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Expedition - How Was Translation Performed Between the Expedition and Hidatsa?

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meeting of expedition with native people

The Corps of Discovery’s ability to communicate with their Hidatsa hosts was problematic until they employed a sort of “chain of translation.” It worked something like this: A native speaker would ask Sakakawea a question in Hidatsa, she in turn would then repeat the question to her husband Troussant Charbonneau. Charbonneau, in turn, would ask a French speaker (perhaps fur trader Rene Jessaume) the same question in French, who would then translate it to English for Lewis and Clark. This understandably would result in confusion from time to time, but on the whole provided enough information to engage in meaningful conversation and transfer of knowledge.

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