Lewis and Clark : Indian Country
"Captain Lewis & Clark holding a council with the Indians," an etching in A the various nations of American Indians they would encounter on their journey. with the American Indian tribes and their leaders along the route, Lewis received a. and Preparation for the Lewis and Clark Expedition · The Lewis and Clark Expedition Meets The Lewis and Clark Expedition came in contact with nearly fifty Native American tribes and soon learned that the various groups had different On their return trip Lewis and Clark again benefited from the generosity of the Nez. His third section probed native American worship practices, sacred objects, and By those goals for the tribes east of the Mississippi were quite clear. days of Indian-European encounter, the president hoped the expedition might find.
Some lived in skin houses. Some made wooden boats. Some made boats of bark or animal hides. Some ate dog meat. Others would eat it only if starving. Some tribes were warlike. Others thought war was barbaric. These are "cultural" differences. Tribes that lived near each other, shared a similar way of life, and spoke a similar language are said to share the same culture and are grouped together in a culture area.
During their journey to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Clark traveled through three different culture areas: The Plains Indians were primarily nomadic buffalo hunters who lived most of the year in tipis. The horse was an important part of their culture. Although a few of the Plains tribes, like the Mandans and Pawneeslived in permanent villages most of the year, they hunted buffaloes and had a lifestyle similar to their nomadic neighbors.
These Indians lived in the Columbia River Country and were fishermen as well as hunters. These people were excellent wood workers who built large houses, boats, and totem poles. Many of these tribes, in fact, had become friends with France, Spain, and England before the United States had become a country.
It was very important to gain the loyalty and friendship of these tribes for economic as well as military and political reasons. Therefore, President Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to make friends and develop trade relations with these Indians as well as collect scientific and military information about them.
Lewis and Clark fulfilled their roles as ambassadors of good will to perfection. Whenever they encountered a band of Indians, the captains held a conference, distributed presents, and explained to them that they now owed their allegiance to the United States, not France, Spain, or England. The most important of the presents were certificates, American flags, and Jefferson medals, known as peace medals from the clasped hands of friendship on the obverse.
Imagine a chain--its links Indian communities--that stretched from the Mandan villages on the upper Missouri across the Rockies and then along the Columbia River to the Pacific coast.
For Lewis and Clark this chain of friendship was a lifeline that enabled them to pass safely through a strange and unknown landscape. The Corps benefited from the protective custody they enjoyed while within the territory occupied by each tribe they visited. From the Indians the explorers received food, an opportunity to rest, and advice about the route immediately ahead.
The expedition was particularly indebted to the Nez Perce Indians, who the starving explorers met on September 20,after their ordeal on the Lolo Trail. Blue glass beads headed his list of most sought-after objects. It is probable that Lewis learned from sources in the Pacific Northwest fur trade that those beads were "far more valued than the white beads of the same manufacture and answer[ed] all the purposes of money.
Axes, tomahawks, moccasin awls, and camp kettles rounded out Lewis's catalog of high priorities. In addition to those items, Lewis planned to purchase substantial quantities of wampum, tobacco, and textiles.
Vermilion face paint, one hundred cheap rings with glass stones, and a number of pairs of scissors completed his stock of essentials. From merchants in and around Philadelphia came everything from 4, sewing needles and brooches to 8 brass kettles and 2, fishhooks. There were stocks of hawks bells, thimbles, ruffled shirts, and eleven dozen of those red-handled knives.
Lewis was to discover only later that there were not nearly enough blue beads or brass buttons, an oversight that cost the expedition dearly among the Nez Perce and Chinookan Indians. And at Jefferson's direct command there were two corn grinders. They were there, one might guess, for use in teaching native farmers how to make pone and grits. Louis had a purpose beyond diplomatic protocol. Those items, everything from ivory combs to calico shirts, represented what the United States offered to potential trading partners.
As Jefferson repeated to every delegation of western Indians, Americans sought commerce, not land. Lewis and Clark were on the road to show American wares. The expedition was the mercantile and hardware display case for a trade empire on the move. Moccasin awls and brass kettles were as much symbols of American power as the medals and flags destined for headmen and warriors. Few of those manufactured products were new to Indians, but the promise of regular supplies and fair prices was bound to have some result.
The Industrial Revolution had come to the Missouri Valley half a century before and it was equally well established on the Northwest coast. But Lewis and Clark, surrounded by bright mirrors and yards of red flannel, offered more than goods. They proposed membership in a system with well-established posts and dependable delivery schedules.
And always in the background, visible but rarely mentioned, were guns and ammunition. Lewis and Clark did not carry a special supply of weapons to offer for trade or as gifts, but they were not reluctant to promise firearms to potential customers and allies.
Although Jefferson and his explorers honestly pursued intertribal peace as a requisite to trade, arming friends seemed equally reasonable. What all those gifts represented was, in fact, the fundamental element in Jefferson's western Indian policy. Trade and diplomacy, commerce and sovereignty were all parts of the engine that drove American expansion and guided the Lewis and Clark expedition. On a snowy day at the end of DecemberWilliam Clark moved into his hut at what has come to be known as Camp Dubois.
Situated on Wood River across the Mississippi from St. Louis in present-day Illinois, the camp provided the Corps of Discovery with a convenient place to prepare for the first season of exploration. The winter of — at Camp Dubois was more than a time to fit an odd lot of soldiers and frontiersmen to the discipline Lewis and Clark believed essential for the expedition's success. The Wood River interlude allowed explorers time to gather and evaluate a large amount of information about the Missouri River Indians.
That material, coming from St. Louis sources and from Jefferson himself constituted a crash course in Middle and Upper Missouri tribes: No other city could have provided Jefferson's explorers with such a range and quality of information about the Indians. The currents of the Mississippi and Missouri brought to St.
Louis not only pelts and skins but a vast store of knowledge and lore about the natives. The explorers needed to enter quickly that St.
Louis world and tap its resources. Louis and were anxious to expand their influence under the new American regime. The Chouteaus and their circle of friends and relatives quickly sought out the explorers. Social calls at Pierre's house combined good food, friendly company, and valuable information. Clark went so far as to boast that the Chouteau house became a virtual Corps of Discovery outpost during the winter. There was so much information available that Lewis found it necessary to draft a form letter to give the data some structure.
As he explained to Jefferson, "I have proposed many quiries under sundry heads to the best informed persons I have met with at St. Louis and within the vicinity of that place; these gentlemen have promised me answers in due time.
While most of the questions referred to white settlers and their current economic and political situation, there was room to comment on Indians and trade matters. Chief among those were John Hay and James Mackay. He also spoke French, and when Lewis visited St. Even more important, Hay provided the link to James Mackay.
Mackay was perhaps the most widely traveled of the many traders Lewis and Clark met during the Camp Dubois winter. By the mids the Scot had switched his political loyalties and was employed by the St. Louis-based and Spanish-controlled Missouri Company. Even more important, he had sent his Welsh lieutenant, John Evans, to the Mandans and had entertained notions of sending Evans across the mountains to the Pacific.
Mackay's call at Camp Dubois on January 10,brought a lifetime of information on native people and Indian-white relations on the northern plains.
Although Clark did not record what passed between the two explorers, there can be little doubt that their conversation was enlivened by Mackay's rich supply of experiences with the Indians. But there were other sources of information in St. Louis, men of the river perhaps less literate but with more immediate experience among Indians. Lewis and Clark needed that sort of firsthand knowledge.
As Lewis explained it to Jefferson, "Some of the traders of this country from their continued intercourse with the Indians, possess with more accuracy many interesting particulars in relation to that people, than persons in a higher sphere of life. Lewis had already circulated such forms by late December and felt certain that his plan would yield important data.
The questionnaires may have proved successful, but unfortunately, neither blank forms nor completed ones have survived. Friendly meetings brought maps and journals produced by earlier expeditions up the Missouri.
Lewis and Clark . Native Americans | PBS
Of all the written material the explorers were able to study, none was more valuable for its Indian content than the journals and notes produced by James Mackay and John Evans. In a letter to Jefferson, Lewis reported that he had obtained Evans and Mackay's journal material dating from to Those entries, written in French, were being translated by the ever-useful John Hay.
Taken together, the Evans-Mackay file made several major points. There was the prospect of a rich trade to be exploited among both villagers and nomads. But success in that trade hinged on a reliable system with dependable Indian partners.
Lewis and Clark could not have missed Evans and Mackay's singling out of the Mandans as the Indians most helpful to traders.
Native American Indians and their Encounters with the Lewis and Clark Expedition
French, Spanish, and English interests were already on the river, and reading Evans and Mackay reminded the explorers that their diplomacy would be for high stakes.
Mackay's observation that courting the Mandans could "put a Stop to the unjust progress of the English" was written for Spanish eyes, but its meaning was not lost on the Americans. The Omahas, Arikaras, and some of the Sioux bands had already made life miserable for traders bound upriver. Lewis and Clark would have to deal with Indians who assumed it was their right to collect tolls on the Missouri highway. The Evans and Mackay materials were of such great importance that Lewis and Clark probably took along Hay's translation of Mackay's journal.
It is more certain that a second document from Mackay made the transcontinental passage. Sometime during the winter at Camp Dubois Mackay's "Notes on Indian Tribes" came into the possession of the expedition.
That twelve-page report summarized the trader's early experiences with the Piegans and his visit to the Mandans. In the "Notes" Mackay offered a blend of current opinion on the origin and condition of the Indians and his own observations of their ways.
He had something chatty to say on everything from religion to burials. Most important for the expedition's purposes, the trader made astute comments on the lives of the Missouri River villagers. Drawing on his own visit to the Mandans and Evans's experiences with the Arikaras and MandansMackay briefly described the construction of earth lodges, the layout of towns, and the yearly patterns of farming and hunting.
Mackay's "Notes" was yet another text in Lewis and Clark's education. Louis source but came to Lewis and Clark from Jefferson. In his November 16 letter to Lewis, the president sent along extracts from the Missouri River trade journal attributed to Jean Baptiste Truteau. Working for the Company of Explorers of the Upper Missouri, Truteau traded upriver as far as the Arikaras from to What Jefferson sent was a compilation of the tribes living along the Missouri and its tributaries.
By studying the list, Lewis and Clark could gain further information about their numbers and locations. Many tribes that figured in the expedition's future were briefly noted in the journal.
Although the extracts did not plainly spell out the complex relations between those groups, Lewis and Clark were at least beginning to fix peoples and places in the mental geography of the expedition. When Clark gathered and compared maps, he was primarily in search of information to guide the expedition over the best route to the Pacific.
But Clark, who emerged as the expedition's cartographer, could not have missed the substantial body of Indian data contained in many of the maps he studied. Three maps in particular held valuable information on village sites and native populations. Those maps gave visual expression to the written material coming into Lewis and Clark's hands. Among the maps that the explorers looked at was one Lewis described as "a general map of Uper Louisiana.
Soulard prepared the Spanish version in —95 at the direction of Governor Carondelet to guide the explorations of Jean Baptiste Truteau. Sometime after the journeys of Mackay and Evans, Soulard drafted versions of the map with English and French legends. Soulard's map demonstrated with remarkable accuracy the locations of western Indians at the end of the eighteenth century.
Using simple circle and triangle symbols, the surveyor general noted Arikara and Mandan villages and the territories of nomadic SiouxCheyennesand Assiniboins. Farther north Soulard sites the Blackfeet and Chipewyans. The Crow and Snakes Shoshonis marked the western limit of St. Looking at Soulard's map must have been a reassuring experience for the explorers: Louis traders were on the map and in the expected places.
This was not a map to chart a daily course on the river, but it did offer the sort of overview of the tribes that the explorers would need for much of their diplomacy.
And because such diplomacy was closely linked to trade, Soulard's careful delineation of trade routes was a valuable bonus. But at its best Soulard's creation did not reflect the kinds of immediate river and Indian contact the explorers sought. That sort of information could come only from maps drawn by James Mackay and John Evans. After Clark wrote to Indiana territorial governor William Henry Harrison seeking his help in locating accurate western maps, Harrison sent Mackay's chart of the Missouri from St.
Charles to the Mandan villages. While having a far narrower range than the Soulard map, Mackay's work did offer a precise, firsthand view of tribes and villages along the river. Whatever its geographical misconceptions, the Mackay map brought Lewis and Clark another step closer to knowing what Indians were around the next bend in the river.
But a map made by John Evans became what one recent scholar has called a major "road map" for the expedition for no less than seven hundred miles. Those places along the river frequented by Sioux bands were also noted. By examining the Evans map along with the ones by Soulard and Mackay, Lewis and Clark could know with some certainty what Indian would be encountered next.
The Evans map was taken on the voyage and became an invaluable tool for both navigation and diplomacy. All these maps completed what might be termed the expedition's academic education in the Indian geography of the Missouri Valley. The maps, journals, and river talk could not lessen the shock of encounter that lay ahead, but they might at least give the explorers a sense of the predictable in an uncertain land. The first test of that education came even before leaving Camp Dubois. The Indian presents so carefully purchased in Philadelphia needed to be organized in some logical order.
It made good sense to package trade goods, medals, flags, and fancy dress uniforms in the order in which they were to be distributed. Here again John Hay proved indispensable. As an experienced trader he knew the finer points of packaging and merchandising. It was probably Hay who suggested putting a variety of gifts into bags protected by waterproof fabric. Those bags were first divided into two general groups, one for the Indians on the river up to the Mandans and a second set for "foreign nations.
As Hay worked on packing in late Aprilthe explorers showed that they had learned their lessons well. Bundles were made up for the Otos, Poncas, and Omahas. Knowing the great power of Omaha leaders like the late Chief Blackbird, they set aside a separate part of one bag for the leading Omaha chief.
That bag had everything from a pair of scarlet leggings to a military officer's coat and American flag. There were similar bags for the Arikaras and Mandans. For those Indians beyond the Mandans there were five bales stuffed with peace medals, fancy handkerchiefs, hat bands, and mirrors. On paper, at least, they knew the human contours of the land ahead. Those neatly tied packages should have been reassuring.
But Clark was not confident. Just one day before leaving Camp Dubois he looked at the presents and thought they were "not as much as I think necessary for the multitude of Indians thro which we must pass on our road across the Continent. Armed with calico shirts, peace medals, and blank vocabulary sheets, the expedition seemed ready to carry out its many Indian missions.
But there was still one unanswered question, one nagging doubt that no talk, map, or journal could resolve. How would the explorers cope with the inevitable tensions hidden in dozens of encounters with the Indians? Clark had long recognized the dangers. While working out travel schedules, he admitted that the accuracy of those time tables depended on "the probability of an oppisition from roving parties of Bad Indians which it is probable may be on the R[iver].
Perhaps the greatest uncharted space ahead was a human space. Into that emptiness went men of diverse backgrounds and unknown temperaments. Young frontiersmen recruited by Clark might have been crack shots, but would memories of Indian warfare on the dark and bloody ground of Kentucky boil up whenever they saw Indians?
Towering over them all as a frontiersman was George Drouillard. Born of French and Shawnee parents, he had spent years in the Illinois country. Woodsman, tracker, adept at sign language, Drouillard emerged as the expedition's chief hunter and scout.
Young John Colter could not have had a better teacher. New Hampshire-born John Ordway quickly caught the captains' attention and became the Corps of Discovery's sergeant major.
And there was York, Clark's slave, whose blackness would fascinate and frighten so many Indians. Finally, there were the captains themselves. Despite Jefferson's assertion that Lewis was chosen for his "familiarity with the Indian character," the young officer had neither fought Indians nor lived with them. Jefferson's library might have been filled with books about Indians, but there is no direct evidence that Lewis read any of those volumes.
His contacts with Benjamin Rush and other Philadelphia students of native cultures were all too brief. In fact, Lewis's frontier experience was limited to travel in the Ohio country on missions for army paymasters and recruiters. Those journeys gave Lewis firsthand knowledge of the officer corps—one of the reasons Jefferson selected him as private secretary—but they did not fit him to negotiate with confident chiefs and experienced warriors.
Clark's life as soldier and surveyor did bring him into direct contact with Indians. Unlike many in his position, he had become an acute observer of native life and a confidant of chiefs and warriors—both ethnographer and diplomat.
In ways that are beyond easy explanation, he enjoyed the company of Indians. Throughout his life Clark courted them, smoked with them, and shared food and stories with them. But this personal history was just a beginning. The expedition was to challenge each man in ways yet unimagined. Surveying their untested crew and themselves, Lewis and Clark could only hope that the patience, skill, and courage of some would sustain all until the Corps of Discovery found its own soul.
The "road across the Continent" began in mid-May as the expedition steadily left behind the familiar sights of Camp Dubois and St. In the days that followed there was time for a green crew to learn the dangers of falling banks, swirling currents, and hidden sawyers that could rip and overturn a craft. Those first weeks on the river brought reminders that the fur trade already reached far up the Missouri.
The explorers saw rafts and canoes filled with furs from the Omaha and Pawnee villages. River traffic also brought the expedition some valuable information. A prominent member of the Missouri Fur Company, he was on his way back downriver after establishing a post to garner the Sioux and Arikara trade. He may well have urged the explorers to obtain additional aid from his partners Pierre Antoine Tabeau and Joseph Garreau at their Cedar Island post.
The expedition was not well prepared to deal with translation problems, especially those involving important conferences with the Sioux. Pierre Cruzatte knew a few words and phrases and there were Drouillard's signs. Coming upon another St. Louis-bound party of traders, the captains met Pierre Dorion. The Frenchman had spent some twenty years with the Yankton Sioux and their neighbors. He was just the sort of agent Lewis and Clark needed to interpret at crucial conferences and to organize important delegations.
Dorion was promptly hired with the understanding that he would remain with the Yanktons to promote the expedition's Indian policy. Mosquitoes, gnats, and a prairie landscape were all unmistakable signs of the expedition's progress. Information gathered at St. On July 20, camped above present-day Nebraska City, Nebraska, Clark speculated that from his location a man could walk in two days to the Pawnees on the Platte and in one day to the Otos.
Those Indians ought to be close at hand. Perhaps it was Labiche or Cruzatte who told Clark that at this time of year most river folk left their villages to hunt buffalo.
Native Americans and the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Hospitality and Hostility
Those hunts threatened to scuttle expedition diplomacy even before it was launched. From that spot the explorers planned to send out parties to invite Indians for formal talks. Some signs, undisclosed in expeditionary records, suggested that at least a few river Indians had returned from hunting to obtain additional corn supplies. Taking this as a hopeful sign, Lewis and Clark confidently raised a flagstaff and waited anxiously for their native guests.
Those preparations ended suddenly two days later when Drouillard and Cruzatte returned with unwelcome news. They had quickly found the major Oto town but it was quite empty.
There were some traces of a small Indian party in the area, but neither scout could locate it. Disappointed and concerned, Lewis and Clark decided to press upriver in the hope that they might still come upon some Indians. Once back at the expedition's camp, the Indian revealed that his own band was quite small, no more than twenty lodges.
Their numbers now seriously depleted by smallpox, the surviving Missouris lived with the Otos. The main body of Otos was still out hunting. The expedition planned to continue upriver and the Otos could find them farther along. At the end of July, in bottomland on the west bank of the river at what became Fort Atkinson, Nebraska, the expedition once again halted and waited for the Indians.
They knew it might take some time for "much scatred" hunters to be located and to make their way to the river. Nonetheless, Clark could not help admitting, "We fear Something amiss with our messenger or them. Along with them was a trader whose name Clark rendered as Fairfong, although he has never been properly identified. Fairfong knew the Otos and had their trust. At dusk the explorers arranged a hasty greeting, sent gifts of roasted meat, and asked the Indians to attend a council the next day.
What the explorers did that morning linked them to generations of forest diplomats. The form and substance were dictated by common expectations resulting from years of woodland encounters.
It was the sort of ritual Clark had seen at the council negotiating the Treaty of Greenville with General Anthony Wayne in If the subsequent history of the expedition is any guide, Lewis spent those early hours finishing his draft of a long speech proclaiming American sovereignty and the coming of new traders.
Clark may well have spent the same time supervising the preparation of gifts. Opening bale number thirty, the men took out red leggings, fancy dress coats, and blue blankets. Setting aside flags and medals, they carefully packed the trade goods in individual bundles whose size and quality were determined by the rank of each chief. A special package was made up for the absent chief Little Thief.
Although gifts and speeches had long been part of any Indian meeting, warriors and soldiers always made it a point to show military prowess as well. Lewis and Clark were determined to impress every Indian they met with the power of the young republic. Sergeants Ordway, Floyd, and Pryor must have been busy that morning readying their squads for a formal dress parade.
At the same time, other men were detailed to convert the keelboat's main sail into a temporary awning to shield the diplomats from the August sun. A flag and flagstaff completed the setting. What would become routine in the months ahead was still new and fresh, and there must have been an electric excitement in camp as the Corps of Discovery waited for the Indians to arrive. At midmorning the Oto and Missouri delegation, with trader Fairfong in tow, assembled under the sailcloth awning to watch something like a Lewis and Clark Medicine Show.
At the command, the expedition's troops shouldered arms, dressed right, and passed in review. Lewis then stepped forward to deliver a long speech summarizing federal Indian policy. Because its language and themes were to be repeated many times in the coming months, the speech is worth careful attention.
Lewis began with the grand announcement of American sovereignty over the newly purchased lands. The Otos and Missouris were told bluntly that their Spanish and French fathers had retreated beyond the eastern sea and would never return. In their place was a new father, the "great chief of the Seventeen nations," and it was his will that all would "now form one common family with us.
Urging the Indians to "shut [their] ears to the councils of Bad birds," the diplomat insisted that the new American father and his sons would bring peace and prosperity to "red children on the troubled waters.
If those words were heeded, advised Lewis, traders would come, a post would be built near the mouth of the Platte, and the Indians would "obtain goods on much better terms than. If river Indians ignored American orders and followed the "bad birds," trade would be cut off and there would be much suffering. Lewis concluded with what he saw as a crucial test of native willingness to accept the new order.
He urged Oto and Missouri chiefs to form a delegation to visit the great Washington chief. Those delegates could see for themselves both the wealth of the American nation and the contentment of Indians already living under the federal father.
And if they submitted to the great chief, those in the delegation would be showerd with gifts and honors. Declaring that the traders of yesterday were gone, Lewis held out Jefferson and the American nation as "the only friend to whom you can now look for protection. But what fragments are in the record remain important to gauge early native reaction to Lewis and Clark.
Patrick Gass, soon to become a sergeant after the untimely death of Charles Floyd, said that the Indians were "well pleased" with the change in government. But that supposed pleasure at seeing new fathers was not widely felt by tribes along the lower river.