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.
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!
Sacajawea, TheWindcatcher, an International feature film project about the life of Sacajawea, is proud to welcome Kaären F. Ochoa to the production team, as Director.
Kaären is an award-winning filmmaker, with three DGA Award nominations, the New Mexico Women in Film Sage Award for dedication and leadership in the film industry, and induction into the New Mexico Film & Television Hall of Fame this year. Two documentaries she wrote and field directed, as part of the La Raza Series for ABC/McGraw-Hill, were nominated for the Peabody Award.
With over 30 years in the film industry, Kaären has the knowledge and expertise to bring the character of Sacajawea to life – her history, power, perseverance and passion – all seen from Sacajawea’s perspective – on one of the most significant journeys in United States history.
“Jane Fitzpatrick has written a compelling and suspenseful script that allows us a window into the life and world of Sacajawea as she might have experienced it. A natural world that was wild and beautiful, capricious and often terrifying. A world that was known by the Native people who lived and died, summered and wintered, hunted and birthed within it, but was ‘unknown’ by late-arriving white men who had not yet travelled and trampled it. In this portrayal, Sacajawea is not defined by Lewis and Clark’s expedition, their expedition is defined by Sacajawea.”
~ Kaären F. Ochoa
A member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) since 1986, Kaären has worked as Assistant Director on such films as Milagro Beanfield War and A River RunsThrough It, both with Robert Redford directing; Crazy Heart, directed by Scott Cooper, with Jeff Bridges; Appaloosa, directed by Ed Harris; Selena, directed by Gregory Nava with Jennifer Lopez; Georgia O’Keeffe, directed by Bob Balaban, with Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons and most recently, the Disney film Stargirl. Her television work includes the mini-series Return to Lonesome Dove, Crazy Horse and Into the West. She AD’d the pilots for Breaking Bad and In Plain Sight and Season 2 of The Girlfriend Experience. As Unit Production Manager for Proof of Life, directed by Taylor Hackford, with Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe, she spent a year in Ecuador in 2000. In 2011, she was the U.S. Line Producer/UPM on the feature Gambit, starring Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz.
Kaären’s career began in Los Angeles as a writer, co-producer and director on documentaries and children’s films for ABC and PBS. She became a member of the newly formed Women in Film in Los Angeles and later a founder of New Mexico Women in Film, a board member for many years and past president. Since directing three short films, her current writing projects include the rewrite of a feature film in development, which would be her next directing project after Sacajawea, The Windcatcher.
Kaären has enjoyed mentoring other women and men, including many who are now active, long-time filmmakers. She is most proud of her daughter, 1st AD Chemen Ochoa, and her son, David Ochoa, who are both professionals in the film industry.
A mesa top, near Abiquiu, New Mexico, is home to Kaären and her husband, artist Doug Coffin (Potowatomi/Creek), where they enjoy good wine from their cellar and the beautiful views of Georgia O’Keeffe country. The entire Sacajawea production team welcomes Kaären F. Ochoa to the project, as they continue onward to produce this worldwide, epic film.
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.
What will you do in your life? Will you just exist day to day or will you venture out, being a watcher of your heart? What do know, what is written there that you cannot ignore? And are you willing to go the distance?
Sacajawea, The Windcatcheris a journey of one woman’s life, yet as watchers of Sacajawea’s life, we bring her journey to ourselves.
She walked, she talked, she sang, she prayed on smoke to the Great Father. She knew joy and she knew pain… indeed, she had a dream written on her heart that she could see.
Over the last 31 years, I have visited many places where she had been, and I have felt her spirit with me. From Three Forks, MT, where she was kidnapped, to the Hidatsa village site in North Dakota, where cranes danced above my head, to the Oregon beaches where she saw a great whale and sent her prayers to every shore.
Take the visual journey of the places she has been, and as you see each photo, be a watcher of her dream. This is to be an epic film about a brief moment of time in the life of this soul who lived. Yes, she lived and loved… and had a dream we are making real.