Essie's Story: The Life and Legacy of a Shoshone Teacher

By Esther Burnett Horne; Sally McBeth | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE

My Relationship to Sacajawea

One of the illuminating themes of the life history of Essie Burnett Horne is the experience and actualization of many recognized Native American values in the life of this mixed-blood Indian woman. As portrayed in this oral history, the values are lived rather than announced or analyzed. To a large degree, they find their roots in Native American culture, and for Essie they resonate with the values "lived" by her ancestor Sacajawea.

The story of Sacajawea emerges within Essie's more recent history and touches upon the controversies surrounding Sacajawea's later life and the concomitant question of the status of oral tradition versus the written (white) history concerning this memorable Native American woman.

Essie begins her life story by recounting the oral traditions that relate to her great-great-grandmother Sacajawea. Thus, she places herself and her story within the continuum of a history recognizable to both Indian and non-Indian readers and establishes the dimensions of her ancestry and genealogy.

My relationship to Sacajawea is by no means the most important theme of my life, but I will admit that my connections to this well-known heroine have brought me a great deal of attention in my eighty-plus years. From the time I was a small child in Idaho, to the time spent around the Wind River Reservation, to my days as a student and teacher in the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools, the oral traditions of this woman have inspired me to hold on to my traditions. Now as a great-grandmother myself, I understand a little better how the legacy of my great-great-grandmother has influenced my sense of who I am.

I have heard that there are more monuments erected to honor Sacajawea and more geographical features, including a crater on Venus, named after her than after any other person in the United States. Be that as it may, she

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