“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!
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!
Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, gives us a look at injustice in the early 1800s. Though we have come a distance with racial and gender issues in our country, we have a greater distance to travel. Our storyline presents an awareness we all need to embrace as free human beings.
While this film is Sacajawea’s story, there is another character whose life experience, and future outlook, run parallel to hers… York, Clark’s slave. York is 6’4” tall, with a big, boisterous laugh and a strong, rich singing voice. He is William Clark’s servant from childhood. Therefore, it is fitting that York accompanies Clark on this arduous journey.
In our story, we see York rise as a vital part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He is looked up to by the Hidatsa and Mandan villagers, who are enamored by his black skin and long, curly hair – they think he is a “god.”
And even though he is a slave, on the expedition he is “allowed” to carry a gun and he is free to roam alone over the hillsides, hunt and protect the men. He is trusted, even though it is out of necessity.
Many evenings, around the campfire, York sings slave songs and dances with baby Pomp in his arms, delighting the soldiers. He loves Sacajawea’s child and greatly helps her on this harrowing trek.
One of the most powerful scenes in this film is at Station Camp, near the mouth of the Columbia River. It is November, and the corps must vote on where to build their winter fort. This is an official government decision, and as Sacajawea and York look on, they are astonished when Captain Clark asks them both to join the vote. An Indigenous woman and a black slave called to vote, before they even have the right to vote. This is a magnificent and empowering scene.
But, there is a constant shadow hanging over York… knowing he will have to return to his life as a slave. As he stands with Sacajawea at the ocean, he watches the rhythmic, unending waves with deep sadness. And, he says to her, “I be almost free here, now… but soon we go back.”
Sacajawea and York are both slaves in their own way. They cannot live their lives in freedom. The small freedoms they experience on the expedition, are not totally by choice. Yet, they both rise and embrace what they should always have, as people. Years later, Captain Clark acknowledges Sacajawea’s contributions and eventually gives York his freedom.
As with so many over the Ages, the treatment of these two human beings was not acceptable. But, our story shows the relationships and how the soldiers, in that snapshot of history, were able to accept them as individuals, even though it was out of need. We will never know if this changed the lives of these men in any way after they returned east.
But, one thing we believe, in that short moment in time, Sacajawea and York became relevant for us today. The darkness, the injustice, reveals the light. Their stories reveal the light. We are on a quest to open the doors wider, to help the light shine brighter, to bring the voice of truth to the world through this diverse and unique Journey of Discovery, so aptly named.
Darkness revealing light is what Sacajawea’s life shows us… She was a Native American woman from 1805. She was a stolen child, an orphan, a slave – abused and forced in so many ways.
Sacajawea had no voice and she saw hardship throughout her young days. She was sometimes sick and mostly sad, and her husband tried at every turn to control her fate based on his own selfish Will.
Throughout Sacajawea, The Windcatcher, we sense that this young woman’s greater self is at work. Yes, she uses her knowledge of tradition, ceremony and Mother Earth to be an important and valuable member of the expedition. But, we also sense something deeper – she claims a great wisdom in her spirit, even before she knows it. She walks this dark, harrowing quest, until she awakens to the sun and finds it is her own brilliant light.
We are going through the darkness right now in our own lives. But, it is different than usual, because we are all, collectively, walking together with the same pain, sadness, worry and fear with COVID-19… It is a wonder how we can be so at odds, when we could choose to awaken and love each other, no matter what. If we claimed our wisdom, we would find a light to guide us out of this place together.
History tells us, life was not easy or perfect for Sacajawea. And, though she may not have understood it in words, her Elders had taught her from a young age about the darkness and the light on EVERY path. It didn’t matter what was happening around her, she came to believe she was walking where she was called to go. I wonder if she ever imagined that her illuminating light would be seen for generations – that her spirit would be felt, for all time!
Through the darkest spaces, Sacajawea continues to see the sun…and so can we. Come with us, let us walk toward that sun, let us learn through our darkest times that we are all One, and we can get through this together. Let us become aware of our own magnificent and transparent Light. ~ Spirit Wind
A brief moment of history had a powerful effect on a New Age, as a group of individuals, the Corps of Discovery, successfully accomplished something together despite their differences. They were soldiers and traders with diverse backgrounds, a black slave who was virtually free on the trek, and a brave, strong warrior woman who endured over 4000 miles with a child on her back. We are still moved and affected by the choices they made together.
Sacajawea, despite her disappointment and sorrow, brought meaning to the group. She was purposeful and determined, knowledgeable and respectful. She was unselfish, yet she had a mind-of-her-own and was not afraid to speak it. Sacajawea did not know then, but she was walking toward a new paradigm for the world…
As a kidnapped Shoshoni girl, a very young mother, Sacajawea had made enormous adjustments and shifts in her personal life up to this point. But she could not have predicted the future, the disillusionment and abuse of Native Americans. And, as the explorers endured this harrowing journey, they had no idea they were on the brink of wider racism, slavery and isolation of a people. A paradigm shift toward the hardening hearts of Humanity.
As with the Universe and all of life, paradigm shifts are moved by positive and negative energy, good and evil forces, light and dark. Humanity plays a key role in how civilizations live and act with each other through time. It is the power of choice that establishes social changes for generations. These choices manipulate and motivate the decisions that define an Era – and not always for the good.
In our time, we are living through unbelievable sickness and death, insufferable economic hardship and intolerable racism. We can be assured the choices we make now, are a pivotal part of our collective journey, vital for Humanity going forward.
We have a great opportunity and purpose to change the conversations of the past, to shine a light on injustice and racism, to stand as One People for All People. What we do now will absolutely set a new and powerful paradigm shift.
It is our time to choose the way ahead, and part of the way is to tell the story of Sacajawea with her life-changing message of Oneness, Peace and Love for Humanity and the Earth. We are privileged to live at this exciting time – indeed, a time of Awakening. Let us press onward to a vision of Truth on the very path Sacajawea and many others were willing to walk – through the darkness, yet always stepping toward the Light.
The spelling (and meaning) of Sacajawea’s name is controversial. In honoring her Shoshoni people we have written her name with a “j” (Sacajawea) in the screenplay, SACAJAWEA, The Windcatcher, because the story is through her eyes.
Historians record, through the Lewis & Clark journals and some Hidatsa people, that the spelling is with a “g” (Sacagawea meaning “Bird Woman” in Hidatsa). And, there are other spellings of her name, as well (like Sakakawea).
We believe our mission is to bring people together around the person of Sacaj(g)wea. It is our passion to celebrate her life. Therefore, we have created a spearhead that we hope becomes a “Symbol of Peace.” Using the medicine wheel (representing all races) for the bowl of the “g” and red feathers for the “j” (representing the vermillion Sacajawea wore for peace and “women warriors,” who struggle around the world) we have created a powerful, unifying symbol that embraces us all.
The words of Sacajawea’s story compel us to open our hearts, enhanced by the magnificent artwork, by Marcia K Moore, and the meaningful and creative design of the red feather, by Shawna Neece Fitzpatrick. This dynamic symbol of the “g-j” represents a collaboration of women and we believe it will ignite Sacajawea’s spiritual purpose to soar as a whirlwind around the world.
Scene Description from Sacajawea, The Windcatcher:
Just as the explorers reach the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, they are awed by a massive flock of sandhill cranes thundering through the clouds. Captain Clark takes aim from his canoe, shooting a huge crane from the sky. Seaman, Lewis’ black Newfoundland, jumps from the boat to retrieve the bird.
Within moments, screaming and wailing rise from an abandoned village nearby. The men on shore run toward the huts where a group of Snake women and children huddle together – they are terrified that the bird was killed in flight by a loud, unfamiliar blast. They believe the white men will kill them, too.
The captains call Sacajawea to come, and without pause, she enters the hut. She speaks to the women and children with care in her Shoshoni language, which is close to the Snake words, and everyone is calmed…
There are so many examples of Sacajawea’s depth-of-character depicted in the screenplay, Sacajawea, The Windcatcher. She never allowed a judgment of color, creed or religion to keep her true heart from being free as she walked the expedition. This scene with the frightened women and children in the abandoned village shows us her true spirit.
At this point, the explorers had already encountered many people and dangers along the way. They had seen her caring warrior spirit multiple times and the soldiers had built great respect for Sacajawea. This scene shows how they counted on the peacemaker she embodied. Indeed, she was a bridge for them in their time, and her spiritual story is a bridge for us, in ours. We, as One People, are awakening to hear.