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What is the Correct Pronunciation for Sacagawea?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: August 13, 2013 
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A while back I watched a show on PBS about Sacagawea. There were many Native American "experts" and I noticed that some of them pronounced her name differently from some of the others. Phonetically some said Sack A Ja We A, which is the way I was taught to say her name. Others called her Sa Cog A We A. Which is the correct pronunciation?



? ? ?

Dear Joseph,

The Hidatsa term for "bird woman" was originally pronounced "Tsakaka-wea." Lewis and Clark refer to their Shoshone guide as "Sacagawea" 17 times in their journal. These two factors suggest that "Sacagawea" is closest to the original pronunciation. So naturalyl most people now mispronounce it as "Sacajawea."



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History


One Response to “What is the Correct Pronunciation for Sacagawea?”

  1. 1
    The Walrus says:

    This is incorrect.

    Her name is actually of Shoshone origin, as was she. The family and tribe of Sacagawea even says its pronounced with a soft g.

    William Clark also wrote her name with a \j\ and both him and Lewis change their spellings of her name many times, so using the journals as a source is unreliable.

    The original Shoshone pronunciation is closer to the soft g sound, and therefore is more likely correct. Because of poorly researched answers like this one, people will believe and mispronounce it as Sah-can-gah-wey-yah.

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