Honoring a Shoshone Woman Who Helped Shape America

During a recent trip to Wyoming, we had the opportunity to visit the Wind River Reservation. Situated along Highway 287, this home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapahoe is often visited by those who want to try their luck at the largest casino closest to Yellowstone. However, we stopped here for a different reason.

Off the beaten path, a couple miles from the highway, there’s a quiet cemetery positioned on top of a lonely hill. Driving by it doesn’t appear to be much, but inside lies someone whose name is legendary — Sacajawea.

For those who aren’t familiar — and those who need a refresher — Sacajawea was a member of the Shoshone tribe who helped guide the explorers Lewis and Clark on their expedition west. She helped them establish relationships with the indigenous tribes they encountered in the Louisiana Purchase territory, which was credited as an integral part of their success. Lewis and Clark even named a river after her in what is now Montana.

At the cemetery near Fort Washakie, Wyoming, there’s a statue erected in her honor. In this likeness, Sacagawea holds up a sand dollar like the one she presented to Chief Washakie of the Shoshone following her trip to the Pacific. (Of course, it also reminded us of the gold coin that now bears her likeness.)

People leave flowers and trinkets at the base of the statue in her memory. It’s obvious that she still holds a special place in the hearts of the Shoshone people.

Nearby, you can also see the headstone of Sacajawea and her son. The headstone stands out as taller than the rest, located near a small cabin. On the day we were here, the grass and weeds seemed especially long, so rattlesnakes were a concern. We decided to stick to the statue and not trek to see the grave. However, just taking the time to stop and remember this courageous woman was very special, and we were glad we did it.

If you’re driving on Highway 287 on your journey to Yellowstone, be sure to pay a visit. At Fort Washakie, turn left at the Sinclair gas station. Follow the road for about a half mile. When you get to the fork in the road, keep left. After about a quarter of a mile, the road will bend to the right. Keep following the road. Drive about a mile, and you’ll see the cemetery up on the hill on your left. It’s surrounded by tall flag poles. You’ll technically turn left on Cemetery Lane to get there, but the street sign has lost it’s lettering. So keep an eye out for the flagpoles on the hill to help guide you. Once up on the hill, you’ll be able to easily park near the Sacagawea statue.

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