saw Thunder Bird! — heard him thunder as he arose in flight, saw his lightning flashes. Thunder Bird lives! So do all our gods! Take courage! Keep strong your faith in them!”

The next morning Earth Woman was herself again: she had prayed to the gods, made sacrifices to them, and her doubts and fears had vanished. After breakfast we all stood upon an upper piazza of the hotel and looked down upon the city and the near-by river. Crow Woman pointed across it to the mouth of Sun River and said: “Just above the place where the two rivers join, just a little way up the smaller stream, is where the Kai’-na captured me!”

“Ai! And here, just about where this sleeping and eating house stands, I onced saved Jim Bridger and his band of trappers from being attacked and killed by a war party of five hundred North Blackfeet! I often ran buffalo where are now all these houses!” said Rising Wolf.

“Right out there, to the still water just above the falls, came Sacajawea with the first Long Knives,” said Earth Woman. “For days and days, so she told me, they rolled their boats on log wheels up the long trail from below the lower falls to this point, and launching them, went on up the river. I know just how the Snake woman felt; how anxious she was to go on, hoping that, at the head of the river or on the other slope of the mountains, she would meet her people. Day and night she prayed the gods, made sacrifices to them, to guide her to them!”

“Ai! And she did meet them! And induced them to be friends with the Long Knives!” Rising Wolf exclaimed. “But for her there would have been a gathering of the Snake tribes to kill off the white men, and they would have been killed, every one of them. I know! But I have told you the story of it, as the Snake chief told it to me in the long ago.”

Well, they are gone. Rising Wolf, Earth Woman, Crow Woman, and a host of other friends in the old buffalo days! Did they find the Shadow Land, I wonder, and their shadow people, living in shadow lodges, and on shadow horses running shadow buffalo?

Glad I am that I knew them, gentle, honest, generous friends that they were! And glad I am that through them I am able to add something to our knowledge of Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark and their men.

And now, to turn on the light, let us begin with Rising Wolf’s story of Bird Woman.

II: Hugh Monroe and the Snake Chief

IN the summer of 1816, my second year on the plains, I again went south from Mountain Fort with the Pi-kun’-i. We moved leisurely from stream to stream along the foot of the Rockies, trapping beavers, and winter struck us when camped on Sun River.

After about a foot of snow had fallen, and there was little danger of war parties being abroad, my almost-brother, Red Crow, and I obtained permission from his father, Chief Lone Walker, to go south to Deep Creek on a trapping expedition. One of the chief’s wives, Rattle Woman, and his daughter, Mink Woman, a girl of about fourteen winters, went with us to keep our lodge in shape and to flesh and dry the skins of the beavers that we should catch. We made camp on the creek, at the foot of the mountains, and were there surprised by a number of Snake Indians suddenly entering our lodge. They came, they said, from the camp of their people, on the next stream to the west. They had seen us make camp, knew that we were Blackfeet, and their chief, Black Lance, begged us to take pity upon him and his children. They were all very poor, very hungry. Would we not aid them in making peace with the Blackfeet, and in obtaining permission for them to remain on the Blackfeet plains during the winter and kill what Blackfeet buffalo they needed?

We agreed to do what they asked, and the next day Red Crow went with the peace messengers to his father, a council was held, and peace was made between the two tribes, it being agreed that the Snakes should camp beside the Pi-kun’-i, and kill all the game that they needed. They were not, however, to trap beavers or other fur animals.

Peace being declared, I became quite friendly with Black Lance, the Snake chief. I was very anxious to learn if there were any opposition traders in his country; so, on the first evening that I visited him, the evening following the departure of his peace messengers, with Red Crow, for the camp on Sun River, I signed to him: “You say that you are friendly to white men. Tell me about those that you know, and where they camp?” I must explain that all our talk was in the sign language.

“We know but few,” he answered. “Far to the south, we have met a few white men that are not white. They are almost as red-skinned as we are, and their hair is black. They have many horses and mules; plenty of guns; plenty of long, sharp-pointed lances. They wear shirts of woven iron which no arrows nor lances will pierce. They will not sell us guns, and so we raid their herds and take their guns whenever that is possible. But we are very poor. In our whole tribe there are only twenty guns, and they are useless, as we have no food for them.

“We know a few real white men: Two chiefs, Long Knife and Red Hair, and their thirty followers, one of whom is a black white man. I do not lie to you. Truly, his skin is as black as a coal, and his short hair is black and curls tightly to his head! Strange are the ways of the gods! They caused one of our women, a woman we had given up for dead, to bring these white men to us. I must tell you all about it.”

Here the chief made the sign for a name: the fingers of the right hand tightly closed, thumb extended, and placed against the forehead, the hand then raised upward and outward with a graceful sweep. He then made the sign for grass: right hand held out, palm up, fingers and thumb separated and turned up, and then the hand moved from left to right in front of the body. Next, he made the sign for woman: fingers of both hands touching on top of the head, and then the hands parting and moving downward on each side of the head, meaning parted hair. What he signed, then, was, “Name, Grass Woman.” And as he made the signs he said, orally, three times, “Bo-i’-naiv! Bo-i’-naiv! Bo-i’-naiv!” And then signed on — “Did you ever hear of her?”

“No! I know nothing about her,” I answered. But right then I knew that the white men were Lewis and Clark and their men. And I was to learn all about them, and how a Snake woman, named Grass Woman, had brought them to her people. I was more than impatient for him to begin the story. He expressed great surprise that I had never heard of her, and then went on: —

“Yes, that was her name, Grass Woman. Later we called her Lost Woman, and still later, after the great happening, we named her Water-White-Men Woman.” He paused, thought intently for a moment or two, and continued:” I will both make the signs for the three names, and speak them. Repeat them after me.”

In signs: “Grass Woman.” Orally: “Bo-i’-naiv.”

In signs: “Lost Woman.’’ Orally: “Wad-zi-wip’.”

In signs: “Water-White-Men Woman.” Orally: “Bah-rai’-bo!”

Over and over I repeated the words after him: “Bo-i’-naiv! Wad-zi-wip’! Bah-rai’-bo!” And then again signed: “No, I have never heard of her!”

“You shall know all!” he signed.

“It was twenty winters back. We were camped in our own country, on the other side of the mountains. Elk and deer became very few, and we began to starve; we grew very thin. Summer came and still we starved; so our chiefs decided that we must go out upon the buffalo plains of the Blackfeet or die where we were from hunger. We should probably, they said, be killed off by the Blackfeet, but it was better to die with a full belly, and quickly, than to die slowly from want of food.

“We packed up and crossed the summit of the great mountains, descended the North Fork of the Big-River-of-the-Plains1, and made camp just

1.The Jefferson, northernmost of the three forks of the Missouri.

above its junction with the two other forks of the stream. There we came upon some buffalo, killed a number of them, and feasted. Three mornings later, when most of our men were scattered out on the hunt, a large war party was discovered coming up the valley, and the women and children, and what few men there were in camp, fled before it. Many of them scattered out in the brush and hid themselves and were not discovered. Others, crazed with fear, ran on and on up the trail in the valley, and the enemy, pursuing them, killed four men, four women, and seven youths, and captured four boys and five girls. Then, rounding up a large herd of our horses, they rode off down the valley. In time all the boys and all but three of the girls escaped from their captors, and then we learned that the enemy had not been Blackfeet, as we thought, but had come from one of the villages of the Earth House people. They live far down in the valley of the Big-River-of-the-Plains, at the eastern edge of the country of the Blackfeet.

“Our people mourned a long time for their dead. The mother of Grass Woman, one of the girls who were captured and did not return, lost also her man in the fight. There remained to her two sons and one daughter, but the mother grieved for her lost man and daughter, and soon died from mourning for them.

“The summers came and went. War parties of Blackfeet and of the Earth House people often came into our country, fought us, and ran off herds of our horses. We were always hungry in our country; often we starved there. When we could, when winters came and we were not likely to be discovered, we would come out here, where we are now, and hunt buffalo, and live well. It was eleven summers back that the sky gods became angry and allowed no rain to fall upon our country, not even one little rain. We prayed to them, made sacrifices to them, but still they withheld the rain. So it was that the berry bushes were barren that summer, and the dry earth produced but a few small roots. There was no grass for our horses except in a few damp places. Game winter again, and what few deer and elk there were, left our country. We could not tell what way they went; we moved south, found a few bands of them, and during the winter killed them all. When summer came again we were very weak, and some of the weakest were dying from starvation. 

“With the first sprouting of the new grass we moved slowly northward, and then to the pass at the head of the North Fork of the Big-River-of-the-Plains. We found no buffalo there, only a few elk and deer, and they were very wild. With only bows and arrows we could kill but few of them. We lived mostly upon roots, and kept looking out toward the plains, well knowing that they were covered with buffalo, but, because of the Black-feet, we were afraid to venture out there. We remained where we were, hoping that in time the buffalo would come up the North Fork.

“Day after day, while we camped there, we kept a man on the trail in the valley of the North Fork, watching for the enemy, and for the hoped-for coming of the buffalo. One morning this watcher discovered three men on foot approaching him. They were strangely dressed. From their appearance he believed them to be white men. From tribes to the west of us we had learned that there were white-skinned men. They had come in big boats on the Everywhere-Salt-Water, to the mouth of our Big River, and had there traded goods, even a few guns, to the tribes who go about in log canoes and who live upon fish.

“The watcher saw that one white man was on the trail, and that away off to each side of him three others skulked along in the brush. The one on the trail waved to him, made peace signs, and he sat on his horse and allowed him to come quite near, near enough for him to see that he really was a white man. But all the time the others were sneaking on through the brush, as though with intent to capture him. Fear overcame him; he turned his horse and fled up the valley, called his family together, and led them off up a branch stream, there to hide until the white men should have disappeared. He did not come over the pass to us, as he should have done.

“Two days later, down on our side of the pass, one of our men and his women, out digging roots, discovered the four white men and hurried to our camp with the news. The white men kept on down the trail, and suddenly came upon two women and a girl who were digging roots. The young woman fled from them. The two others could not run; they just sat where they were, expecting to be struck on the head and killed. But no! The lead white man came up to them, took the old woman by the hands, raised her to her feet, and signed to her that he was of white skin and meant her no harm. He at once gave her presents; wonderful presents, the like of which had never been seen by our people. Most wonderful of all was a flat, smooth square of ice-rock in which she could see her face. She looked into it, saw her old, wrinkled cheeks, her sunken eyes, the worn-down teeth in her jaws, and sank to the ground in horror of herself. But again the white man raised her up, gave her other presents, beads, awls, and paint, and she forgot her fears, and called to the young woman to return. When she came the white man gave her presents, too, and then painted the cheeks of the women and the little girl with red paint,, very bright red paint. One of the men with this chief was half white, half Indian, and a good sign-talker. He signed to the women, and asked them to lead the way to their camp. They signed back that they would do so and started off down the trail.

“Now, when the man digging roots with his women discovered the four strangers, he rode as fast as he could down to our camp and cried out that enemies were coming. We at once mounted our horses, and following our chief, Black Bow, hurried up the trail to meet them and kill them off. But what was our surprise, as we neared them, to see that they were different from our enemies of the plains. They wore different clothing; one of them carried a beautiful red, white, and blue peace-waver tied to a long stick. We rode still closer to them and saw that their skins were white! Our women with them cried out that they were good men, and held up before us the presents they had received. We all dismounted, and, after our chief, in turn embraced the white men. We then gathered in a circle, took off our moccasins, and smoked, and talked with the newcomers in the sign language, and they explained that they had come from far east; that their great white chief had sent them to find a trail through the mountains to the shore of the Everywhere-Salt-Water, and to make peace with all the tribes along the way, and to get them to make peace with one another.

“After three pipes were smoked, the white chief, he whom we afterward called Red Hair, gave us presents, handing Black Bow also the peace-waver, and said that, as the day was hot, and there was no water where we were, he would like us to take him and his men to our camp. We at once sent some young men ahead to fix up for them the one real lodge that we had, and then took the trail with the strangers. We arrived in camp some time before sunset, and Black Bow took the strangers to the lodge and told them that it was their lodge. After they had rested for a time, we held another council with them, and they then told us that more of their kind were coming up the Big-River-of-the-Plains in boats, and that with them was a woman of our tribe who had long ago been captured by our enemy, the Earth House people. They asked that we take plenty of horses and go to meet the party and pack their property to our camp.

“‘It is a forked tongue that this white chief has,’ said one of our old warriors. ‘I doubt not that there are white men in boats across there on the river, but something tells me that there are with them a multitude of our plains enemies. If we do as we are asked, we go straight to our death!’