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GREAT FALLS - A statue of Sacajawea with her baby in a papoose on her back has been dedicated with music, ceremonial blessings and the burning of sweetgrass at the Missouri River Federal Courthouse in Great Falls.

More than 100 people took part Friday in the ceremony for the 9 1/2-foot statue of the American Indian woman who helped guide explorers Lewis and Clark on their trip West.

The statue, titled "Arduous Journey," was created by Carol Grende, who died in March 2009. Grende used to take the statue to Lewis and Clark gatherings in various states.

A fundraising campaign raised $80,000 to buy the statue, which for the past few years has been on loan to the Great Falls International Airport.

"We've made Great Falls the permanent home of this lasting legacy to Sacajawea," said Mary Willmarth, who chaired the fundraising campaign.

She said the fundraising increased after the site by the new courthouse along the Missouri River was chosen as the location for the statue.

Rozina George, Sacajawea's great-great-great-niece, attended the ceremony and said Lewis and Clark's success "rode on the shoulders of this teenage girl, with her knowledge, fortitude and diplomacy."

A member of the Shoshone Tribe, Sacajawea was captured by the Hidatsa Indians and taken to what is now North Dakota. She later married French-Canadian trader Toussaint Charbonneau, who was hired by Lewis and Clark as an interpreter, and believed Sacajawea could help them deal with the Shoshone.

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Historian Stephanie Ambrose-Tubbs said Sacajawea's many contributions to the expedition included harvesting edible roots and berries, spotting key landmarks to keep the group moving in the right direction, and helping negotiate for horses with her brother, a Shoshone chief.

"She was a vital part of the journey and deserves her place in history," Ambrose-Tubbs said.

 

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