Two Native American women have been honored on U.S. postage stamps for their efforts to protect settlers and improve relations between Europeans and Native Americans. Over time, their lives have become the subject of legends and offer them a place of honor in American history.
The story of Pocahontas (c. 1595-1617) remains one of the most popular legends in American history. The daughter of a Powhatan chieftain, Pocahontas was friendly with the nearby English settlers in Jamestown. She frequently delivered food to the English and worked as an emissary between the groups. She is most famously known for the legendary tale in which she saved John Smith’s life after his capture by members of her tribe, protecting him with her body and begging for his life to be spared. Pocahontas later married tobacco planter John Rolfe and joined him in England.
Sacajawea (c.1787-1812) became one of the most well-known women of the American West through her partnership with Lewis and Clark. In 1800 she was captured by the rival Minnetree tribe and became the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper. Charbonneau joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803-1806), exploring a route to the Pacific. As a young Shoshone woman with a child, Sacagawea helped ensure native populations that the group of explorers had peaceful intentions. She aided them with her knowledge of the land and local foods and herbs. Her strength and heroism continuously aided the group. In his journal, Clark attributed much of the mission’s success to her.