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A Montana State University-Billings staff member will travel to San Diego this week to attend the christening of a ship named after her famous relative, Sacagawea.

Norma Wadsworth will accompany her mother, Lucy Honena Diaz, who will christen the ship on Saturday.

Diaz, 83, is a direct descendant of the Shoshone Chief Cameahwait, Sacagawea's brother.

Sacagawea has no known direct descendants. Her son, Jean-Baptiste, is not believed to have had children. Her daughter is thought to have died in infancy, Wadsworth said.

Sacagawea was from the Lemhi band of Shoshones and may have been born in the Lemhi Valley of Idaho. She was kidnapped by the Hidatsa near the Three Forks of the Missouri in present-day Montana and taken east several hundred miles.

As the wife of Touissant Charbonneau, she met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during their first winter encampment. She made the journey to the West Coast with the Corps of Discovery while still in her teens.

"Legendary for her perseverance and resourcefulness, Sacagawea (1788-1812) provided invaluable assistance to the explorers through her knowledge of topography and edible roots and plants previously unknown to European-Americans," according to a press release about the ship christening.

She also rescued the expedition's records when a canoe capsized.

Cameahwait is less well-known to his descendants than his son, Chief Tendoy, a leader who helped keep peace between his people and whites, said Wadsworth, who is Tendoy's great-great granddaughter.

Wadsworth grew up on Idaho's Fort Hall Reservation, where the Shoshones lived after being forcibly removed from the Lemhi Valley in 1909.

She received a bachelor's degree in education from Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.

She has been at MSU-B for five years and now coordinates two online programs. One delivers classes to students in rural Montana getting two-year, para-educator degrees. The other is a master's degree in special education for Bureau of Indian Affairs teachers in the region.

Lucy Diaz and her husband of 64 years, Joe Vincent Diaz, live in Fort Hall and are the parents of eight children, three of whom are deceased. They also have 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Diaz still gardens, sews, does beadwork and enjoys Indian music, powwows and yard sales.

Wadsworth, her husband Mike, will join Diaz and 150 relatives in California for the christening ceremony.

Diaz is a co-sponsor of the T-AKE Sacagawea with Rachael Ariwite, one of Diaz's relatives.

Ship sponsors, long a naval tradition, are "a guide that provides a loving spirit over the ship," Johnson said. The sponsor "breathes life into the ship" during the christening ceremony.

The sponsors will crash a champagne bottle against an iron striker bar attached to the ship for the christening.

The new ship not only honors Sacagawea, but also her family, the Shoshone Tribe and all American Indians, Wadsworth said.

The family is looking forward to the ceremony, and Wadsworth is proud of her mother's role.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime honor," she said, beaming. "Who else do you hear about christening ships but queens and presidents' wives?"

Contact Mary Pickett at mpickett@billingsgazette.com or 657-1262.

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