Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America

Lewis & Clark, from Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America, comprises public
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Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis & Clark and the
Revealing of America
Lewis & Clark
When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark into the West, he patterned their mission on the
methods of Enlightenment science: to observe, collect, document, and classify. Such strategies
were already in place for the epic voyages made by explorers like Cook and Vancouver. Like
their contemporaries, Lewis and Clark were more than representatives of European rationalism.
They also represented a rising American empire, one built on aggressive territorial expansion
and commercial gain.
But there was another view of the West: that of the native inhabitants of the land. Their
understandings of landscapes, peoples, and resources formed both a contrast and counterpoint
to those of Jefferson’s travelers. This part of the exhibition presents five areas where Lewis and
Clark’s ideas and values are compared with those of native people. Sometimes the similarities
are striking; other times the differences stand as a reminder of future conflicts and
Discovering Diplomacy
One of Lewis and Clark’s missions was to open diplomatic relations between the United States
and the Indian nations of the West. As Jefferson told Lewis, “it will now be proper you should
inform those through whose country you will pass . . . that henceforth we become their fathers
and friends.” When Euro-Americans and Indians met, they used ancient diplomatic protocols
that included formal language, ceremonial gifts, and displays of military power. But behind these
symbols and rituals there were often very different ways of understanding power and authority.
Such differences sometimes made communication across the cultural divide difficult and open
to confusion and misunderstanding.
An important organizing principle in Euro-American society was hierarchy. Both soldiers and
civilians had complex gradations of rank to define who gave orders and who obeyed. While
kinship was important in the Euro-American world, it was even more fundamental in tribal
societies. Everyone’s power and place depended on a complex network of real and symbolic
relationships. When the two groups met—whether for trade or diplomacy—each tried to reshape
the other in their own image. Lewis and Clark sought to impose their own notions of hierarchy
on Indians by “making chiefs” with medals, printed certificates, and gifts. Native people tried to
impose the obligations of kinship on the visitors by means of adoption ceremonies, shared
names, and ritual gifts.
The Lewis and Clark expedition was in many ways an infantry company on the move, fully
equipped with rifles of various kinds, muskets, and pistols. Among the firearms were two
blunderbusses. Named after the Dutch words for “thunder gun,” the blunderbuss was
unmistakable for its heavy stock, short barrel, and wide-mouthed muzzle. Other expedition guns
might be graceful in design and craftsmanship but the stout blunderbuss simply signified brute
force and power. Lewis and Clark fired their blunderbusses as signs of arrival when entering
Indian camps or villages.
Blunderbuss, ca. 1809-1810. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American
History, Behring Center, Washington, D.C. (53)
Pipe tomahawk
Pipe tomahawks are artifacts unique to North America—created by Europeans as trade objects
but often exchanged as diplomatic gifts. They are powerful symbols of the choice Europeans
and Indians faced whenever they met: one end was the pipe of peace, the other an axe of war.
Lewis’s expedition packing list notes that fifty pipe tomahawks were to be taken on the
Pipe tomahawk (Shoshone), 1800s. Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (39)
Jefferson’s Secret Message to Congress
While Jefferson made no effort to hide the Lewis and Clark expedition from Spanish, French,
and British officials, he did try to shield it from his political enemies. By the time he was ready to
request funds for the enterprise, Jefferson’s relationship with the opposition in Congress was
anything but friendly. When the president suggested including expedition funding in his regular
address to Congress, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) urged that the
request be made in secret. The message purported to focus on the state of Indian trade and
mentioned the proposed western expedition near the end of the document.
Thomas Jefferson. “Confidential” Message to Congress, January 18, 1803. Page 1.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (56)
Thomas Jefferson. “Confidential” Message to Congress, January 18, 1803. Page 2.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (56)
Thomas Jefferson. “Confidential” Message to Congress, January 18, 1803. Page 3.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (56)
Thomas Jefferson. “Confidential” Message to Congress, January 18, 1803. Page 4.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (56)
Jan. 18th, 1803.
Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
As the continuance of the act for establishing trading houses with the Indian tribes will be under
the consideration of the Legislature at its present session, I think it my duty to communicate the
views which have guided me in the execution of that act, in order that you may decide on the
policy of continuing it, in the present or any other form, or discontinue it altogether, if that shall,
on the whole, seem most for the public good.
The Indian tribes residing within the limits of the United States, have, for a considerable time,
been growing more and more uneasy at the constant diminution of the territory they occupy,
although effected by their own voluntary sales: and the policy has long been gaining strength
with them, of refusing absolutely all further sale, on any conditions; insomuch that, at this time, it
hazards their friendship, and excites dangerous jealousies and perturbations in their minds to
make any overture for the purchase of the smallest portions of their land. A very few tribes only
are not yet obstinately in these dispositions. In order peaceably to counteract this policy of
theirs, and to provide an extension of territory which the rapid increase of our numbers will call
for, two measures are deemed expedient. First: to encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply
to the raising stock, to agriculture and domestic manufacture, and thereby prove to themselves
that less land and labor will maintain them in this, better than in their former mode of living. The
extensive forests necessary in the hunting life, will then become useless, and they will see
advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their
domestic comforts. Secondly: to multiply trading houses among them, and place within their
reach those things which will contribute more to their domestic comfort, than the possession of
extensive, but uncultivated wilds. Experience and reflection will develop to them the wisdom of
exchanging what they can spare and we want, for what we can spare and they want. In leading
them to agriculture, to manufactures, and civilization; in bringing together their and our
settlements, and in preparing them ultimately to participate in the benefits of our governments, I
trust and believe we are acting for their greatest good. At these trading houses we have
pursued the principles of the act of Congress, which directs that the commerce shall be carried
on liberally, and requires only that the capital stock shall not be diminished. We consequently
undersell private traders, foreign and domestic, drive them from the competition; and thus, with
the good will of the Indians, rid ourselves of a description of men who are constantly
endeavoring to excite in the Indian mind suspicions, fears, and irritations towards us. A letter
now enclosed, shows the effect of our competition on the operations of the traders, while the
Indians, perceiving the advantage of purchasing from us, are soliciting generally, our
establishment of trading houses among them. In one quarter this is particularly interesting. The
Legislature, reflecting on the late occurrences on the Mississippi, must be sensible how
desirable it is to possess a respectable breadth of country on that river, from our Southern limit
to the Illinois at least; so that we may present as firm a front on that as on our Eastern border.
We possess what is below the Yazoo, and can probably acquire a certain breadth from the
Illinois and Wabash to the Ohio; but between the Ohio and Yazoo, the country all belongs to the
Chickasaws, the most friendly tribe within our limits, but the most decided against the alienation
of lands. The portion of their country most important for us is exactly that which they do not
inhabit. Their settlements are not on the Mississippi, but in the interior country. They have lately
shown a desire to become agricultural; and this leads to the desire of buying implements and
comforts. In the strengthening and gratifying of these wants, I see the only prospect of planting
on the Mississippi itself, the means of its own safety. Duty has required me to submit these
views to the judgment of the Legislature; but as their disclosure might embarrass and defeat
their effect, they are committed to the special confidence of the two Houses.
While the extension of the public commerce among the Indian tribes, may deprive of that source
of profit such of our citizens as are engaged in it, it might be worthy the attention of Congress, in
their care of individual as well as of the general interest, to point, in another direction, the
enterprise of these citizens, as profitably for themselves, and more usefully for the public. The
river Missouri, and the Indians inhabiting it, are not as well known as is rendered desirable by
their connexion with the Mississippi, and consequently with us. It is, however, understood, that
the country on that river is inhabited by numerous tribes, who furnish great supplies of furs and
peltry to the trade of another nation, carried on in a high latitude, through an infinite number of
portages and lakes, shut up by ice through a long season. The commerce on that line could
bear no competition with that of the Missouri, traversing a moderate climate, offering according
to the best accounts, a continued navigation from its source, and possibly with a single portage,
from the Western Ocean, and finding to the Atlantic a choice of channels through the Illinois or
Wabash, the lakes and Hudson, through the Ohio and Susquehanna, or Potomac or James
rivers, and through the Tennessee and Savannah, rivers. An intelligent officer, with ten or twelve
chosen men, fit for the enterprise, and willing to undertake it, taken from our posts, where they
may be spared without inconvenience, might explore the whole line, even to the Western
Ocean, have conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse, get
admission among them for our traders, as others are admitted, agree on convenient deposits for
an interchange of articles, and return with the information acquired, in the course of two
summers. Their arms and accoutrements, some instruments of observation, and light and cheap
presents for the Indians, would be all the apparatus they could carry, and with an expectation of
a soldier’s portion of land on their return, would constitute the whole expense. Their pay would
be going on, whether here or there. While other civilized nations have encountered great
expense to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge by undertaking voyages of discovery, and for
other literary purposes, in various parts and directions, our nation seems to owe to the same
object, as well as to its own interests, to explore this, the only line of easy communication
across the continent, and so directly traversing our own part of it. The interests of commerce
place the principal object within the constitutional powers and care of Congress, and that it
should incidentally advance the geographical knowledge of our own continent, cannot be but an
additional gratification. The nation claiming the territory, regarding this as a literary pursuit,
which is in the habit of permitting within its dominions, would not be disposed to view it with
jealousy, even if the expiring state of its interests there did not render it a matter of indifference.
The appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, “for the purpose of extending the
external commerce of the United States,” while understood and considered by the Executive as
giving the legislative sanction, would cover the undertaking from notice, and prevent the
obstructions which interested individuals might otherwise previously prepare in its way.
Jefferson’s Instructions for Meriwether Lewis
No document proved more important for the exploration of the American West than the letter of
instructions Jefferson prepared for Lewis. Jefferson’s letter became the charter for federal
exploration for the remainder of the nineteenth century. The letter combined national aspirations
for territorial expansion with scientific discovery. Here Jefferson sketched out a comprehensive
and flexible plan for western exploration. That plan created a military exploring party with one
key mission—finding the water passage across the continent “for the purposes of commerce”—
and many additional objectives, ranging from botany to ethnography. Each section of the
document was really a question in search of a western answer. Two generations of American
explorers marched the West in search of those answers.
Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803. Page 1. Letter press copy of manuscript letter
[instructions for the Corps of Discovery]. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (57)
Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803. Page 2. Letter press copy of manuscript letter
[instructions for the Corps of Discovery]. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (57)
Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803. Page 3. Letter press copy of manuscript letter
[instructions for the Corps of Discovery]. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (57)
Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803. Page 4. Letter press copy of manuscript letter
[instructions for the Corps of Discovery]. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (57)
Thomas Jefferson and Early Western Explorers, Transcribed and Edited by Gerard W. Gawalt,
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
[ante June 20 1803]
To <Captain> Meriwether Lewis esq. Capt. of the 1st. regimt, of Infantry of the US. of A.
Your situation as Secretary of the President of the US. has made you acquainted with the
objects of my confidential message of Jan. 18. 1803 to the legislature; you have seen the act
they passed, which they expressed in general terms, was meant to sanction these objects, and
you are appointed to carry them into execution.
Instruments for ascertaining by celestial observations, the geography of the country through
which you will pass, have been already provided. Light articles for barter and presents among
the Indians, arms for your attendants, say from 10. to 12. men, boats, tents, & other travelling
apparatus with ammunition, medicine, surgical instruments and provisions you will have
prepared with such aids as the Secretary at War can yield in his department; & from him also
you will recieve authority to engage among our troops, by voluntary agreement, the number of
attendants above mentioned, over whom you, as their commanding officer, are invested with all
the powers the laws give in such a case.
As your movements while within the limits of the US. will be better directed by occasional
communications, adapted to circumstances as they arise, they will not be noticed here. What
follows will respect your proceedings after your departure from the United States.
Your mission has been communicated to the ministers here from France, Spain & Great Britain,
and through them to their governments; & such assurances given them as to it’s objects as we
trust will satisfy them. The country <of Lousiana> having been ceded by Spain to France, <and
possession by this time probably given,> the passport you have from the minister of France, the
representative of the present sovereign of the country, will be a protection <against> with all its
subjects, & that from the minister of England will entitle you to the friendly aid of any traders of
that allegiance with whom you may happen to meet.
The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it as by it’s
course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean whether the Columbia, Oregon,
Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across
this continent for the purposes of commerce.
Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take <careful> observations of latitude &
longitude at all remarkable points on the river, & especially at the mouth of rivers, at rapids, at
islands, & other places & objects distinguished by such <durable> natural marks & characters of
a durable <nature> kind as that they may with certainty be recognized hereafter. The course of
the river between these points of observation ma be supplied by the compass, the log-line & by
time, corrected by the observations themselves. The variations of the compass too, in different
places should be noticed.
The interesting points of the portage between the heads of the Missouri, & of the water offering
the best communication with the Pacific ocean, should also be fixed by observation, & the
course of that water to the ocean, in the same manner as that of the Missouri.
Your observations are to be taken with great pains & accuracy, to be entered distinctly &
intelligibly for others, as well as yourself, to comprehend all the elements necessary, with the aid
of the usual tables, to fix the latitude and longitude of the places at which they were taken, and
are to be rendered to the war office for the purpose of having the calculations made
concurrently by proper persons within the US. several copies of these as well as of your other
notes should be made at leisure times, & put into the care of the most trust-worthy of your
attendants, to guard by multiplying them against the accidental losses to which they will be
exposed. A further guard would be that one these copies be on the paper of the birch, as less
liable to injury from damp than common paper.
The commerce which may be carried on with the people inhabiting the line your will pursue,
renders a knolege of those people important. You will therefore endeavour to make yourself
acquainted <with> as far as a diligent pursuit of your journey shall admit, with the names of the
nations & their numbers;
the extent & limits of their possessions; their relations with other tribes of nations;
their language, traditions, monuments;
their ordinary occupations in agriculture, fishing, hunting, war, arts & the implements for these;
their food, clothing, & domestic accomodations;
the diseases prevalent among them, & the remedies they use;
moral & physical circumstances which distinguish them from the tribes we know;
peculiarities in their laws, customs & dispositions;
and articles of commerce they may need or furnish & to what extent.
And considering the interest which every nation has in extending & strengthening the authority
of reason & justice among the people around them, it will be useful to acquire what knolege you
can of the state of morality, religion, & information among them; as it may better enable those
who may endeavor to civilize & instruct them, to adapt their measures to the existing notions &
practices of those on whom they are to operate.
Other objects worthy of notice will be
the soil & face of the country it’s growth & vegetable productions, especially those not of the US.
the animals of the country generally, & especially those not known in the US.
the remains & accounts of any which may be deemed rare or extinct;
the mineral productions of every kind; but more particularly metals; limestone, pit-coal, & saltpetre; salines & mineral waters, noting the temperature of the last & such circumstances as may
indicate their character;
volcanic appearances;
climate, as characterized by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy, cloudy, & clear days,
by lightening, hail, snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different
seasons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flower, or leaf, times of
appearance of particular birds, reptiles or insects.
Altho’ your route will be along the channel of the Missouri, yet you will endeavor to inform
yourself, by enquiry, of the character & extent of the country watered by it’s branches &
especially on it’s Southern side, the North river or Rio Bravo which runs into the gulph of
Mexico, and the North river, or Rio colorado which runs into the gulph of California, are
understood to be the principal streams heading opposite to the waters of the Missouri, and
running Southwardly. Whether the dividing grounds between the Missouri & them are mountains
or flat lands, what are their distance from the Missouri, the character of the intermediate country,
& the people inhabiting it, are worthy of particular enquiry. The Northern waters of the Missouri
are less to be enquired after, because they have been ascertained to a considerable degree, &
are still in a course of ascertainment by English traders, and travellers. But if you can learn any
thing certain of the most Northern source of the Missisipi, & of it’s position relatively to the lake
of the woods, it will be interesting to us.
<Two copies of your notes at least & as many more as leisure will admit, should be made &
confided to the care of the most trusty individuals of your attendants.> Some account too of the
path of the Canadian traders from the Missisipi, at the mouth of the Ouisconsing to where it
strikes the Missouri, & of the soil and rivers in its <traverses> course, is desirable.
In all your intercourse with the natives, treat them in the most friendly & conciliatory manner
which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your journey, satisfy
them of it’s innocence, make them acquainted with the position, extent character, peaceable &
commercial dispositions of the US. of our wish to be neighborly, friendly, & useful to them, & of
our dispositions to a commercial intercourse with them; confer with them on the points most
convenient as mutual emporiums, and the articles of most desireable interchange for them & us.
If a few of their influential chiefs within practicable distance, wish to visit us, arrange such a visit
with them, and furnish them with authority to call on our officers, on their entering the US. to
have them conveyed to this place at the public expence. If any of them should wish to have
some of their young people brought up with us, & taught such arts as may be useful to them, we
will recieve, instruct & take care of them. Such a mission whether of influential chiefs or of
young people would give some security to your own party.Carry with you some matter of the
kinepox; inform those of them with whom you may be, of it’s efficacy as a preservative from the
smallpox; & instruct & encourage them in the use of it. This may be especially done wherever
you winter.
As it is impossible for us to foresee in what manner you will be recieved by those people,
whether with hospitality or hostility, so is it impossible to prescribe th exact degree of
preserverance with which you are to pursue your journey. We value too much the lives of
citizens to offer them to probable destruction. Your numbers will be sufficient to secure you
against the unauthorised opposition of individuals or of small parties: but if a superior force
authorised, or not authorised by a nation, should be arrayed against your further passage, and
inflexibly determined to arrest it, you must decline it’s farther pursuit, and return.In the loss of
yourselves, we should lose also the information you will have acquired. By returning safely with
that, you may enable us to renew the essay with better calculated means. To your own
discretion therefore must be left the degree of danger you risk, and the point at which you
should decline, only saying we wish you to err on the side of your safety, and to bring back your
party safe even if it be with less information.
As far up the Missouri as the white settlements extend, an intercourse will probably be found to
exist between them & the Spanish posts of St. Louis opposite Cahokia, or Ste. Genevieve
opposite Kaskaskia. From still further up the river, the traders may furnish a conveyance for
letters. Beyond that, you may perhaps be able to engage Indians to bring letters for the
government to Cahokia or Kaskaskia, on promising that they shall there recieve such special
compensation as you shall have stipulated with them. Avail yourself of these means to
communicate to us, at seasonable intervals, a copy of your journal, notes & observations, of
every kind, putting into cypher whatever might do injury if betrayed.
Should you reach the Pacific ocean inform yourself of the circumstances which may decide
whether the furs of those parts may not be collected as advantageously at the head of the
Missouri (convenient as is supposed to the waters of the Colorado & Oregan or Columbia) as at
Nootka sound, or any other point of that coast; and that trade be consequently conducted
through the Missouri & U.S. more beneficially than by the circumnavigation now practised.
On your arrival on that coast endeavor to learn if there by any port within your reach frequented
by the sea-vessels of any nation, & to send two of your trusty people back by sea, in such way
as <they shall judge> shall appear practicable, with a copy of your notes: and should you be of
opinion that the return of your party by the way they went will be eminently dangerous, then ship
the whole, & return by sea, by the way either of cape Horn, or the cape of good Hope, as you
shall be able. As you will be without money, clothes or provisions, you must endeavor to use the
credit of the U.S. to obtain them, for which purpose open letters of credit shall be furnished you,
authorising you to draw upon the Executive of the U.S. or any of it’s officers, in any part of the
world, on which draughts can be disposed of, & to apply with our recommendations to the
Consuls, agents, merchants, or citizens of any nation with which we have intercourse, assuring
them, in our name, that any aids they may furnish you, shall be honorably repaid, and on
demand. Our consuls Thomas Hewes at Batavia in Java, Wm. Buchanan in the Isles of France
& Bourbon & John Elmslie at the Cape of good Hope will be able to supply your necessities by
draughts on us.
Should you find it safe to return by the way you go, after sending two of your party round by sea,
or with your whole party, if no conveyance by sea can be found, do so; making such
observations on your return, as may serve to supply, correct or confirm those made on your
outward journey.
On re-entering the U.S. and reaching a place of safety, discharge any of your attendants who
may desire & deserve it, procuring for them immediate paiment of all arrears of pay & cloathing
which may have incurred since their departure, and assure them that they shall be
recommended to the liberality of the legislature for the grant of a souldier’s portion of land each,
as proposed in my message to Congress; & repair yourself with your papers to the seat of
government <to which I have only to add my sincere prayer for your safe return>.
To provide, on the accident of your death, against anarchy, dispersion, & the consequent
danger to your party, and total failure of the enterprize, you are hereby authorized, by any
instrument signed & written in your own hand, to name the person among them who shall
succeed to the command on your decease, and by like instruments to change the nomination
from time to time as further experience of the characters accompanying you shall point out
superior fitness: and all the powers and authorities given to yourself are, in the event of your
death, transferred to, & vested in the successor so named, with further power to him, and his
successors in like manner to name each his successor, who, on the death of his predecessor,
shall be invested with all the powers & authorities given to yourself.
Given under my hand at the city of Washington this 20th day of June 1803.* … Th. J. Pr. U.S. of
MS in the hand of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.
*Dateline and signature were written on a later date and with a different pen and ink, than the
body of the document, which had been sent to Lewis, James Madison, Levi Lincoln, and Albert
Gallatin for their comments in April.
Jefferson Peace Medal
The American republic began to issue peace medals during the first Washington administration,
continuing a tradition established by the European nations. Lewis and Clark brought at least
eighty-nine medals in five sizes in order to designate five “ranks” of chief. In the eyes of
Americans, Indians who accepted such medals were also acknowledging American sovereignty
as “children” of a new “great father.” And in a moment of imperial bravado, Lewis hung a peace
medal around the neck of a Piegan Blackfeet warrior killed by the expedition in late July 1806.
As Lewis later explained, he used a peace medal as a way to let the Blackfeet know “who we
United States Mint. Thomas Jefferson peace medal, 1801. Silver. Courtesy of the Oklahoma State
Museum of History, Oklahoma City (41)
United States Mint. Thomas Jefferson peace medal, 1801. Reverse side of medal. Silver. Courtesy of the
Oklahoma State Museum of History, Oklahoma City (41)
Making Chiefs
Lewis was frustrated by the egalitarian nature of Indian society: “the authority of the Chief being
nothing more than mere admonition . . . in fact every man is a chief.” He set out to change that
by “making chiefs.” He passed out medals, certificates, and uniforms to give power to chosen
men. By weakening traditional authority, he sought to make it easier for the United States to
negotiate with the tribes. Lewis told the Otos that they needed these certificates “In order that
the commandant at St. Louis . . . may know . . . that you have opened your ears to your great
father’s voice.” The certificate on display was left over from the expedition.
Making Speeches
In their speeches, Lewis and Clark called the Indians “children.” To explorers, the term
expressed the relationship of ruler and subject. Clark modeled this speech to the Yellowstone
Indians on one that Lewis gave to Missouri River tribes. In their speeches, the Indians called
Lewis and Clark “father,” as in this example made by the Arikira Chiefs. To them, it expressed
kinship and their assumption that an adoptive father undertook an obligation to show generosity
and loyalty to his new family. William Clark recorded this speech as it was made by the chiefs.
Making Kinship
In tribal society, kinship was like a legal system—people depended on relatives to protect them
from crime, war, and misfortune. People with no kin were outside of society and its rules. To
adopt Lewis and Clark into tribal society, the Plains Indians used a pipe ceremony. The ritual of
smoking and sharing the pipe was at the heart of much Native American diplomacy. With the
pipe the captains accepted sacred obligations to share wealth, aid in war, and revenge injustice.
At the end of the ceremony, the pipe was presented to them so they would never forget their
obligations. This pipe may have been given to Lewis and Clark.
Pipe bowl [Plains/Great Lakes], ca. 1800-1850. Stone (catlinite) and lead. Courtesy of the Peabody
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Gift of the heirs of David Kimball, 1899 (48a)
Pipe stem [Plains/Great Lakes], ca. 1800-1850. Wood, ivory-billed woodpecker head and scalp, wood
duck face patch, dyed downy feathers, dyed horsehair, dyed artiodactyls hair, dyed and undyed porcupine
quills, sinew, bast fiber cords, glazed cotton fabric, sinew, bast fiber cords, glazed cotton fabric, twillwoven wool tapes, silk ribbons, and shell beads (48b)
Jefferson’s Cipher
While Jefferson knew that for much of the journey he and his travelers would be out of touch,
the president thought Indians and fur traders might carry small messages back to him. A lifelong fascination for gadgets and secret codes led Jefferson to present Lewis with this key-word
cipher. Lewis was instructed to “communicate to us, at seasonable intervals, a copy of your
journal, notes & observations, of every kind, putting into cipher whatever might do injury if
betrayed.” The scheme was never used but the sample message reveals much about
Jefferson’s expectations for the expedition.
Jefferson’s cipher for the Lewis and Clark expedition, 1803. with sample message “I am at the head of the
Missouri. All well, and the Indians so far friendly.”. Manuscript document. Manuscript Division, Library
of Congress (55)
Gifts with a Message
Gift-giving was an essential part of diplomacy. To Indians, gifts proved the giver’s sincerity and
honored the tribe. To Lewis and Clark, some gifts advertised the technological superiority and
others encouraged the Indians to adopt an agrarian lifestyle. Like salesmen handing out free
samples, Lewis and Clark packed bales of manufactured goods like these to open diplomatic
relations with Indian tribes. These beads came from Mitutanka, the village nearest to Fort
Mandan. Jefferson advised Lewis to give out corn mills to introduce the Indians to mechanized
agriculture as part of his plan to “civilize and instruct” them. Clark believed the mills were “verry
Thankfully recived,” but by the next year the Mandan had demolished theirs to use the metal for
Kettle, late 1700s. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul (50)
Beads, late 1700s. Courtesy of the Ralph Thompson Collection of the North Dakota Lewis & Clark
Bicentennial Foundation (51)
Cornmill, late 1700s
Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (52)
Displays of Power
In situations when ceremonies, speeches, and gifts did not work, both the Corps and the Indians
gave performances that displayed their military power. The American soldiers paraded, fired
their weapons, and demonstrated innovative weaponry. The Indians used war clubs, like this
Sioux club, in celebratory scalp dances. Three decades later, Swiss artist Karl Bodmer
accompanying naturalist Prince Maximillian, retraced Lewis and Clark’s trek on the Missouri
River and vibrantly recorded a similar scene in the print displayed above.
Karl Bodmer (1809-1893). “Scalp Dance of the Minatarres” [Hidatsa] from Reise in das innere NordAmerica in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834. Koblenz: 1839-41. Hand-colored lithograph. Rare Book and
Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (54C)
War club (Sioux, Cheyenne River Reservation), pre-1870. Courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania
Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia (54)
Jefferson’s Speech to a Delegation of Indian Chiefs
Indian delegations had long been part of European diplomacy with native people, and they
came to play an increasingly important role in U.S. Indian policy as well. Even before leaving St.
Louis, Lewis and Clark began organizing delegations to visit the new “great father” in
Washington. Jefferson’s speech to a group of chiefs from the lower Missouri River is an
arresting combination of friendship, promises of peaceful relations in a shared country, and
thinly veiled threats if Indians rejected American sovereignty. Reminding the chiefs of the
changes in international diplomacy after the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson insisted that “We are
now your fathers; and you shall not lose by the change.” But behind all the promises of a shared
future was an unmistakable threat. As the president said, “My children, we are strong, we are
numerous as the stars in the heavens, & we are all gunmen.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Speech to a delegation of Indian chiefs, January 4, 1806. Page 1.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division (45)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Speech to a delegation of Indian chiefs, January 4, 1806. Page 2.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division (45)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Speech to a delegation of Indian chiefs, January 4, 1806. Page 3.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division (45)
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Speech to a delegation of Indian chiefs, January 4, 1806. Page 4.
Manuscript. Manuscript Division (45)
Transcription from: Donald Jackson, editor. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with
Related Documents 1783-1854. Volume 1. Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois
Press, 1978.
[4 January 1806]
My friends & children, Chiefs of the Osages, Missouris, Kanzas, Ottos, Panis, Ayowas, & Sioux.
I take you by the hand of friendship and give you a hearty welcome to the seat of the govmt. of
the U.S. The journey which you have taken to visit your fathers on this side of our island is a
long one, and your having undertaken it is a proof that you desired to become acquainted with
us. I thank the great spirit that he has protected you though the journey and brought you safely
to the residence of your friends, and I hope he will have you constantly in his safekeeping and
restore you in good health to your nations and families.
My friends & children. We are descended from the old nations which live beyond the great
water: but we & our forefathers have been so long here that we seem like you to have grown out
of this land: we consider ourselves no longer as of the old nations beyond the great water, but
as united in one family with our red brethren here. The French, the English, the Spaniards, have
now agreed with us to retire from all the country which you & we hold between Canada &
Mexico, and never more to return to it. And remember the words I now speak to you my
children, they are never to return again. We are become as numerous as the leaves of the
trees, and, tho’ we do not boast, we do not fear any nation. We are now your fathers; and you
shall not lose by the change. As soon as Spain had agreed to withdraw from all the waters of
the Missouri & Missisipi, I felt the desire of becoming acquainted with all my red children beyond
the Missipi, and of uniting them with us, as we have done those on this side of that river in the
bonds of peace & friendship. I wished to learn what we could do to benefit them by furnishing
them the necessaries they want in ex-change for their furs & peltries. I therefore sent our
beloved man Capt. Lewis one of my own family, to go up the Missouri river, to get acquainted
with all the Indian nations in it’s neighborhood, to take them by the hand, deliver my talks to
them, and to inform us in what way we could be useful to them. Some of you who are here have
seen him & heard his words. You have taken him by the hand, and been friendly to him. My
children I thank you for the services you rendered him, and for your attention to his words.
When he returns he will tell us where we should establish factories to be convenient to you all,
and what we must send to them. In establishing a trade with you we desire to make no profit.
We shall ask form you only what every thing costs us, and give you for your furs & pelts
whatever we can get for them again. Be assured you shall find your advantage in this change of
your friends. It will take us some time to be in readiness to supply your wants, but in the mean
while & till Capt. Lewis returns, the traders who have heretofore furnished you will continue to
do so.
My friends & children. I have now an important advice to give you. I have already told you that
you are all my children, and I wish you to live in peace & friendship with one another as brethren
of the same family ought to do. How much better is it for neighbors to help than to hurt one
another, how much happier must it make them. If you will cease to make war on one another, if
you will live in friendship with all mankind, you can employ all of your time in providing food &
clothing for yourselves and you families. Your men will not be destroyed in war and your women
& children will lie down to sleep in their cabins without fear of being surprised by their enemies &
killed or carried away. Your numbers will be increased, instead of diminishing, and you will live
in plenty & in quiet. My children, I have given this advice to all your red brethren on this side of
the Missipi, they are following it, they are increasing in their numbers, are learning to clothe &
provide for their families as we do, and you see the proofs of it in such of them as you happened
to find here. My children, we are strong, we are numerous as the stars in the heavens, & we are
all gun-men. Yet we live in peace with all nations; and all nations esteem & honour us because
we are peaceable & just. Then let my red children then be peaceable & just also; take each
other by the hand, and hold it fast. If ever bad men among your neighbors should do you wrong,
and their nation refuse you justice, apply to the beloved man whom we shall place nearest to
you; he will go to the offending nation, & endeavor to obtain right, & preserve peace. If ever bad
men among yourselves injure you neighbors, be always ready to do justice. It is always
honorable in those who have done wrong to acknolege & make amends for it; and it is the only
way in which peace can be maintained among men. Remember then my advice, my children,
carry it home to your people, and tell them that from the day that they have become all the same
family, from the day that we become father to them all, we wish as a true father should do, that
we may all live together as one house hold, and that before they strike one another, they should
come to their father & let him endeavor to make up the quarrel.
My children. You are come from the other side of our great island, from where the sun sets to
see your new friends at the sun rising. You have now arrived where the waters are constantly
rising & falling every day, but you are still distant from the sea. I very much desire that you
should not stop here, but go on and see your brethren as far as the edge of the great water. I
am persuaded you have so far seen that every man by the way has received you as his
brothers, and has been ready to do you all the kindnesses in his power. You will see the same
thing quite to the sea shore; and I wish you therefore to go and visit our great cities in that
quarter, & to see how many friends & brothers you have here. You will then have travelled a
long line from West to East, and if you had time to go form North to South, from Canada to
Florida, you would find it as long in that direction, & all the people as since sincerely your
friends. I wish you, my children to see all you can and to tell your people all you see; because I
am sure the more they know of us, the more they will be our hearty friends. I invite you therefore
to pay a visit to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, & the cities still beyond that if you should be
willing to go further. We will provide carriages to convey you, & a person to go with you to see
that you want for nothing. By the time you come back, the snows will be melted on the
mountains, ice in the rivers broken up and you will be wishing to set out on your return home.
My children, I have long desired to see you. I have now opened my heart to you; let my words
sink into you hearts & never be forgotten. If ever lying people or bad spirits should raise up
clouds between us: let us come together as friends & explain to each other what is
misrepresented or misunderstood. The clouds will fly away like the morning fog and the sun of
friendship appear, & shine for ever bright & clear between us.
My children, it may happen that while you are here, occasion may arise to talk about many
things which I do not now particulary mention. The Secretary at War will always be ready to talk
with you: and You are to consider whatever he says as said by myself. He will also take care of
you & see that you are furnished with all comforts here.
Th: Jefferson
Jan. 4. 1806
Indian Speech to Jefferson
A delegation of chiefs from western tribes was sent by Lewis to Washington, D.C. President
Jefferson welcomed them with words of peace and friendship. But if President Jefferson
expected his native visitors to quietly accept their status as “children” in the new American
order, he was mistaken. In their speech to Jefferson, the chiefs raised two important concerns:
the troubled economic relations between native people and the federally operated trading posts
and the rising tide of violence Indians suffered at the hands of white settlers on the Missouri
River frontier. These chiefs were determined to speak the truth “to the ears of our fathers.” In
return, they expected that government officials would “open their ears to truth to get in.”
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Title page. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 1. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 2. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 3. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 4. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 5. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 6. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. 7. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 8. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 9. Manuscript document in the hand of the clerk,
endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 10. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 11. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 12. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 13. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 14. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 15. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
[Speech of the] “Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais, & Sioux Nations to the president of the
U.S. & to the Secretary of War, January [4], 1806”. Page 16. Manuscript document in the hand of the
clerk, endorsed by 14 tribal representatives Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Library,
Philadelphia (46)
Transcription from: Donald Jackson, editor. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with
Related Documents 1783-1854. Volume 1. Urbana, Chicago, London: University of Illinois
Press, 1978.
[4 January 1806]
Speech of the Osages, Missouri, Otos, Panis, Cansas, Ayowais & Sioux Nations to the
president of the U.S. & to the Secretary at War.
My Grandfather & My Father
It is with an open heart that we receive your hands, friendship streches ours in yours & unites
them together.
We feel entirely our happiness at this Day, since you tell us that we are wellcome in the Grand
lodge of prosperity. We percieve that we are numbered among your Most Cherished Children.
You observe that we have undertaken a very long journey in order to see our fathers &
Brethren; it is Most true: but fathers, we will tell you that we Did not look back for to measure the
road, & our Sight streching to the rising Sun, dicovered every New day the pleasure Rising with
him, as we were reflecting our daily approach, our hearts were overjoy’d, for we were Soon to
See our New good fathers who wish to pity us.
There is a long While that we wish to be acquiainted with our fathers & Brothers of the rising
Sun & we hope that, when w’ill return back, where the sun sets, we will Dispell all the thick
Clouds whose Darkeness obscures the Light of the Day.
That Great Spirit who disposes of every thing, & fixes into our Bosom the ardent Desire of
seeing you, we thank him & we will thank him more when w’ill be at home amongst our Wives &
children, for, then, our eyes Will be satisfied, our ears full with your words, & our hearts with joy.
But, fathers, we have to thank our interpreters who advis’d us to strengthen our hearts, & listen
not to the sense of those men who wanted to prevent us from Coming to see you, alledging that
we would be unwellcome & all of us should die. Our interpreters told us that our fathers were
good & would pity us, that they wanted to be acquainted with their new red Children; & that we
ought not to listen to the Crowing of Bad Birds.
You do not know yet your new red Children, & we see that you are as much worthy of pity as we
are; flatterers Came Before you, made vast promises, but when far away, they Constitute
themselves masters, decieve you & your Children Suffer.
Do pity your children who wish to do Good & Behave well, if you say it [is] in their power, but,
fathers trust them we know: we know them who love your new red Children who wish them to
be happy, who hear your word, fill up our ears with it insinuate it in our hearts & spread it all
over our fields; & fathers, that Spirit who took Care of us in Coming hither, here he is! He alone
Can Carry your words together with us, to our Warriors wives & Children & they all will Call you
then their fathers.
We believe that you wish to pity us & to prevent our wants by sending us supplies of goods, but
look sharp & tell to your men to take not too much fur for a little of goods, should they act in that
way we would not be better off than we are now with our actual traders.
We have Seen the belov’d Man, we shook hands with him & we heard the words you put in his
mouth. We wish him well, where he is, we have him in our hearts, & when he will return we
believe that he will take Care of us prevent our wants & make us happy: he told us you wished
us to Come to see you & our Brethren of the rising Sun: here we are happy to see you & glad to
hear the words of good fathers.
You tell us to be in peace & amity with our Brethren: we wish to be So: Misunderstanding
Sometimes Breaks Peace & Amity, because we listen too much to those men who live yet
amongst us & who do not belong to your family, but when we will have but your own Children
with us, then it will be easy for you to maintain the peace of your red children & we will all
acknowledge that we have good fathers.
Meditate what you say, you tell us that your children of this side of the Mississipi hear your
Word, you are Mistaken, Since every day they Rise their tomahawks Over our heads, but we
believe it be Contrary to your orders & inclination, & that, before long, should they be deaf to
your voice, you will chastise them.
Though your forefathers were inhabiting the other side of the Big lake, we Consider you as
ourselves, since, like us, you spring out of our land, for the Same reason, we believe you
Consider us to be your Children, that you pity us & wish to make us happy should we follow
your advices.
You say that the french, English & Spanish nations have left the waters of the Missouri &
Mississipi, we are all glad of it, & we believe that the day they will leave us the weather will be
Clear, the paths Clean, & our ears will be no more affected with the disagreeable sounds of the
bad Birds who wish us to relinquish the words of our Good fathers whose words we keep in our
Although fathers
Do not believe that the number of our new Brethren would be able to frighten us, were we not
inclined to acknowledge you for our fathers; but we wish to live like you & to be Men like you; we
hope you will protect us from the wicked, you will punish them who wont hear your word, open
their ears, & lead them in the good path.
Since you wish to be acquainted with your new children of the other Side of the mississipi, you
may Believe that they have the same desire, but if we Contempt your word as they do on this
side of that River you will soon be Compell’d to Chastise the wicked, but fathers, we shall not do
as they do, for we wish to be numbered among your best Children, & we will try only to punish
the wicked.
You say that you are as numerous as the stars in the skies, & as strong as numerous. So much
the better, fathers, tho’, if you are so, we will see you ere long punishing all the wicked Red
skins that you’ll find amongst us, & you may tell to your white Children on our lands, to follow
your orders, & do not as they please, for they do not keep your word. Our Brothers who came
here before told us you had ordered good things to be done & sent to our villages, but we have
seen nothing, & your waged Men think that truth will not reach your ears, but we are Conscious
that we must speak the truth, truth must be spoken to the ears of our fathers, & our fathers must
open their ears to truth to get in.
You tell us to Complain to the beloved man, should any one Commit injury & decline
Compensation, but you Know fathers that the beloved man is gone far away, that he Can not do
the justice which you want him to do; while he is absent we do better to Complain to his fathers,
& when he will arrive we will Complain to him, then he will have justice done to the injured man
& if he loves his fathers he will chastise the one who Broke the peace which our good fathers
told us to make together & to maintain.
We hear your word, we will Carry it into our villages, & spread it all over our fields, we will tell to
our warriors, wives & Children that, ever since you became the fathers of all the red skins, like
good fathers, you wish us to live like Children of but one family who have but one father, & that
before we should go at war we have to take the advice of our good fathers & then we shall know
what these latter will tell us.
Our hearts are good, though we are powerfull & strong, & we know how to fight, we do not wish
to fight but shut the mouth of your Children who speak war, stop the arm of those who rise the
tomahawk over our heads & Crush those who strike first, then we will Confess that we have
good fathers who wish to make their red Children happy & peace maintained among them. For
when we are at peace we hunt freely, our wives & Children Do not stand in want, we smoke &
sleep easy.
We left the place where the sun sets in order to see & hear you, fathers we see & hear you &
we are happy; the skies are Clear where our fathers breathe & we wish it may be so where the
sun sets. We wish our wives & children may be joy full when they think that we breathe where
our fathers Breathe, for we are wellcome to Breathe with you, fathers.
Pity your own new Children, they wish to follow your advice, tell them what you wish them to do,
they will do any thing that you wish them to do, they do not Belong any more to themselves but
they are your own property, dispose of them as you please.
As you spoke that we had brethren inhabiting the shores of the big Lake & that you offered us to
visit them, we do wish to be acquainted with them, to shake hands with them & to tell them that
we are their Brothers & if they are good Children we will tell them that we are so, for you know
fathers we acknowledge you for our fathers.
After shaking hands with all our new Brothers, being acquainted with them all, then we will tell to
our warriors, our wives, our Children how many things we have seen, they all will listen to our
sayings, they will gather around us, hear the words of their new fathers & Brethren, love them all
& wonder at all things; yes fathers, we will speak the truth, you know the truth must come out of
the mouth of a father.
We hope the more we will See our new Brethren the More we will love them for we hope they
will wellcome us & recieve us as their Brethren.
We wish to have this, your Warrior (major Rodger) for our leader in the Journey that we will
undertake to visit our Brethren: he will take good care of us, for he does love us, he will hold the
weather Clear, Clean & smooth the paths of his red Brethren. Our Brother (Capt. Stoddert) is a
good man, but he is not acquainted with his Brethren, the red Skins, he can not take good Care
of them for he is always Sick & leaves them to the Care of Careless people who are not
acquainted with your new Children the red Skins.
You Say, that, when we will Come back the ice will be broken, the snow Melted, & then we will
return into our Villages:–yes, fathers, when we will see our Warriors, when we will see our
Wives, when we will see our Children, our hearts will be overjoy’d, their hearts will be overjoyed
they will hear the word you put in our Mouth, we will Carry it to them Deeply engraved in our
hearts. Our Warriors will bury the tomahawk, the wicked will be good, when ever they will hear
the word of their fathers & know them to be good to all the red Skins.
We will keep your Word in our Bosom; the stinking Cloud may Rise, it will melt away when We
will remember the Word of our fathers, the bad birds may fly over our heads, & Crow Mischief,
their flesh will be poor, their voice weak, they will hush & fly away when hearing the word of our
fathers; we will be happy with your word, fathers, & never part with it.
It most true, there is some people amongst us, who wish us to be deaf to your word, they have a
smooth lying tongue but they Can’t be your Children, because a Child allways says the word of
his father. They are unhappy for we will not listen to them, your sun will give them light, & shine
heretofore over all your Children.
Grandfather (the President)
You told us to go now & then to see our father the great chief of War (the secretary at war) that
he would Communicate your word to us, we have visited him & have been wellcome. We hope
that he does love your new Children Worthy of pity, & Consider us as Your white Children.
We give you again the hand of friendship.
In the exploration instructions prepared for Lewis, Jefferson directed that his explorers record
“the face of the country.” Geography, especially as recorded on maps, was an important part of
the information collected by the Corps of Discovery. In planning the expedition, Lewis and
Gallatin collected the latest maps and printed accounts portraying and describing the western
country. This visual and printed data was incorporated into a composite document—the
Nicholas King 1803 map—which the expedition carried with them at least as far as the Mandan
villages. As Lewis and Clark traversed the country, they drew sketch maps and carefully
recorded their astronomical and geographic observations. Equally important, they gathered vital
knowledge about “the face of the country” from native people. During winters at Fort Mandan on
the Missouri in 1804-1805 and at Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast in 1805-1806 the explorers
added new details from their sketch maps and journals to base maps depicting the course of the
expedition. The first printed map of the journey did not appear until 1814 when Nicholas Biddle’s
official account of the expedition was published in Philadelphia and London.
Euro-American explorers were not the only ones to draw maps of the western country. As every
visitor to Indian country soon learned, native people also made sophisticated and complex
maps. Such maps often covered thousands of miles of terrain. At first glance Indian maps often
appear quite different from those made by Euro-Americans. And there were important
differences that reflected distinctive notions about time, space, and relationships between the
natural and the supernatural worlds. William Clark was not the only expedition cartographer to
struggle with those differences. But the similarities between Indian maps and Euro-American
ones are also worth noting. Both kinds of maps told stories about important past events, current
situations, and future ambitions. Both sorts of maps used symbols to represent key terrain
features, major settlements, and sacred sites. Perhaps most important, Euro-Americans and
Native Americans understood that mapping is a human activity shared by virtually every culture.
Nicholas King’s 1803 Pre-Expedition Map
In March 1803, War Department cartographer Nicholas King compiled a map of
North America west of the Mississippi in order to summarize all available topographic
information about the region. Representing the federal government’s first attempt to define the
vast empire later purchased from Napoleon, King consulted numerous published and
manuscript maps. The composite map reflects Jefferson and Gallatin’s geographical concepts
on the eve of the expedition. It is believed that Lewis and Clark carried this map on their journey
at least as far as the Mandan-Hidatsa villages on the Missouri River, where Lewis annotated in
brown ink additional information obtained from fur traders.
Nicholas King, with annotations by Meriwether Lewis. “Tracing of western North America showing the
Mississippi, and the Missouri for a short distance above the Kansas, Lakes Michigan, Superior, and
Winnipeg, and the country onwards to the Pacific” with annotations in the hand of Meriwether Lewis,
1803. [carried as far as Mandan village]. Engraved map with annotations in pen and ink. Geography and
Map Division, Library of Congress (64)
Source Map for the Bend of the Missouri River
One of the sources for Nicholas King’s 1803 map was this sketch of the Great
Bend of the Missouri River (north of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota). Copied by Lewis
from a survey for the British North West Company by David Thompson, this map provided the
exact latitude and longitude of that important segment of the Missouri. Thompson, traveling
overland in the dead of winter, spent three weeks at the Mandan and Pawnee villages on the
Missouri River, calculating astronomical observations. He also recorded the number of houses,
tents, and warriors of the six Indian villages in the area.
Meriwether Lewis after David Thompson (1770-1857).[Bend of the Missouri River] 1798. Manuscript
map.Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (64A)
Fort Mandan Map
Throughout the winter of 1804-1805 at Fort Mandan, William Clark drafted a
large map of the West—what he called “a Connection of the country.” That map, recopied
several times by Nicholas King, provided the first accurate depiction of the Missouri River to Fort
Mandan based on the expedition’s astronomical and geographical observations. Drawing on
“information of Traders, Indians, & my own observation and idea,” Clark sketched out a
conjectural West—one characterized by a narrow chain of mountains and rivers with
headwaters close one to the other, still suggesting an easy water passage to the Pacific Coast.
Nicholas King (1771-1812) after William Clark. “A Map of Part of the Continent of North America :
Between the 35th and 51st Degrees of North Latitude, and Extending from 89 Degrees of West Longitude
to the Pacific Ocean.” Washington, 1805. Manuscript map.Geography and Map Division, Library of
Congress (62)
Indian Map of Columbia and Snake Rivers
Although there are journal notes stating that Indians provided geographical
information for Lewis and Clark and drew maps on animal skins or made rough sketches in the
soil, no original examples survive. However, there are several collaborative efforts in which
members of the Corps redrew Indian sketches often combining their own observations with
Indian information. This sketch map found in one of William Clark’s field notebooks is a good
example of a map derived from Indian information. It is a diagram of the relative location of
tributaries of the Columbia and Snake (Lewis) rivers in present-day eastern Washington and
William Clark. [Drawing of Northwest Coast canoe with carved figures at each end,]. February 1, 1806.
Copyprint of journal entry. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St Louis (68)
Transcription from: Gary E. Moulton, editor. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Volume 6. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
[Clark] Saturday February 1st 1806
This morning a party of four men Set out with Jo. Field; and Sergt. Gass with a party of five men
again Set out up the Netul river in Serch of the Elk which had been killed Some days since, and
which Could not be found in Consequence of the Snow.
The Canoes of the nativs inhabitting the lower part of the Columbia River from the Long narrows
down make their canoes remarkably neat light and well addapted for rideing high waves. I have
Seen the nativs near the Coast rideing waves in these Canoes in Safty and appearantly without
Concern when I Should it impossible for any vessel of the Same Size to have lived or kept
above water a minute. they are built of Arborvitia or white Cedar generally, but Sometimes of fir.
they are cut out of a solid Stick of timber, the gunnals at the upper edge fold over outwards and
are about 5/8 of an inch thick and 4 or 5 broad, and Stand out nearly Horizontially forming a kind
of rim to the Canoe to prevent the water beating into it. they are all furnished with more or less
Cross bars agreeably to thier sizes of the Canoe, those bars are round Sticks about 1 inch and
½ diameter which are atached to the iner Side of the canoes a little below the rim on either Side
with throngs of Cedar bark which is incerted through holes and made fast to the ends of the
Stick, which is made Smaller than the other part of the Stick to prevent the cord Slipping off
these cross bears Serve to Strengthen the canoe, and by which they lift and manage her on
land. when the nativs land the[y] invariably take their Canoes on Shore unless they are heavily
ladined, and then even, if they remain all night, they discharge their loads and take the Canoe
on shore.
Some of the large Canoes are upwards of 50 feet long and will Carry from 8 to 12 thousand 1bs.
or from 20 to 30 persons, and Some of them particularly on the Sea Coast are waxed painted
and ornimented with curious images on bow and Stern; those images sometimes rise to the
hight of five feet; the pedestile on which these images are fixed, are Sometimes cut out of the
Solid Stick with the Canoe, and the image is formed of Seperate pieces of timber firmly united
with tenants and mortices without the appearance of a Single Spike or nail of any kind. when the
nativs are engaged in navigateing their Canoes, one Sets in the Stern and Stears with a paddle
the others Set by pars and paddle over their gunnals next them, they all kneel in the bottom of
the Canoe and Set on their feet. their paddles are of an uniform shape which this is an imitation
those paddles are made verry thin and the middle of the blade is thick and hollowed out
Suddenly, and made thin on the Sides, the center forming a kind of ridge. the [handle] occupies
about 1/3 of the length of the paddle which is usually 4 to 4-1/2 feet in length. I have observed
five forms of Canoes only in use among the nativs below the Grand Cataract of this river. they
are as follows. this is the Smallest Size about 15 feet long, and Calculated for one two men
mearly to cross creeks, take over Short portages to navagate the ponds and Still water, and is
mostly in use amongst the Clatsops and Chinnooks. this is the next Smallest and from 16 to 20
feet long and calculated for two or 3 persons and are most common among the Wau-ki-ácums and Cath-lâh-mâhs among the marshey Islands, near their villages. A the bow; B the
Stern; those are from 20 to 40 feet in length and from 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet in the beam and about 2
feet deep; this Canoe is common to all the nations below the grand Rapids it here made deeper
and Shorter in pertotion than the Canoe realy is, the bow sprit from C. to D. is brought to a
Sharp edge tapering gradually from the Sides. This is the most common form of the Canoes in
use among the indians from the Chil-luck-kit-te quaw inclusive to the ocian and is commonly
from about 30 to 35 feet long, and will carry from 10 to12 persons. 4 men are copetent to carry
them a considerable distance Say a mile without resting. A is the end the nativs use as the bow,
but which on first Sight I took to be the Stern c.d. is a comb cut of the solid wood with the
Canoe, and projects from the Center of the end of the Canoe being about 1 inch thick, it’s Sides
parallel and edge at c, d, Sharp it is from 9 to 11 inches in debth and extends from the under
part of the bow sprit at A to the bottom at, d,. the Stern B is nearly rounding and gradually
assending. 1, 2, 3, represents the rim of the gunnals about 4 inches wide, reather ascending as
they recede from the Canoe. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, are the holes through which the String pass to fasten
the round pieces which pass Crosswise the Canoe to Strengthen & lift her. This form of a canoe
we did not meet with untill we reached tide water or below the Great Rapids. from thence down
it is common to all the nations but more particularly the Kil a mox and others of the Coast. these
are the largest Canoes, I measured one at the Kilamox villag S S W of us which was [blank] feet
long [blank] feet deep, and they are most Commonly about that Size. B is the bow, and Comb.
C, the stern and Comb. Their images are representations of a great variety of grotesque figures,
any of which might be Safely worshiped without commiting a breach of the Commandments.
They have but fiew axes among them, and the only tool usially employd in forming the Canoe,
carveing &c is a chissel formed of an old file about an inch or 1 ½ inchs broad, this chissel has
Sometimes a large block of wood for a handle; they Grasp the chissel just below the block with
the right hand holding the top of the block, and Strikes backwards against the wood with the
edge of the Chissel. a person would Suppose that forming a large Canoe with an enstriment like
this was the work of Several years; but those people make them in a fiew weeks. They prize
their Canoes very highly; we have been anxious to obtain Some of them, for our journy up the
river but have not been able to obtain one as yet from the nativs in this neighbourhood.
To day we opened and examined all our Ammunition, which has been Secured in leaden
Canistirs. we found twenty Sevin of the best Rifle powder, 4 of Common rifle, 3 of Glaize and
one of Musquet powder in good order, perfectly as dry as when first put in the Canisters, altho
the whole of it from various accidince have been for hours under the water. these Cannisters
Contain 4 pounds of powder each and 8 of Lead. had it not been for that happy expedient which
Capt Lewis devised of Securing the powder by means of the Lead, we Should have found great
dificuelty in keeping dry powder untill this time–; those Cannisters which had been accidently
brused and cracked, one which was carelessly Stoped, and a fifth which had been penetrated
with a nail; were wet and damaged; those we gave to the men to Dry; however exclusive of
those 5 we have an abundant Stock to last us back; and we always take Care to put a purpotion
of it in each canoe, to the end that Should one Canoe or more be lost we Should Still not be
entirely bereft of ammunition, which is now our only hope for Subsistance and defences in the
rout of 4,000 miles through a Country exclusively inhabited by Indians–many bands of which
are Savage in every Sense of the word–.
William Clark]. “This Sketch was given to me by a Shaddot, a Chopunnish & a Shillute at the Falls of
Columbia, 18 April 1806”. Manuscript map in field notebook. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical
Society, St. Louis (59)
Field Maps of the Fort Clatsop Area
This pair of maps is from a collection of manuscript field maps drafted by Clark
as the Corps descended the Columbia River and wintered on the Pacific Coast at Fort Clatsop.
On the left, Clark drew a rough sketch of the mouth of the Columbia River, oriented with south
at the top of the sheet. The other is one of the cruder examples of a map derived from Indian
information, with Clark noting “This was given by a Clott Sopp Indn.” It shows a small portion of
the Pacific Coast and locates several tribes and villages.
William Clark. [Draft of the Columbia River, Point Adams, and South Along the Coast] and [Map from a
“Clott Sopp Indn.”], 1806. Copyprint of manuscript maps. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and
Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven (59A)
Sitting Rabbit’s Map of the Missouri River
Displayed here is a portion of a 1906-1907 map depicting the Missouri River through North
Dakota to the mouth of the Yellowstone River. It was prepared by Sitting Rabbit, a Mandan
Indian, at the request of an official of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Although it
uses a Missouri River Commission map as its base, the content provides a traditional Indian
perspective of the river’s geography, especially noting former Mandan village sites with earthen
lodges. The portion of the river shown here corresponds to the same stretch of river delineated
on Clark’s route map described below.
Sitting Rabbit (I Ki Ha Wa He, also known as Little Owl). [Map of Missouri River from South DakotaNorth Dakota boundary to mouth of Yellowstone River], 1906-1907. Copyprint of painting on canvas.
Courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Bismark (59C)
Missouri Route Map near Fort Mandan
Throughout the expedition, William Clark prepared a series of large-scale route
maps, with each sheet documenting several days’ travel. On these sheets he recorded the
course of rivers navigated, mouths of tributary streams, encampments, celestial observations,
and other notable features. Big River on Sitting Rabbit’s map (above) is identified as Cannon
Ball River on Clark’s map and Beaver Creek is recorded as Warraconne River or “Plain where
Elk shed their horns,” by Clark.
Fort Clatsop Map
This post-expeditionary map prepared by Washington, D.C., cartographer
Nicholas King, probably in 1806 or 1807, most likely incorporates information from a map
prepared by Lewis and Clark in February 1806 at Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coast. Although
the original map no longer exists, such a map is mentioned in the expedition’s journals. Using
King’s 1805 base map, which records information observed as far as Fort Mandan, this present
copy adds geographical observations from Fort Mandan to the west coast, as well as data from
the return trip.
Nicholas King after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. “Map of Part of the Continent of North
America . . . as Corrected by the Celestial Observations of Messrs. Lewis and Clark during their Tour of
Discoveries in 1805.” Washington, D.C., 1806? Copyprint of manuscript map. Courtesy of the Boston
Athenaeum, Boston (70)
Clark’s Map of Midwestern Indian Settlements
Following his appointment as governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813, William
Clark sketched this map of various Indian tribes and villages throughout the Missouri and Illinois
territories, showing the locations of numerous forts and settlements. He prepared it in response
to British incursions on the frontier during the War of 1812, when it was feared that the Indians,
many of them allied with the British, would attack white settlements. The map also reflects
Clark’s continuing post-expedition interest in Indian activities having been appointed
superintendent of Indian affairs at St. Louis in 1807.
William Clark (1770-1838). “Plan of the N.W. Frontier from Governor Clarke,” [St. Louis], ca. 1813.
Manuscript map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (67A)
William Clark’s compass on chain. Brass, jasper, glass, paint. William Clark’s magnet, ca. 1802. Iron,
paint. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis (65, 66)
Frazer’s Post-Expedition Map
Private Robert Frazer was the first member of the Lewis and Clark party to
announce publication of an expedition journal. His account never reached print, and the original
journal was lost. This manuscript map is the only remnant of that initial publishing attempt. Since
Frazer had little or no knowledge of surveying or natural sciences, the map is a strange piece of
cartography. He traces the expedition’s route, but continues to depict older views of the Rocky
Mountains and western rivers. Sometimes ignored, the Frazer map was one of the first to reveal
the course of the journey and some of its geographic findings.
Robert Frazer (d. 1837). “A Map of the Discoveries of Capt. Lewis & Clark from the Rockey Mountain
and the River Lewis to the Cap of Disappointment or the Columbia River at the North Pacific Ocean,”
1807 Manuscript map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (69)
First Published Map of Expedition’s Track
This was the first published map to display reasonably accurate geographic
information of the trans-Mississippi West. Based on a large map kept by William Clark, the
engraved copy accompanied Nicholas Biddle’s History of the Expedition (1814). As the
landmark cartographic contribution of the expedition, this “track map” held on to old illusions
while proclaiming new geographic discoveries. Clark presented a West far more topographically
diverse and complex than Jefferson ever imagined. From experience, Clark had learned that the
Rockies were a tangle of mountain ranges and that western rivers were not the navigable
highways so central to Jefferson’s geography of hope.
William Clark. “A Map of Lewis and Clarks Track” from History of the Expedition under the Command
of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, thence Across the Rocky Mountains and
Down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, 1814. Samuel Lewis, copyist; Samuel Harrison, engraver.
Engraved map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (67)
History of the Expedition
After Lewis’s death in September 1809, Clark engaged Nicholas Biddle to edit the expedition
papers. Using the captains’ original journals and those of Sergeants Gass and Ordway, Biddle
completed a narrative by July 1811. After delays with the publisher, a two-volume edition of the
Corps of Discovery’s travels across the continent was finally available to the public in 1814.
More than twenty editions appeared during the nineteenth century, including German, Dutch,
and several British editions.
[Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen, eds.] History of the Expedition under the command of Captains
Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, then across the Rocky Mountains and down the
River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Performed during the years 1804-5-6. By order of the
Government of the United States. Page 2 . Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep; New York: Abm.
H. Inskeep. J. Maxwell, Printer, 1814. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of
Congress (67B)
Calculating Distance
In order to make astronomical observations that would aid in calculating distances, the Corps
took a sextant on their journey. On July 22, 1804, while the expedition was above the mouth of
the Platte River in eastern Nebraska, Lewis gave a detailed description of the operation of the
sextant and other tools that reveals his struggle to use the complicated instruments. A select
number of books were taken on the expedition including British astronomer Nevil
Maskelyne’s Tables Requisite to be Used with the Nautical Ephemeris for Finding the Latitude
and Longitude at Sea.
W. & S. Jones Holburn, London [patented 1788]. Sextant. Brass, wood, silver. Courtesy of the National
Museum of American History, Behring Center (60)
Nevil Maskelyne (1732-1811). Tables Requisite to be Used with the Nautical Ephemeris for Finding the
Latitude and Longitude at Sea. Page 2 . London: William Richardson, 1781. Rare Book and Special
Collections Division, Library of Congress (61)
Jefferson subscribed to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment notion that assembling a
complete catalog of the Earth’s flora and fauna was possible. In his instructions, he told Lewis to
observe “the animals of the country generally, & especially those not known in the U.S.” The
Corps of Discovery was the first expedition to scientifically describe a long list of species. Their
journals, especially those kept by Lewis, are filled with direct observations of the specimens
they encountered on the journey. Through objective measurements and anatomical
descriptions, they defined various species previously unknown to Euro-Americans.
Indians studied animal behaviors to understand moral lessons. Animals were beings addressed
respectfully as “grandfather” or “brother.” Because animals intersected the worlds of the sacred
and the profane, Indians regarded them as intermediaries between the human and spiritual
Lewis’s woodpecker
The woodpecker displayed above may be the only specimen collected during the Lewis and
Clark expedition to survive intact. Lewis first saw the bird on July 20, 1805, but did not get a
specimen until the following spring at Camp Chopunnish on the Clearwater River in Idaho.
Lewis’s description of the bird’s belly is still accurate when examining the specimen today: “a
curious mixture of white and blood red which has much the appearance of having been
artificially painted or stained of that colour.”
Specimen of a “Lewis woodpecker” [Asyndesmus lewis, collected Camp Chopunnish, Idaho, 1806].
Preserved skin and feathers. Courtesy of Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology, Boston
Observing “the animals of the country generally”
Lewis covered pages with descriptions of animals and plants during the winter of 1805-1806.
This particular journal kept during that period contains abundant zoological notes in Lewis’s
hand. The journal is open to a description of the Corps first encounter with a white-tailed jack
rabbi—an animal considered so impressive that both Lewis and Clark wrote extensive
descriptions of it. On selected occasions both captains illustrated their notes. In the reproduction
above Clark sketched the now-endangered condor. Lewis had correctly observed in his journal:
“I bleive this to be the largest bird of North America.”
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809). “Shield killed a hare of the prarie . . .”. Journey entry, September 14,
1804. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (40)
William Clark (1770-1838). Head of a Vulture (California condor), February 17, 1806. Copyprint of
journal illustration. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St Louis (74A)
Representing Beings
The Indian sense of “personhood” extends far beyond the western conception of human beings.
In Indian culture animal people, plant people, sky peopleCall are beings in their own right. Indian
art portrays a being’s inner essence, not its physical form. The Columbia River artist who
created this twined circular basket decorated it with images of condors, sturgeons, people, and
deer—abstractions that are given equal importance in the woven pattern. This nineteenthcentury Sioux clay and wood pipe portrays a buffalo, whose spirit, or Tananka, cares for
children, hunters, and growing things. It may have be created as a presentation pipe.
Sally bag with condors (Wasco), pre-1898. Twine, corn husk. Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society,
Portland (75)
Buffalo effigy pipe (Sioux), pre-1872. Catlinite, wood. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St.
Louis (76)
Hunting Bear
Patrick Gass was one of the three sergeants in the Corps of Discovery. His account, first printed
in 1807, was the only one available to curious readers until the official publication appeared
in1814. This Gass edition contains six woodcuts, two of which depict encounters with bears.
The image above may have been based on Corps member Hugh McNeal’s experience on July
15, 1806. Lewis records: “. . .and with his clubbed musquet he struck the bear over the head
and cut him with the guard of the gun and broke off the breech, the bear stunned with the stroke
fell to his ground. . .this gave McNeal time to climb a willow tree.”
Patrick Gass. “Bear Pursuing his Assailant” in A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of
Discovery . . . Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1810. Wood engraving. Rare Book and Special Collections
Division, Library of Congress (72A)
Patrick Gass. “Captain Clark and his men shooting bears,” in A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a
Corps of Discovery . . .. Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, 1810. Copyprint of wood engraving. Rare Book
and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (72B)
The Power of the Bear
Artist George Catlin painted the scene of a dance held in preparation for a traditional Sioux bear
hunt in 1832. These dances were performed in order to communicate with “the Bear Spirit.”
According to Catlin, the Sioux believe this spirit “holds somewhere an invisible existence that
must be consulted and conciliated.” This clay Sioux pipe bowl probably depicts the bear’s role
as teacher and transmitter of power.
George Catlin (1796B1872). Bear Dance of the Sioux, 1832 [printed 1844]. Hand-colored lithograph.
Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis (74)
Bear effigy pipe bowl (Sioux, Osage or Pawnee), pre-1830s. Catlinite. Courtesy of the Missouri
Historical Society, St. Louis (72)
Dressed in Courage
In both Euro-American and native cultures, clothing communicated messages about the
wearer’s biography, rank, and role in society. In both cultures, a warrior’s clothing was his
identity and men entered battle dressed in regalia that displayed their deeds and status.
Symbolic insignia revealed a complex code about who a man was and what he had
accomplished. But differences did exist. For instance, Plains Indian men wore clothing that
incorporated symbols of their spirit visions, tribal identity, and past deeds as manifestations of
the spiritual powers that helped them in battle. European soldiers wore similar symbols but as a
way to display and inspire uniform loyalty to their nation.
Wearing Achievement
The U.S. Army lavished effort on the details of uniforms, increasing the psychological impact on
the wearer and his opponent. Military insignia were designed to prevent any ambiguity about
chains of command, so that a soldier could instantly tell whom to obey. The U.S. Army was so
small in 1804 that no complete uniforms survive. This reproduction portrays a captain in the fulldress uniform of the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment, to which Lewis belonged. The “Kentucky” rifle
shown below—a .45 caliber flint lock—was passed down through William Clark’s family.
Infantry captain’s uniform, bicorne hat [not shown]. Reproduction by Timothy Pickles, 2003. Textile.
Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis (79)
Rifle, post 1809, lock by Rogers & Brothers, Philadelphia. Steel barrel, iron fittings, German silver plates,
tiger maple stock. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis (73)
The Plains Warrior
A Plains Indian warrior relied on personal power in battle, and his dress incorporated symbols of
his spirit visions, his tribal identity, and his past deeds. The leader of a war party often wore a
painted shirt that detailed his war record. On such shirts made from animal skins, the contours
of the pelt were left intact in the belief that the animal would lend its qualities to the wearer. The
most powerful shirts were fringed with locks of human hair provided by relatives and supporters
to represent the man’s responsibilities to his relations. This shirt, probably Blackfeet, has
buffalo-track symbols on the neck flap that evoke the power of the bison to aid the warrior in
War shirt, 1843. Antelope skin, quill work. Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and
History, Montgomery (80)
Images of Heroism
Plains Indian men wore painted skin robes that told of their achievements. This image of
Shoshone Chief Washakie’s war robe shows a series of diagrammatic battle scenes. Here,
events happen not in a landscape but in a symbolic realm of deeds. Depictions of his enemies
are not individualized, but are instead given costumes, hairstyles, or equipment that represent
tribal affiliation, society membership, and past deeds. Warriors are sometimes represented by
disembodied guns or arrows.
Washakie war robe (Shoshone), pre-1897. Paint on deer hide. Copyprint of artifact. Courtesy of the
National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (81)
The Ideal Military Hero
In 1759, at the height of the French and Indian War, General Wolfe led a British-American
assault on the French outside Quebec. The print, based on a painting by Benjamin West, shows
the wounded general dying just as a messenger brings news that the enemy is retreating. In the
moment of both victory and death, Wolfe achieves transcendent glory. His uplifted eyes suggest
both sacrifice for the nation and triumph over death—not through faith but through fame. This
was an idealized image to which military men of Lewis and Clark’s generation aspired.
William Woollett, after a painting by Benjamin West.The Death of General Wolfe. London: Woollett,
Boydell & Ryland, 1776. Engraving. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (81B)
Coyote Headdress
Coyote, the mythic trickster of the Plains Indians, was the protector of the scouts who spied on
the enemy for a war party. This nineteenth-century Teton headdress from the Standing Rock
Reservation in North Dakota was meant to summon and symbolize Coyote’s craftiness.
Coyote headdress (Teton Sioux), nineteenth century. Pelt, feathers, canvas, wool, hawk bell. Courtesy of
the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (78)
Spontoon and Gorget
The spontoon, a long wooden shaft with a spear at one end, became popular with the American
army during the Revolutionary War. Although it was required equipment that signified an
officer’s rank, these pikes were commonly abandoned for more practical weapons in battle.
Lewis used his as a walking stick, a grizzly-bear spear, and a gun rest, but never to rally troops
in battle. The origins of the gorget can be traced to the chivalric armor. American army officers
wore these ceremonial insignia high on the chest. Lewis presented gorgets (which he called
“moons”) to Indian leaders to symbolize rank.
Spontoon (American/Fort Ticonderoga), late eighteenth century. Iron, wood. Courtesy of the Collection
of Fort Ticonderoga Museum, New York (81A)
Richard Rugg. Gorget, London, ca. 1783. Silver. Courtesy of William H. Guthman Collection (47)
Bear Claw Necklace
To wear a bear claw necklace was a mark of distinction for a warrior or a chief, and the right to
wear it had to be earned. These powerful symbols were a part of the culture of the Great Lakes,
Plains, and Plateau tribes. On August 21, 1805, Lewis wrote in this journal that Shoshone
“warriors or such as esteem themselves brave men wear collars made of the claws of the brown
bear. . . . These claws are ornamented with beads about the thick end near which they are
pierced through their sides and strung on a throng of dressed leather and tyed about the neck . .
. . It is esteemed by them an act of equal celebrity the killing one of these bear or an enimy.”
Animal claw necklace (Teton Sioux), mid-nineteenth century. Bear claws, hide. Courtesy of the National
Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (82)
In his instructions to Lewis, Jefferson directed the party to observe and record “the soil & face of
the country, it’s growth & vegetable productions, especially those not of the U.S. . . . the dates at
which particular plants put forth or lose their flower, or leaf . . . .” The study and collection of
plants was one of Jefferson’s life-long pursuits. When he instructed the Corps in their approach
to cataloging the country’s flora, Jefferson again set the pattern for subsequent explorations.
Jefferson, however, was not purely motivated by science; plants thought to have medicinal
properties, like tobacco and sassafras, were important to the U.S. economy. As the Napoleonic
Wars swept Europe and affected exports to the United States, there was a call to reduce
America’s dependence on foreign medicine and find substitutes on native soil.
Indians and Europeans had been exchanging knowledge about curing and health for three
centuries, yet they still held very different beliefs. Indian doctors focused on the patient’s
relationship to the animate world around him. Euro-American doctors saw the body as a
mechanical system needing regulation. Meriwether Lewis, instructed by America’s foremost
physician Dr. Benjamin Rush, University of Pennsylvania botanist Benjamin Barton, and his own
mother, a skilled herbalist, was to serve as the Corps doctor, but William Clark also became
adept in treating various illnesses. Though Clark rejected Indian explanations, he often turned to
Indian techniques when members of his own party became ill.
Curing the Corps
Lewis and Clark were not persuaded by Indian explanations of why illness occurred but often
used Indian cures in preference to their own. The Corps began its journey stocked with
traditional western medicinal treatments and tools. Lewis used lancets to let out blood in such
dangerous conditions as heat exhaustion and pelvic inflammation, and tourniquets to stop blood
flow. Bleeding was thought to relieve congestion in internal organs. Lewis originally thought he
would need three syringes for enemas but settled for one. There is no further mention of its use.
Laxatives, derived from plant sources, were also used to purge the body of impurities.
Tourniquet, early nineteenth century, brass, leather, iron. Lancet, early nineteenth century. Tortoise shell,
steel. Clyster syringe, late eighteenth century. Pewter, wood. Courtesy of the Mütter Museum, The
College of Physicians of Philadelphia (86, 87, 88)
Rules of Health
Thomas Jefferson asked Benjamin Rush, a noted physician and professor of medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania, to “prepare some notes of such particulars as may occur in his
journey & which you think should draw his attention & enquiry.” Dr. Rush restricted his advice to
practical hints for maintaining health in the field—some of it unwelcome like using alcohol for
cleaning feet instead of for drinking. Many Americans did not trust professional medicine and
instead used folk cures like these written down by Clark after the expedition. Many folk cures
originally came from Indian sources.
Benjamin Rush (ca.1745-1813) to Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), June 11, 1803. “Rules for Preserving
his Health”. Manuscript. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (91)
Summoning the Spirits
An Indian doctor’s job was to identify the being that had caused an illness, then overcome or
placate it. An Indian patient lived in an animate world, surrounded by entities who could make
him ill. Medicinal herbs and roots were powdered and mixed in a mortar like this one from the
Northern Plains. Drums and herbs were used to summon helpful spirits as aids in healing.
Fragrant herbs pleased and attracted good influences and drove away evil ones. This
sweetgrass braid was used as an incense to purify implements, weapons, dwellings, and
Mortar and pestle (Plateau), prehistoric Stone. Courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale,
Washington (89a,b)
Sweetgrass braid (Lakota), 1953. Sweetgrass, string. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St.
Louis (93)
Drum (Northern Plains), nineteenth century. Wood, hide. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St.
Louis (94)
A Botanical Specimen
While admitting that Lewis was “no regular botanist,” Jefferson did praise “his talent for
observation.” And on June 11, 1806, during an extended stay with the Nez Perce people, Lewis
showed that talent. Camas, sometimes known as quamash, was an important food plant for the
Nez Perces. Lewis carefully described the plant’s natural environment, its physical structure, the
ways women harvested and prepared camas, and its role in the Indian diet. Some days later
Lewis gathered samples of camas for his growing collection of western plants.
Camassia quamash (Pursh), [“Collected by Lewis at Weippe Prairie, in present-day Idaho, June 23,
1806.”]. Herbarium sheet. Courtesy of Academy of Natural Sciences, Ewell Sale Stewart Library,
Philadelphia (84)
Flora Americae Septentrionalis
Frederick Pursh, an emigrant from Saxony who worked with botanist Benjamin Smith Barton in
Philadelphia, published the first botanical record of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Pursh
received a collection of dried plants from Lewis, which he classified and incorporated into
his Flora Americae Septentrionalis. The volume is open to Clarkia pulchella, a member of the
evening primrose family, which Pursh named in honor of William Clark. Pursh took some of the
Lewis and Clark specimens to London to finish the book, including the silky lupine specimen to
the far left.
Frederick Pursh (1774-1820). Clarkia pulchella in Flora Americae Septentrionalis: or a Systematic
Arrangement and Description of the Plants of North America. 2 vols. London: White, Cochrane, and Col.,
1814. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (85)
Lupinus sericens, Pursh, [silky lupine]. [collected by Lewis at Camp Chopunnish, on the Clearwater
River, Idaho, June 5, 1806]. Herbarium sheet. Courtesy of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England (83)
Root Digging Bag
Among the Nez Perce, only women harvested plant foods. A man doing so risked derision and
contempt. A Nez Perce woman’s year was structured around plants. As each new food plant
matured, its arrival was welcomed in a first fruits feast. Root bags were used in gathering,
cooking, and for storage. An industrious woman could dig eighty or ninety pounds of roots in a
Root digging bag (Plateau), pre-1898. Wild hemp and bear grass or rye grass, with dyes of alder, Oregon
grape root, wolf moss, algae, and larkspur. Courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale,
Washington (95)
A Gathering Basket
The cedar bark basket was used across the Plateau for gathering berries, nuts, and roots. Bark
baskets could be made easily when a person came across some forest food by stripping off a
piece of cedar bark and folding it.
Basket (Plateau), pre-1940. Cedar bark. Courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale,
Washington (97)
A Sally Bag
Plateau tribes gathered wild hemp and beargrass, then traded it to the Wishram and Wasco
Indians at The Dalles in Oregon, the dividing line between North Coast and Plateau Indians.
The traded raw materials would then be made into finished products like this sally bag, used for
packaging food.
Sally bag, pre-1898. Corn husk, dogbane [wild hemp]. Courtesy of the Maryhill Museum of Art,
Goldendale, Washington (96)
Storing Roots
Among the Shoshone, Lewis noted that dried roots were stored by being “foalded in as many
parchment hides of buffaloe.” Hide bags, like the one on display, were made by cleaning and
sizing rawhide so that it had a smooth, paintable surface. This bag is decorated in a distinctive
Plateau style.
Parfleche bag (Sahaptin), early nineteenth century. Hide, pigment. Courtesy of the National Museum of
the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (90)

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