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Corps of Discovery - How is Sacagawea (Sakakawea) Spelled?

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Sakakawea statueOfficial North Dakota policy is to use the “Sakakawea” spelling based largely on the writings of Russell Reid who researched the subject in the early 1900's. Most of the rest of the United States, however, including the Hidatsa in North Dakota, tend to use the “Sacagawea” version as being closer to the meaning of her given name. The source of debate ever since, the true spelling of her name is difficult for a number of reasons. First of all, Hidatsa is not a written language; Lewis and Clark themselves employed over a dozen different spellings of her name in their journals. Secondly, coming from an oral tradition, the proper spelling of her name presents difficulty because of the phonetics involved. The controversy probably will not be resolved any time soon, but it is probably best to use the spelling that contemporary Hidatsa people prefer.

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