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Faces on Faith: Hidden heroes, hidden heroines

By Staff | Mar 1, 2013

Rev. Dr. John H. Danner

I have never been to Wyoming, but former parishioners of mine came from the Rocky Mountain state, and frequently traveled back home. It is a place, they told me, where you can go for miles and miles without seeing another human being. And in the midst of all of Wyoming’s vast territory is the Wind River Reservation.

If you travel down the narrow roadways of the reservation you might eventually come across a small cemetery. It is obviously the final resting place for a number of folks whose names are largely forgotten to history. Some graves are only marked by simple wooden crosses. Others have small pieces of rock for headstones. These have been white washed and then decorated with black paint.

Hidden away in this quiet place, one will find, if one looks, a small four-foot granite marker standing among the prairie grasses. Carved on the marker are the following words: SACAJAWEA, Died April 9, 1884, A Guide with the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1805-1806.

You may remember the ill-fated Sacajawea silver dollar, but you probably know very little about the woman herself. You’ve heard about Lewis and Clark, but who was this guide of theirs?

History books usually have been written by men, white men. History books usually emphasize the accomplishments of presidents and kings, generals and business tycoons, but any careful historian will acknowledge that much of the history of our nation, and of the world, has been untold. For behind the exploits of famous men like Lewis and Clark, lie the hidden efforts of folks like Sacajawea.

What is true in secular history is true in sacred history as well. It is not just about popes and pastors, rabbis and imams. So many women and men who have been little noted have contributed over the centuries to the life of our religious communities.

It is time that in both secular and sacred history we recognize the hidden heroines, the hidden heroes. For though hidden, they have helped shape who and what we are today.

And Sacajawea?

Look her up online or at the library. You’ll be amazed by her story.