Tom Wins Youth Achievement Award

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Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop is pleased to announce that one of its volunteers, Elita Tom, was awarded the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation’s Youth Achievement award August 1, at its annual meeting in Clarksville, Indiana . She received this in recognition of her many years of outstanding volunteer support at Fort Clatsop and her remarkable achievements while undertaking the role of Sacagawea in various first-person interpretation programs. Her travel expenses were paid for by donations from the Yakama Indian Nation, Spirit Mountain Casino, Pacific Northwest Living Historians, and the Oregon Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.

The Saltmakers Return to Seaside annual living history
program. Elita Tom (portraying Sacagawea) in the foreground of
the saltmakers’ camp. Photo courtesy of Lewis and Clark Historical Park archives.

Elita, 17, is a junior at Rex Putnam High School, the daughter of Lewis & Clark National Park Association bookstore employee Terri Schleiss, and a member of the Yakama Indian Nation. She started volunteering for the park in 2006, greeting and orienting park visitors, working with the junior ranger program, and helping with an annual survey. Working with the Pacific Northwest Living Historians, in 2009, Elita began to portray Sacagawea at special events such as Wintering Over in January and The Saltmakers Return to Seaside in August. Visitors who meet Elita while she is portraying Sacagawea have a unique opportunity to connect with the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s winter at Fort Clatsop. She helps them to understand that Sacagawea was a real person who experienced hardships with determination.
Elita also volunteers with other organizations including her church youth group and has become very involved in theater.

Park staff members enjoy working with Elita and are proud of her accomplishments. Volunteer program manager Sally Freeman says, “Elita is a hard-working, caring person who is a joy to be around.”
The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation ( was established in 1978 and serves as advocate and interpreter of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

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