Sacajawea is an American historical fiction novel written by Anna Lee Waldo as a fictionalized biography of Sacajawea, the Shoshone guide employed by Lewis and Clark. Published by Avon Books in 1979, portions of the novel were plagiarized from works by Charles McNichols, Frank Waters, Benjamin Capps, Vardis Fisher, Frederick Manfred, among others.[1][2]: 240–242 [3]: 13–24  A revised edition, containing significant changes to the original text, was published in May 1984.

First edition
AuthorAnna Lee Waldo
GenreHistorical fiction
PublisherAvon Books
Publication date
  • April 1979 (1st ed.)
  • May 1984 (rev. ed.)
Publication placeUnited States
Media typePrint (Paperback)
  • 1,359 (1st ed.)
  • 1,408 (rev. ed.)
ISBN0-380-43075-4 (1st ed.)
0-380-84293-9 (rev. ed.)
978-0-06-203591-2 (eBook)


The novel was written over a period of ten years according to Waldo.[4][5] In addition to extensive reading, Waldo's research included tracing the Lewis and Clark Trail trail three times, and pushing her husband, Willis H. Waldo, to join the St. Louis Westerners, a chapter of Westerners International.[6][3]: 3–4  The published novel exceeded 1,300 pages in its first edition, organized into fifty-eight chapters, which was approximately half the number of manuscript pages submitted to Avon in February 1973.[3]: 4 


According to Publishers Weekly the novel "in adhering so closely to the many historical sources gathered in the writing … dramatic tension is lost."[7] The Library Journal said the novel was "tiring", and "while the basic tale is written competently, the author smothers it in minutiae."[8] Adding the novel was "for intrepid historical fiction fans."

In South Dakota History, Richard Etulain of University of Oregon said of the novel's historical liberties and "unusual" presentation: "imagination—sheer invention—dominates this fat work."[9]: 79  He lamented, "historians and other academics have roundly criticized—even scorned—what they consider the inadequacies and superficialities" of Waldo's work, yet the novel remains the most popular written about Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea.[9]: 80 


In 1981, novelist Benjamin Capps sued Anna Lee Waldo and Avon Books for copyright infringement and plagiarism of four of his novels: The Trail to Ogallala (1964), Sam Chance (1965), A Woman of the People (1966), and The White Man's Road (1969).[3]: 13–24  Portions of Sacajawea were, according to Capps, lifted directly from his novels in "the most outrageous case of plagiarism in the history of this country”.[10] Other plagiarized works include Charles McNichol's Crazy Weather (1944), and Frank Water's The People of the Valley (1941).[2]: 240–242 

When challenged by readers about alleged plagiarism, Waldo frequently explained her original "reference marks" were removed from the text prior to publication, or she was retelling Indian legend. Mary Charlotte Simpson wrote in a 1986 graduate thesis, "Waldo defended the charges of having copied fiction by talking of documentation taken out, as if she were being questioned on historical sources. Whether she actually did not understand the difference will probably never be known."[3]: 25–26  A settlement with Capps was reached in June 1983 for approximately fifteen-percent of the novel's royalties and net profits.[1][3]: 29–30  It is unknown if other authors settled with Waldo and Avon Books.

Charles Adams of UNLV wrote in Western American Literature, "Waldo's copious appropriations of text and thought violate the ethics adhered to by all honest writers." He concluded if a school library already holds a copy of the novel, then teachers should "set their students reading it to look for the work of other authors whose uncredited contributions might appear."[2]: 246 

Revised edition

A revised edition of the novel was published in May 1984 which included significant changes to the original text, as well as in line citations and the redaction of an entire chapter. Waldo included a note which alluded to the alleged plagiarism: "In some cases copyright owners requested that the complete source be included here in the owners' particular format."[11]: 1,329  Jan DeVries and Jim Harrison are credited as editors who assisted Waldo in the revision.[11]: vii  An ebook edition, which includes additional revisions to the text, was published by HarperCollins in 2010 (ISBN 978-0-06-203591-2).


  1. ^ a b Clayton, Lawrence (January 1990). Benjamin Capps and the South Plains: A Literary Relationship. Texas Writers. Vol. 2. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-929398-09-9.
  2. ^ a b c Adams, Charles L. (1985). "Sacajawea: A Legal and Moral Problem". Western American Literature. 20 (3): 239–246. ISSN 0043-3462. JSTOR 43023857.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Simpson, Mary Charlotte (December 1986). Benjamin Capps and the Sacajawea Plagiarism Case (Thesis). North Texas State University.
  4. ^ Dahlin, Robert (December 4, 1978). "Indian Heroine of the Very Old West Subject of Enormous Avon Novel". Publishers Weekly. Vol. 214. p. 38.
  5. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (August 26, 1979). "Anna Lee Waldo". BR. The New York Times. p. 8. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  6. ^ "Willis Henry "Bill" Waldo". San Luis Obispo Tribune. November 27, 2005. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  7. ^ "Review of Sacajewea". Publishers Weekly. March 26, 1979. p. 79.
  8. ^ McCoy, W. Keith (May 1979). "Waldo, Anna Lee, Sacajawea". Library Journal. Vol. 104, no. 9. p. 1079. ISSN 0363-0277.
  9. ^ a b Etulain, Richard (Spring 2004). "Telling Lewis and Clark Stories: Historical Novelists as Storytellers". South Dakota History. 34 (1): 62–84.
  10. ^ "Benjamin Capps Papers: A Guide". Texas Archival Resources Online. 2002. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Waldo, Anna Lee (May 1984). Sacajawea (rev. ed.). New York: Avon Books. ISBN 978-0-380-84293-3.