July 10, 2021 The (Relatively) Recent

The Awatixa Xi’e Village, pronounced (Ah-wah-TEE-khah)(Eh) is also known as Sakakawea Village. It was the home of Toussaint Charbonneau and two of his Shoshone wives(?), one known as Sacagawea, in 1804 when the Corps of Discovery overwintered in the area. We spent this afternoon exploring the replica Fort Mandan, the winter 1804-1805 camp of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.The exterior of the triangular fort is unassuming, but very defensive! The original was built in November 1804 in about 4 weeks using the abundant lumber found along the banks of the Missouri river.The interior shows the triangular configuration. Work areas were on the left, like blacksmith and carpenter shops. Storage rooms were at the apex of the triangle. Lodging was in small cabins with stone fireplaces along the right wall.The expedition started out with 27 soldiers, 16 boat crew , 1 slave (York) and 1 French-Indian interpreter. They all participated in hunting and trapping, sewing clothes of leather, cooking, etc. One soldier had died in August, 1804 probably due to appendicitis, the only death of the whole expedition. The soldiers were housed in several cramped quarters like this.Being an Expedition of Discovery, room was made for the equipment to create maps, record encounters with Natives and wildlife and prepare specimens to return to the United States proper.‘Civilians’, the boat crew and interpreter, were housed separately and were joined by Charbonneau and Sacagawea. They were increased by one on the birth of their son, Jean-Baptiste, on February 11, 1805. In April, 1805 some of the contracted boat crew embarked downstream on the Missouri to return to the U.S. with collected specimens and maps. The bulk of the Corps started the arduous trek to the Pacific ocean. Sacagawea and her son were integral members of the expedition now, evidence to hostile Natives that this was not a war party, and interpreters when they encountered Sacagawea’s tribe and family members among the Shoshone. The expedition returned to the area in August of 1806 where Charbonneau and Sacagawea returned to their lives in Awatixa Xi’e Village.

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