Sacagawea, a teenage Lemhi Shoshone woman, accompanied Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during their exploration of the Western United States between 1804 and 1806. Acting as an interpreter and guide, Sacagawea contributed significantly to the success of the journey.
In November 1804, Sacagawea’s husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, was hired by Lewis and Clark to assist them and the Corps of Discovery as they explored the Louisiana Purchase. Sacagawea, six months pregnant at the start of her journey, was a vital part of the exploration, as she spoke several native languages and was knowledgeable about plants and wildlife previously unknown to the Corps of Discovery.
Once Lewis and Clark reached the upper Missouri River, Sacagawea’s knowledge of the landscape and the Shoshone language proved invaluable and was an early example of the value of geospatial intelligence and human geography.
Human geography is a century-old social science discipline that looks for interconnections between people and places, including how people use the physical landscape and how, based on a number of factors, that use evolves over time. Using this discipline, NGA and others in the intelligence community analyze ethnicity, language, religion, demographics, economics, education, water and land use, transportation and natural resource.
The story of Sacagawea is reflected in NGA’s motto, “Know the Earth… Show the Way… Understand the World.”