Winged Moccasins Essay - Critical Essays

Frances Joyce Farnsworth


In Winged Moccasins, Farnsworth has created a biography with an emphasis on Sacajawea as a woman with great intelligence and loyalty. Although the importance of her role in the Lewis and Clark expedition is not overlooked, the author’s method of approaching her subject is not to focus solely on that aspect of Sacajawea’s life but to present her as a human being with an urge to experience and appreciate life, a trait that Farnsworth establishes in the early chapters dealing with Sacajawea’s adolescence. In all of her encounters, Sacajawea is portrayed as empathetic, as having great understanding of the needs of others, both emotional and physical, and of having the capacity to realize joy in all new discoveries.

Farnsworth is straightforward in dealing with Toussaint Charbonneau, the abusive French trader who bought Sacajawea from the Minataree at whose village she was held captive and who later married her at the expedition leaders’ urging. Abusive relationships were not normally part of the biographical information provided to young readers at the time Winged Moccasins was written; Farnsworth’s work is one of the first to address this situation in her subject’s life.

As Farnsworth is honest with her approach to Sacajawea’s marriage, so is she direct in dealing with Sacajawea’s relationship with Captain Clark, which has often been rendered romantic by legend. Farnsworth portrays Sacajawea’s continuing association with him as one based on mutual respect and admiration, resulting in Clark’s becoming the guardian of Sacajawea and Charbonneau’s son after the expedition ended.

Farnsworth also deals with Native American traditions such as “being of the same blanket,” a...

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