Sacajawea: Her True Story by Joyce Milton is the story of a young Native American girl who helps two famed explorers, Lewis and Clark, navigate the territories of the Northwest as they struggle to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. It’s a story filled with danger and adventure and a tale that will engage students and inspire them to not only reflect on Native American experience, but also challenge their assumptions about United States history.
In the book, young readers learn the true story of Sacajawea and the important role she plays in shaping America. The story is a great lead-in to a discussion about Native American history and experience in America, as well as the complex relationship between Native Americans, explorers like Lewis and Clark, and the people who settled the territories after their expedition. Here a few questions to help young readers reflect on Sacajawea’s experience and her impact on American history:
1. What tribe did Sacajawea belong to? Where did they live? What did they love?
2. Did the Shoshone use guns to hunt? If not, what did they use?
3. What did other tribes steal from the Shoshone?
4. What did Sacajawea hear when she was picking berries? How did this make her feel? How did she react?
5. What happened to Sacajawea after she crossed the river?
After discussion, encourage students to think a bit more deeply about Sacajawea. Independently, or in small groups, ask students to describe Sacajawea using evidence from the text. You may want to provide students with a list or characteristics or attributes like “brave, courageous, etc.” to choose from to get started. Once they complete their descriptions, ask them to think about how Sacajawea influenced America, and using their descriptions, write a short paragraph about her contributions.