We are on an amazing exploration – a journey to finally give credit to a brave woman. Like the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it is a literal Journey of Discovery…
But it can also be described metaphorically with its harrowing ups and downs. The snow-capped mountain peaks and deep, narrow valleys – the dangerous and unpredictable waterways and thunderous, life-threatening weather. It is a tenuous trek as we make our way.
But, we are undaunted, connecting to the right “guides,” the right timing and taking the leaps of “Faith” that send our sunbeams over the highest mountaintops.
This is a journey of intense determination as we have set our compass on a cinematic course – a path to share this story through film with the world.
Sometimes it is hard, but we have never lost sight of the prize. And, those of you who encourage us, support us and keep us going are vital to our success. We thank you!
So, what about this Windcatcher, Sacajawea? Who would have ever believed, or predicted, that a girl of 16 years old would be so loved today by people around the globe?
Yes, the backdrop is Lewis and Clark, but have you ever thought about what would possess two young captains to actually agree to bring a baby and his mother into unknown territory? (“Unknown” to them, but not to her.) And, if they had not brought them, would the soldiers have been killed along the way? Would they have convinced the Shoshoni to give them horses for the trek over the mountains? Would they have had the same joyful morale without that “little dancing boy” to delight them? I think not.
This is an important story for us all. We are hopeful that in this new year, 2022, we will rise above the wind and finally reach the Great Water.
Scene from Sacajawea, The Windcatcher After a harrowing trek, near-starvation and dangerous conditions, the explorers finally make it across the treacherous mountains led by Old Toby, the Shoshoni guide. Their clothes are rotting off their backs – their moccasins worn through, and the lack of food and water has made them weak and vulnerable. But then, their guide sees the crooked tree trunk, affirming the trail. He points ahead… and they continue to trudge onward on a worn path through the trees until they arrive at an abandoned Indian village.
Sacajawea and the men are exhausted, the baby is hungry and crying. A large pack of wild dogs yelp and run around them, pulling at their clothes, sniffing the packs…
Then, without warning, a band of Nez Perce warriors with spears raised, rush the group, threatening to kill them, grabbing for their guns – intensity rises. But, an elder woman of the tribe, Watkuweis, a shaman, comes forward, wielding authority…. She protects the explorers, rattling the animal sculls on her staff and singing a high-pitched trill.
In that moment, not only does the woman see Sacajawea with her eyes – she also sees her heart through a greater vision. Watkuweis touches Sacajawea’s chest and says, “Your spirit is weak…”
We know something about Sacajawea and her people, through her respect for her elders – both for her chief, Cameahwait, and the shaman. As the story goes, Sacajawea had just faced a devastating disappointment and loss that forced her to arrive at this place.
But the shaman already knew Sacajawea was coming, and she had a prophesy for her that would change her life. Though it was cryptic and seemed filled with the unknown in this moment – by the end of the story, the one thing Sacajawea cherished the most, would be protected by it.
Being shown the vision of her own hurting spirit gave Sacajawea determination, as Watkuweis told her, “Your hurt will lead you to another.” The elder woman saw far beyond where Sacajawea was in that moment – and Sacajawea honored the elder by trusting her wisdom without hesitation, despite the darkness of her circumstances.
What would life be like without the darkness? The darkness gives us depth perception, choice and opportunity. Without darkness, we could not, nor would not, appreciate the light. Be thankful and grateful in all things.
And keep walking…*
These words came from our journey to tell the story of Sacajawea. The depth of her sorrow, the sadness and disappointment formed a great lesson for each of us. She saw through transparent vision, because of her respect for her elders, to carry-on, to be more than what she felt, to look past what her immediate situation was showing her. Therefore, we remember this young Shoshoni girl, and it is one reason we believe, and know, her story WILL be shared, in the perfect timing, with the entire world.
*From the book, “Awakening” the lessons learned from Sacajawea and our journey.
This journey we travel is, without a doubt, the most amazing yet cantankerous trail we’ve ever experienced. It is a mixture of harsh reality in a literal world and a spirituality that truly blows us away at every turn. We are honored to be a part of this mosaic – and feel we are just a piece of the puzzle that once put together, will be so flowing with wisdom and power that each of us who touch this woman’s life, will never be the same.
One of the motivations of this project is the commitment to get it right. To bring to life native culture and characters, authentic words and actions that depict the indigenous people of that time period in the most believable and accurate way. And, more importantly, to beautifully present the “person” of Sacajawea so we deeply connect to who she was, how she lived, and what she felt — yes, a human being we all will want to love and remember.
The most vital and inspiring purpose of this Sacajawea project is to lift up and honor the proud heritage that flows through the blood of Native people. And, to recognize it by selecting Native Americans to be a part of the production team in key positions, including producers, actors and crew. The opportunities are astounding for Native film professionals, not just through the feature film, Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, but also the other productions associated with the film.
Through this project and our invaluable Vision Quest Film Internship program, we intend to give inspiration to the next generation of magic makers. We encourage native women to get involved in their dreams, especially if their dreams are in film. In addition, young men will have the opportunity to explore aspects of the movie industry and further their careers.
With Sacajawea as our focal point, we respect and honor women of Native cultures who are considered givers-of-life, healers, visionaries, and they are the vessels that carry history forward so the stories are told. Sacajawea, a Warrior Woman, certainly fits this description, for her contributions were many as a mother and a friend; interpreter and a guide. Her hands and handiwork are woven perfectly into the fabric of life even today, and we are eager to bring this mentor and role model to the spotlight for all to know!
“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.”
~ Black Elk
Thoughts from the Story of Sacajawea —
It is February 11,1805. The biting wind rattles the shutters of the room at Fort Mandan. Outside, a full moon shimmers off the icy backs of buffalo, and a wolf stretches his neck out to howl across the frozen river.
It is a frigid night, yet a night that changes everything … for a newborn babe is born at Fort Mandan. Sacajawea, only 16 years old, through a difficult and painful birth, delivers her first child, a son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (Pomp). The explorers don’t realize it, but that night miraculously “shifts” the energy of the entire expedition. That night the “Universe” calls each of them to a new, higher purpose, through a brilliant Light – a child with unlimited possibilities.
At the time, the explorers and Sacajawea, did not know their position in the matrix of history. In fact, Captain Lewis had his doubts about taking a baby on that harrowing trek. None of the men understood the child’s importance for future generations. But, through the experience, each of the men were “called” to this unique moment in time, to help nurture the first-year of a child’s life. Indeed, it was a journey of discovery in more ways than one.
They watched him smile and laugh for the first time, they watched him crawl and walk and begin to eat on his own, and talk. They worried for his safety and some nearly gave their lives for his life. York, 6’4” African American slave, sang to him and carried him high above his head around the camp fire. Captain Clark loved him so much he nicknamed him “Pomp,” and called him his “little dancing boy.” They all cheered when he took his first step after a particularly stressful day on the trail.
The foundation of a human being’s journey begins in the first year of life. Like a sponge they soak up every light and dark moment. Sacajawea and 31 men gave this little boy his beginning, and the expedition was far more enriched and powerful because of the child. Children are brought into our lives not only for us to teach them, but for them to teach us how to remember our spiritual selves – the ultimate calling. In Sacajawea’s story, it is Pomp who helps his mother deliver the prayer at the Great Water – a message to all people of the world.
After the expedition, Captain Clark did not forget about Pomp. When he was nine years old, the captain became his benefactor and gave him an education. The young man grew up and traveled to Europe, where he learned five languages and danced with queens.
Ultimately, Pomp became an explorer and an interpreter, known as a “storyteller” around the campfires of the old west. And what incredible stories he had to tell! No one knows what his life would have been like, if he had not been a part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. But, indeed, he was richly blessed with a unique and magnificent “first-year” journey of a lifetime.
When Sacajawea was a little girl, she was kidnapped, abused and heartsick. She had to live with people she didn’t know. Yet the Great Spirit was showing her something, for her heart was known…
What Sacajawea felt and saw, and what she chose to do helped her become the person she needed to be. For she was given a unique and magnificent purpose that transcended her lifetime.
What we do on this earth is only part of what we bring to generations. The body is merely temporal – our energy, our spirit, our vibration lasts an eternity.
Sacajawea has continued her journey for over 200 years. She still walks toward her purpose through the hearts of those who are open to learn and to listen. The days we breathe are the days we learn, and the revelations we awaken to, are what we bring to eternity. That is what ignites love in the world.
It is Sacajawea’s destiny to stoke the fire through her story and her light. It is our destiny, too.
“The language of the People makes my heart soar like a hawk.”
~ Chief Dan George
SACAJAWEA, The Windcatcher, gives us a unique opportunity to share with the world important languages that deserve to be protected and preserved.
Many Indigenous cultural dialects depicted in the Sacajawea story, have never been heard by most modern day people. The languages include: Shoshoni, Hidatsa, Mandan, Blackfeet, Nez Perce, Flathead, Snake and Clatsop.
As Lewis and Clark history records, one of the most moving encounters was when the captains needed horses from the Shoshoni to traverse the mountains. Sacajawea’s language proficiency was why she was on the expedition. They interpreted from Shoshoni (Sacajawea) to Hidatsa (Charbonneau, Sacajawea’s husband) to French (Private Labiche) to English. This exchange will create a powerful and meaningful scene in this majestic film.
Along with Sacajawea’s knowledge of Shoshoni and Hidatsa, we will show how she gradually learned English to help communicate throughout the story.
Other interpreters on the expedition included corps members: Private Labiche and George Drouillard, and a French fur trapper, Rene Jessaume. All these men were proficient in sign language and spoke English and French.
We will strive to present these languages creatively, using the universal sign language familiar at the time – to bridge the gap between understanding. Dialogue will be subtitled so we actually hear the words of the People in their own language, allowing the audience to participate more authentically in this emotional, epic adventure.
Soon, we will be sharing new members of our team who will help to bring our passion for authenticity through language to the world! Think of that, the WORLD will hear the words of Indigenous people from 1805, and a new awakening will begin!
The producers of Sacajawea, TheWindcatcher, an International feature film project about the life of Sacajawea, are proud to welcome Jhane Myers, award-winning producer and actor for the character of “Otter Woman.”
Jhane (Comanche/ Blackfeet) has garnered awards as a filmmaker, producer, actor, Native adviser and an artist of traditional jewelry and regalia. She was selected as one of the featured fine artists for the first ever Comanche Fine Artist calendar for 2016. She is a noted fourth generation dressmaker, third generation doll maker, beadworker and traditional regalia designer. She has worked in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, D.C and NYC, the Wheelwright Museum, the Indian Craft Shop D.C., the Autry Museum, Comanche Visitors Center and the Blackfeet Heritage Center. She was also a Community Curator to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian’s popular exhibition and book “Identity by Design.”
Otter Woman was a significant character in Sacajawea’s story. She was the older Shoshoni wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, the fur trapper who traded a gun for Sacajawea. She did not trust the white men, and she did not want the young mother to go with them.
“The relationship between Otter Woman and Sacajawea evolved through our story to be more like a mother and daughter. Jhane Myers is perfect for this role. As an Indigenous woman, a mother, who has worked in film for many years through acting and as a liaison for the tribes, she is invaluable to the production and we are so grateful to have her as Otter Woman.”
~ Jane L. Fitzpatrick
Jhane made history as the founding executive director of the American Indian National Center for Television and Film. The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) formed the Center in Los Angeles, CA, with network partners Disney/ABC, CBS, NBC/Universal and FOX to increase the representation and visibility of American Indian talent in all aspects of the entertainment industry. She made her acting debut in an indie film called Bare (2015). Continuing in film she enjoyed being an associate producer on the PBS documentary La Donna Harris: Indian 101 (2014).
Hailing from the Penetuckah (sugar eater) and Yaparucah (root eater) bands of the Comanche Nation and Blackfeet American Indians, Jhane is dedicated to authentic Indigenous film producing, Native languages, Native cultural advising, acting and fine art. Jhane is a Sundance/ Time Warner Storyteller Fellow (2018) and Producer Fellow for (2017). She is known for the Comanche linguistics and culture in Monsters of God (2017), and Comanche linguistics in Magnificent 7 (2016). Multitalented and articulate, Jhane brought her cultural sense of self and Native community to public relations engagements for the film, Wind River (2017) and for her work as supervising producer of N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear (2019) for the American Masters Series, and as associate producer for the feature documentary, Defending the Fire (2017). Jhane can also be seen on camera in the TV series Native America,New World Rising (2018) and in the Sundance short film Over the Bridge (2016). She has also served as publisher and editor-in-chief of Oklahoma Casinos & Entertainment magazine, a motion picture publicist, directed her own public relations agency, Jhane Myers & Associates, and she has worked as a publicist to Mel Gibson on Apocalypto, which included organizing the premier at The Riverwind Casino in Oklahoma.
The entire production team for the Sacajawea film welcomes Jhane Myers to the project. They believe she will bring vital authenticity to the character of Otter Woman and as a producer on the project, she will also speak to accuracy and the critical Native American elements Sacajawea’s story deserves.
Journals help us remember experiences, hopes and dreams that form and shape us. For Ages, journaling has been a part of most cultures and traditions. In 1805-06, words written into journals chronicled the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which gave us a unique understanding of what happened on that journey.
As Sacajawea traveled with the Corps of Discovery, the captains and several other explorers wrote about her in their journals. One powerful entry gives us a snapshot of Sacajawea’s determination. But, to appreciate the grandness of this entry, we have to remember Sacajawea was a slave, she was a kidnapped, Native young woman living at a time when men dominated. So, for these men to actually write about her was astounding. But, for her to feel she could voice her opinion showed her incredible inner strength and character.
In this entry, Sacajawea had not seen the Great Water, and she wanted to so badly. She knew they would be returning east soon. So when the captains said they were going to the ocean to see a whale that had washed ashore, instead of being silent, Sacajawea stood up for herself. Here is the account from Captain Lewis’ journal written January 6, 1806:
“[T]he Indian woman was very impo[r]tunate to be permited to go [to the ocean], and was therefore indulged; she observed that she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it very hard she could not be permitted to see either.”
From these and other words, written over 200 years ago, we formed the character of Sacajawea for the feature film, Sacajawea, The Windcatcher. Now is your opportunity to chronicle your own life events, your ideas and your dreams. This beautifully bound, reasonably-priced journal would be a most meaningful Christmas gift for a young person just starting their quest or an older person writing their memories.
Captain William Clark wrote this to Sacajawea’s husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, in 1806:
“[Y]our woman who accompanied you that long dangerousand fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocian and back diserveda greater reward for her attention and services onthat rout than we had in our power to give her…”
People of America, we have in our power today to give Sacajawea the acknowledgement and reward she deserves.
I am so very proud and humbled to welcome Leo T. Ariwite, to the Sacajawea production team as Associate Producer. Leo has been on the production for many years as an adviser. He has given us a powerful endorsement that we have cherished for over seven years. Up until now, his quote has only been shared confidentially, but as our Shoshoni liaison, Leo has given us permission to now share it with the world (read it below).
With the telling of her story,Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, we wish to illuminate her quest, and the quest of her People, the Agai’dika Shoshoni.
The “heart” of this production is the spirit of Sacajawea and her love for her People. This journey transcends time and space. It is mesmerizing and astonishing how this incredible path has unfolded, intersecting lives from 200 years ago, with lives from today.
In 2004, while researching for the script, I came across a petition by Leo. This was during the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition. In the document, the Agai’dika Shoshoni People were petitioning the Federal government to acknowledge their People and return to them their sacred mountains and the Salmon River and Lemhi River areas in Idaho. Their requests have fallen on deaf ears.
Over these many years, since our initial contact in 2004, we have met with Leo four times (twice at Fort Hall, Idaho, once at Sacajawea’s birthplace in Salmon, Idaho and in Sun Valley, Idaho in 2019). Leo is a valuable adviser, establishing authenticity, and he’s a credible advocate for the project. As a direct descendant of Sacajawea, he is the inspiration we’ve needed through some difficult times, always encouraging us to keep going.
On July 13, 2013, I received this email from Leo. It is his response to the unyielding force that has driven this Sacajawea project now for 17 years.
“Jane, Your endeavors have brought you to our doorstep and now that the door has opened we must take this journey together as did our people, when ‘they’ came into our country back in 1804/05.
Your quest is still before us as is our journey to return home, and it is with open hearts that we take this walk forward together and re-tell this epic journey in the truthfulness of both our histories. I am proud to say there is now a light at the end of that long dark tunnel, a future and a place we can call home. I am grateful for all the work you have done as I have been on this road and now it seems that I have company (you) to educate this great country of our rich heritage.
Perhaps this is a journey we can all complete as friends and as a people and as a country to learn about how my people opened this country to what it is today, the United States of America. People of all races and nationalities can look at ‘Sacajawea’ and say we came and established ourselves such as she did, and are proud to be Americans.
Please let me know what it is you would want of me and how I may be able to help in this great cause.
Friends always, Leo T. Ariwite, Agai’dika Shoshoni”
As a country, this is the least we can do for this woman who gave of herself in so many meaningful ways. We must come together, we must rise to a higher place and do the right thing for Indigenous People. This is the “greater reward” Captain Clark could not give.
You can join this quest of “two centuries.” You can be a part of history and changing our world. You can help to share the truth about this part of our journey and shine a light on the discrimination of the past toward Native Americans and toward women – discrimination that is still with us today. We must stand together! Sacajawea, The Windcatcher is OUR story, an American story, it is only fitting that WE tell it together! And, it is a story for the world!
Thank you, Leo, for your Indigenous wisdom and dynamic support. Thank you for your calm determination. We formally welcome you to our team!
A great vision is needed and the one who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. ~Ta Shunke Witko
In an eagle there is all the wisdom of the world. ~Lame Deer
I am in awe and wonder at Indigenous wisdom and I am so very grateful… During the four years of writing the screenplay, Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, I noticed a bald eagle flying back and forth, nearly every day, across the field outside my office window. He was there in the morning and the evening, always landing on the very top branch of the same evergreen tree. He would slowly turn to survey his domain, so regal, so empowered by his surroundings. It was a mystical wonder, though at the time I did not fully understand why…
But, my research began to show the way. I learned that many Indigenous cultures give names, or take their names, from something they have accomplished or something that has meaning to their personal or spiritual lives. Historical records show that SacaGawea’s name was originally given to her by the Hidatsa people who captured her. The meaning of her name was, “Bird Woman.” So, I knew the birds, the raptors, the flying beings were significant somehow in her life. The Hidatsa saw it and honored it, so her story must honor it, too. I came to understand and believe the eagle was showing me.
This energy within the Sacajawea story grew and evolved as the words came to life, as her character and person began to come forth, and as more magnificent wonders were shown to us as we continued to walk. Symbolically, in the story, the eagle became Sacajawea’s Spiritual guide. He waited at the top of the trees above her… he came to her when she called. And her spirit was embraced, in her heartache, by his tender care.
MYSTICAL WONDERS: While writing this post, I wanted to find a picture of the tree the eagle landed on, near my home. I had to search through the photos from years and years ago… suddenly I was taken aback, in awe. I remembered snapping the picture and at the time not thinking about the tree. It was the rainbow that attracted me then. But this is how Spirit works, it gets our attention… and if we listen and act on our intuition (even though we don’t know everything), later – even years later – the reasons are revealed. You see, in this photo, it is not the rainbow that is the true meaning for us today as I write about the eagle. It is the eagle’s tree and how creation’s rainbow shines upon it. It is an affirmation that we can claim, at this moment, that we are on the right path.
We are truly humbled and blessed by these intricate, Spiritual messages that continue to shine a brilliant light on Indigenous beliefs, cultures and traditions that benefit us all. Through these revelations, I believe Sacajawea is showing us something remarkable, a healing power that will lift up people of the world. It is not about the color of our skin, our ethnicity or anything else – it is about our Universal Spirituality and remembering our Oneness with each other, and respect for the Earth.
Let us soar together on eagle’s wings…
Here are some of the many eagles that have personally led us on this powerful path: