Native American Friends

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12258

Have you heard about women's rights and equal pay? Sacagawea would have something to say about it! She did not get anything for helping Lewis and Clark until the year 2000!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Who is pictured on the above U.S. coin, valued at $1?
  • What makes this person so special?

Throughout this series, The Louisiana Purchase, you have learned how Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the United States, and about the team who was sent to survey the newly-acquired land.

Take a few minutes to review what you have learned by completing the following true or false quiz.

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The quiz should have helped you to review the key aspects of the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. If you were uncertain about the answers to any questions, make sure to go back and review the previous Related Lessons in our The Louisiana Purchase series, found in the right-hand sidebar, before continuing.

In this lesson, you will learn more about the Lewis and Clark expedition by studying the Native Americans who helped Lewis and Clark along their journey.

You will remember from the previous lesson that Lewis and Clark were surveying unexplored territory. This meant no maps of the region existed and they had no idea where they were going.

When Lewis and Clark’s team reached present-day North Dakota, they met a French man named Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife, Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a Shoshone Native-American. They offered to guide the American team for the remainder of their expedition.

This was a major benefit for the American explorers because Sacagawea was familiar with the land and could communicate with the local Native American tribes. Part of the purpose of Lewis and Clark’s expedition was to build positive relationships with the Native Americans.

The Native Americans were more willing to interact with the Americans when they saw Sacagawea was a part of their team. Typically, people are more willing to interact with unfamiliar groups when they see someone that looks like them in the group.

  • Has this ever happened in your life?

Being able to communicate with the Native Americans was crucial for the success of Lewis and Clark’s expedition.

The Americans were in need of horses to continue their journey. The horses they needed could be purchased from the Native Americans, but the Native Americans did not want to work with the American explorers. Some Native American tribes were even very hostile towards Lewis and Clark.

Sacagawea changed the relationship between the Americans and the Native Americans entirely, and they were able to purchase the horses they needed from the Shoshone Native Americans.

Sacagawea helped with more than just translating and communicating. One night, the boat the team was sailing collided with a storm. Before they could be destroyed, Sacagawea managed to save the important journals, documents, and maps the team had been creating about the expedition.

She also helped the team identify new animal and plant life as they explored the land, and let them know which plants could be eaten.

Interestingly, Sacagawea gave birth to a baby boy while on the expedition. She strapped the baby to her back and continued the journey with the men.

At the conclusion of the expedition, Sacagawea returned home with her husband. Her husband was awarded 320 acres of land and $500.33 for his service. Sacagawea received nothing for her work, even though it is unlikely the expedition would have been a success without her.

  • Do you think this is fair?
  • Why do you think the government awarded her husband but not her?

Today, Sacagawea has been recognized on the $1 coin shown at the beginning of the lesson.

  • Do you think this is a good way to finally pay tribute to this important figure?

Move on to the Got It? section to continue learning about the important role Sacagawea played on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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