Lewis & Clark among the Indians
6. Across the Divide



by James P. Ronda


© 1984
University of Nebraska Press,
Lincoln and London


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"Men with faces pale as ashes"

—Shoshoni Oral Tradition
 

       On a windy day in early April 1805, Meriwether Lewis surveyed the Corps of Discovery and its "little fleet" of canoes and pirogues, and declared that the expedition was ready "to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden." The long months at Fort Mandan now over, Lewis enthusiastically wrote that he "could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life."  [1] But even before that long-anticipated move upriver, the explorers had formulated plans and goals that directly involved Indian peoples in the West and Pacific Northwest. Foremost was the need to locate the Shoshoni Indians and obtain horses from them. Lewis explained how important those horses were to the expedition's success when he wrote that "the circumstances of the Snake Indians possessing large quantities of horses is much in our favour as by means of horses, the transport of our baggage will be rendered easy and expeditious over land, from the Missouri, to the Columbia river."  [2] Led to believe that the Shoshonis would be encountered somewhere between the Great Falls of the Missouri and the Three Forks, Lewis and Clark made finding them a central goal in the second season of exploration.

 

       The journey up the Missouri and on to Three Forks necessitated travel through territories frequented by Indians that Lewis and Clark believed were hostile to an American presence. As the expedition left Fort Mandan, its second goal was to avoid the various Assiniboin bands known to hunt along the banks of the Missouri beyond the Great Bend. Branded by the explorers as people with a "turbulent and faithless disposition," the Assiniboins were viewed as a potential threat to the expedition's progress. As Lewis explained later in the spring, "We do not wish to see those gentlemen just now."  [3]

 

       Searching for Shoshoni horses and avoiding Assiniboin warriors were tactical goals—ones that needed to be achieved in order to guarantee a successful voyage. But Lewis and Clark always understood that they were more than mere travelers making a grand western tour at government expense. They went west as diplomats and agents of an American empire. Proclaiming United States sovereignty, establishing intertribal peace, and promoting trade with American merchants were unchanging objectives of the expedition. Symbolizing those goals was an unnamed Mandan man who went along with the expedition when it left on April 7. He was on board, explained Lewis, "with a view to restore peace between the Snake Indians and those in this neighbourhood."  [4] Although the Mandan peace emissary decided two days later not to hazard the journey, Lewis and Clark were still committed to the policies toward the Indians they had promoted from the outset.

 

       In the weeks that followed the departure from Fort Mandan, the expedition made good progress against the spring current of the Missouri. Busy navigating the twists and turns of the river channel, they had little time to notice how few Indians were to be seen. An occasional Hidatsa hunting party or abandoned camp was the only reminder of a native presence. Yet the concern over potential trouble with the Assiniboins haunted the expedition. In mid-April the Americans began to see traces of recent Assiniboin activity; horse tracks and empty hunting camps were worrisome signs, but they did not put the explorers on any special alert.  [5] They were far more intent on reaching the Yellowstone confluence. But on April 17, as the expedition was on the Big Bend of the Missouri, its fears about the Assiniboins seemed justified. At sunset, fresh Assiniboin tracks and four timber rafts were spotted along the river bank. Both Lewis and Clark believed that an Assiniboin war party on its way to raid the Crows was nearby. If the expedition overtook the warriors, there could be serious trouble.  [6]

 

       Despite fears of an untimely collision with the Assiniboins, the rest of April proved peaceful. As the explorers passed the Yellowstone confluence and entered present-day Montana, signs of the Assiniboins and other Indian tribes continued to appear. Stick lodges, hunting camps, Assiniboin prayer cloth offerings, and sweat lodges all told that the expedition was not alone on the Upper Missouri.  [7] Early in May, when the Americans were in northeastern Montana, increased evidence of Assiniboin movement once again put Lewis and Clark on guard. On May 8, at the Milk River, the explorers came upon a place "where an Indian had recently grained, or taken the hair off of a goatskin." Lewis's belief that the Indians were Assiniboins and Clark's report of possible smoke and tepees some distance up Milk River convinced the captains that real danger was near.  [8] Two days later there was another alarm. During the morning, as the explorers made a brief stop just past Stick Lodge Creek upriver from present-day Fort Peck dam, a dog wandered into the expedition's camp. Taking this to be a sure sign that Indians were close at hand and certain they were Assiniboins, Lewis and Clark sent out hunters "to scower the country." Fearing an attack by Indians Lewis characterized as "a vicious illy disposed nation." the captains set the whole party to checking weapons and ammunition. When the scouts returned and reported no warriors about, the alert ended as quickly as it had come.  [9]

 

       For the rest of May and well into June, the expedition's energies were taken up in navigating the river through the Missouri Breaks. Although the Breaks and the White Rocks region offered what Lewis poetically described as "seens of visionary inchantment," there was little time to appreciate such natural wonders. Sandbars, rapids, and falling banks made the task of pulling boats against the current ever more demanding. Struggling toward the Judith River, the explorers continued to note "strong evidences of Indians being on the river above us, and probably at no great distance."  [10] More deserted stick lodges, a tepee pole that bore signs of use as part of a travois, and other native goods were steady reminders of the crowded wilderness. On May 29, at the Judith River, there were two vivid marks of Indian life. Walking along the Missouri at a point just above the mouth of the Judith, Lewis counted the fires of 126 recently occupied tepees. Close by, Clark observed the rings of an older tepee encampment numbering some 100 lodges. Once again anxiety about the Assiniboins surfaced as the captains brought Sacagawea some worn-out moccasins from the sites for her identification. After careful examination, she declared that they were not of Shoshoni origin but were probably made by Atsinas. Relieved that they were not the Assiniboins', the explorers may have been equally disappointed that the camps were not Shoshoni. If the moccasins were visual signs of Indian life along the Missouri, the powerful stench of rotting buffalo carcasses was an equally potent reminder of the native presence. Although recent archaeological studies by W. Raymond Wood have indicated that the route of travel for May 29 did not pass a buffalo jump, the mass of buffalo remains did prompt Lewis to write a detailed description of a pishkun or jump and the dangerous techniques used by Indians to lure animals over the edge.  [11]

 

       By the time Lewis and his advance party reached the Great Falls of the Missouri on June 13, 1805, the expedition had been traveling for over two months, and once past the Yellowstone there had been no encounters with Indians. The goal of avoiding Assiniboins or other potentially hostile natives was achieved more by good fortune than skill. But as the explorers labored over the grueling Great Falls portage, the captains thought increasingly about finding Shoshoni horses. Their growing concern can be measured by an important decision made during the portage. Earlier in the journey, Lewis and Clark had given some thought to sending one canoe and a few men back to St. Louis from the falls carrying news of the party. That plan was now quietly abandoned, partly because it might have discouraged the whole group and, perhaps more important, because "not haveing seen the Snake Indians or knowing in fact whither to calculate on their friendship or hostillity, we have conceived our party sufficiently small." Although it is not clear from the expedition's record whether Sacagawea led the explorers to expect to find the Shoshonis near the falls, there certainly were indications that those Indians had been in the area recently.  [12] On July 16, one day after the explorers finished the portage, Lewis was taking one of his usual walks along the Missouri when he came upon a large and recent Shoshoni camp. Spotting what would later be familiar to him as the cone-shaped Shoshoni brush wickiup and also noting much horse sign, Lewis concluded that he had "much hope of meeting with these people shortly."  [13]

 

       Convinced that the Shoshonis were just days away and could provide both horses and "information relative to the geography of the country," Lewis and Clark made an important decision. On July 18, Clark took an advance party consisting of York, Joseph Field, and John Potts on ahead. Moving quickly, Clark hoped to find the Shoshonis before they were frightened by hunters' guns from the larger group.  [14] In the days that followed, both Clark's forward team and Lewis's main contingent strained for any hint that their Shoshoni search was over. Saturday, July 20, brought more Shoshoni signs but no Indians. Early in the morning Lewis saw smoke up Potts' Creek. Unsure of the smoke's significance, the explorer thought it was either accidental or a deliberate Indian signal. According to his journal entry for the day, he learned later that some Shoshonis had seen either his or Clark's men, feared they were Blackfeet warriors, and fled from the river. Later the same day Clark's force, painfully working its way up a path filled with sharp rocks and prickly pear along Pryor's Valley Creek, saw a second smoke signal. Eager to let Indians know they were friends, not enemy raiders, Clark and his men took to scattering pieces of clothing, paper, and linen tape along their route.  [15] Despite these efforts, the Shoshonis seemed as tantalizingly out of reach as their smoke signals.

 

       Frustrated by their failure to contact the Shoshonis and increasingly tired by the rigors of a difficult river passage, the expedition pressed on toward the Three Forks. Although the explorers never expected Sacagawea to guide them in the usual sense of the word, they did hope she would recognize some of the country once the expedition entered Shoshoni hunting grounds. But it was not until July 22 that the Indian woman began to see country remembered from those days before her kidnaping by Hidatsas. As the main body of the expedition neared Pryor's Valley Creek, Sacagawea pointed out familiar landmarks and assured Lewis that this was "the river on which her relations live[d], and that the three forks [were] at no great distance." Tacitly admitting just how worried the whole Corps of Discovery was at not yet finding the Indians, Lewis wrote that Sacagawea's news "cheered the sperits of the party who now begin to console themselves with the anticipation of shortly seeing the head of the missouri yet unknown to the civilized world." Later that evening, with both the advance party and the main body reunited, Lewis and Clark planned strategy for what they felt was an imminent meeting with the Shoshonis. Believing that the Indians would be found at Three Forks, the captains decided to send Clark again with a small group to reconnoiter the route and make initial contact.  [16]

 

       Excited by the prospect that their Shoshoni quest might soon be ended and that Indian horses would carry them over an easy portage to Pacific waters, the two groups set out the next morning. Clark took with him Robert Frazer, Joseph and Reuben Field, and Toussaint Charbonneau. To reassure Indians that they were friends, Lewis ordered that small American flags fly from every canoe. While Clark followed Indian paths toward Three Forks, Lewis and the boats pressed upriver. Each group found the going difficult and exhausting. Hiking over broken terrain filled with sharp rocks and prickly pear, Clark's men suffered twisted ankles and lacerated feet. The boat crews had it no less easy. The Missouri was now a narrow channel choked with willow islands, rocky shallows, and unexpected rapids. Towing their craft from the shore exposed the men's moccasined feet to the needle spines of the prickly pear. Working boats in the water became a back-breaking, bone-chilling enterprise. Ordway understated the obvious when he wrote, "The party in general are much fatigued." But swollen feet and aching bones would have been gladly accepted had the effort produced a Shoshoni encounter. When Clark reached Three Forks on July 25, he found a fire-blackened prairie and horse tracks but no Indians. Two days later Lewis and the main body came to Three Forks, found Clark's note detailing what he had discovered thus far, and saw for themselves that the valley held only silence.  [17]

 

       The Three Forks of the Missouri was what Lewis described it to be, "an essential point in the geography of this western part of the Continent." But one of the essentials was missing. Without Indian horses the expedition would be stranded on the wrong side of the Great Divide. Facing a second winter east of the mountains, on short rations and unsure of the route ahead, the expedition was at a desperate point. Lewis put it bluntly: "We begin to feel considerable anxiety with rispect to the Snake Indians. If we do not find them or some other nation who have horses I fear the successful issue of our voyage will be very doubtful or at all events much more difficult in it's accomplishment."  [18] The explorers did not understand that Shoshoni and Flathead bands did not come across the mountains and into the Three Forks region until September. At the very moment when the worried captains were holding talks plotting what to do next, the Shoshonis and Flatheads were still busy fishing along the Lemhi and Salmon rivers.

 

       The expedition camped at Three Forks, where Sacagawea had been kidnaped from a Shoshoni band some five years earlier. It was a time to treat blistered and infected feet, repair clothing and moccasins, and dry dampened papers and trade goods. But the most important task at Three Forks was formulation of a plan to locate the elusive Shoshonis. Perhaps guided by information supplied by Sacagawea, the explorers now believed the Indians were either further up the Jefferson River or across the mountains still fishing.  [19] Wherever they were, they had to be found. Using a tactic employed before, Lewis and Clark decided to send a scouting party ahead while the main group continued up the Jefferson. Since Clark was still recovering from an infection caused by prickly pear punctures, Lewis led the scouts.  [20]

 

       The first week of August 1805 must have seemed an eternity to the frustrated and exhausted men of the expedition. Everything that could go awry did. Laboring up the Jefferson in a channel that was barely navigable, Clark's boat crews slipped in the mud, tripped over hidden rocks, and spent hours waist-deep in cold water. Men who usually did not complain in the face of hardship were now "so much fortiegued that they wished much that navigation was at an end that they might go by land."  [21] Canoes overturned, tow ropes broke, and the air was blue with tough talk. As a last straw, a beaver had gnawed through the green willow branch holding a message from Lewis, causing the boats to make a needless and painful detour up the Big Hole (Wisdom) River. And George Shannon got lost on a hunting trek up the Big Hole. The efforts of Lewis's scouting party to locate the Shoshonis were no more successful than previous ones. There were signs of Indian activity, but as before they yielded neither people nor horses. When the two captains again joined forces on August 6 and proceeded up the Jefferson, they had to face some harsh realities. Several men, including Clark and Whitehouse, were injured and in pain, while many others were near exhaustion. Valuable trade goods, medicine, and powder were wet and damaged. Food supplies were uncertain. And above all, there was the inescapable fact that unless the expedition found horses very soon it would have to pack only a fraction of its supplies across the divide and look for a place to winter in mountains known for their scarcity of game. The men's spirits and prospects would not be as low again until the bitter days in the snows of the Lolo Trail.

 

       These bleak prospects began to change on August 8. With the explorers just below the mouth of the Ruby (Philanthropy) River, Sacagawea recognized "the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west." Known to Indians as the Beaver's Head because it reminded them of a swimming beaver, the rock brought both hope and a sense of urgency to the expedition. "As it is now all important with us to meet those people as soon as possible," the captains decided to once again send Lewis on ahead with George Drouillard, Hugh McNeal, and John Shields. Lewis vowed to find horses if it took a month of hard travel.  [22] On the next morning, August 9, Lewis and his men swung on their packs and began to follow the Jefferson River toward the mountains. The whole future of the expedition depended on Lewis's success in finding the Shoshonis and trading for horses in something less than a month.

 

       All day on August 9, Lewis and his men tracked along the Jefferson. Seeing the river "very crooked much divided by islands, shallow, rocky in many places and very rapid," Lewis worried that Clark's boats might not be able to make the passage. On the following day the explorers "fel in with a plain Indian road" which took them past Rattlesnake Cliffs to a fork in the Beaverhead River. Because the path also forked and Lewis did not want to waste time on the wrong trail, he dispatched Drouillard up one way while Shields took the other. Sensing that this fork also marked the end of navigable waters, Lewis left a note for Clark telling him to go no further until the advance party returned. Lewis and his men now set out along Horse Prairie Creek, a small stream that flowed from the West. Horse Prairie Creek led the explorers into Shoshoni Cove, described by Lewis as one of the "handsomest" coves he had ever seen. Camping that night in the cove, Lewis and his men ate venison roasted over a willow brush fire and wondered what lay beyond the dividing ridge.  [23]

 

       Sunday, August 11, proved to be one of the most important days for the expedition. It was a day equally important for the Shoshonis of Cameahwait's band camped over the divide along the Lemhi River. Soon after Lewis and his men set out from their camp in Shoshoni Cove the Indian trail vanished in dense sagebrush. Anxious not to miss what proved to be Lemhi Pass over the Beaverhead Mountains, Lewis ordered Drouillard to walk on the captain's right flank while Shields would cover the left. McNeal was to remain with Lewis as the whole formation moved slowly through the cove and toward the pass. Five miles of this maneuver got Lewis closer to Lemhi Pass, but it still seemed no nearer to the Shoshonis. Then suddenly, some two miles off, Lewis spotted an Indian horse and rider cantering toward him. With the aid of his small telescope, Lewis identified the Indian as a Shoshoni. The armed warrior was riding an "eligant" horse and had not yet seen the Americans. Overjoyed at the prospect of finally meeting the Shoshonis, Lewis walked slowly toward the Indian. The explorer was certain that once the Shoshoni saw his white skin any fears would disappear. With about a mile now separating the two the Indian stopped and Lewis is likewise halted. Determined to make some friendly gesture, Lewis took his blanket and waved it three times in the air. Perhaps Drouillard had told him that this was the accepted sign for peaceful conversation between strangers. But the Shoshoni apparently discounted Lewis's signal and watched with mounting suspicion as Drouillard and Shields drew closer. Unable to catch the attention of either man, Lewis feared that their continued march would frighten the Indian and dash any hopes of a friendly meeting. Lewis took a few strands of beads, a mirror, and some other trade items and began to walk alone toward the still-mounted Indian. When the men were no more than two hundred paces apart, the Indian slowly turned his horse and began to ride away. In desperation Lewis shouted out the word "tab-ba-bone," which he believed was Shoshoni for whiteman. The explorer knew that Drouillard and Shields had to be stopped or all would be lost. Risking a shout and some vigorous waving, Lewis commanded both men to halt. Drouillard obeyed but Shields evidently did not see the signal. The Indian moved off a bit more and then stopped a second time. With steady determination Lewis resumed walking toward the man, again saying "tab-ba-bone," holding up the trade goods, and even stripping up his shirt sleeves to show white skin. But none of this worked and when the two were no more than one hundred paces apart, the Indian whipped up his horse and vanished into the willow brush.

 

       "With him," wrote Lewis, "vanished all my hopes of obtaining horses for the present." Depressed and angry, Lewis rounded up his men and "could not forbare abraiding them a little for their want of attention and imprudence on this occasion." Although Lewis blamed Drouillard and Shields for the failure at Shoshoni Cove, other factors were also at work. The Lemhi Shoshonis had just suffered a punishing raid at the hands of Atsina warriors and were bound to view any stranger with considerable suspicion. More important, there was the matter of the word "tab-ba-bone." Lewis had probably asked either Charbonneau or Sacagawea for a word meaning "whiteman." Since that word did not exist in the Shoshoni vocabulary, the explorer was given the term for stranger or foreigner. The Indian kinship world was divided between relatives who were friends and strangers who were potential enemies. Shouting "tab-ba-bone" to an already fearful Shoshoni was hardly the way to begin a successful talk.

 

       Knowing that the day's opportunity was lost, Lewis decided to pause in the cove for breakfast. While the rest of the men cooked, Lewis prepared a small parcel of beads, moccasin awls, paint, and a mirror. Tying the goods to a pole stuck in the ground near the campfire, Lewis hoped the gifts would attract Shoshoni attention and convince them that the strangers were interested in trading, not raiding. A sudden rain shower made following the Shoshoni's tracks impossible. Wet grass hampered walking and a maze of horse prints made deciding which track to follow difficult and frustrating. Camping that night at the head of Shoshoni Cove, Lewis may well have wondered whether the Shoshonis would forever remain just beyond his grasp.  [24]

 

       For the Lemhi Shoshonis of Cameahwait's band, August 11, 1805, had seemed like any other day in late summer. Groups of women and children were out on the prairies digging roots. Others were busy at fish weirs or gigging for salmon with sharp, barbed sticks. Most men were occupied with hunting or tending to the needs of horses and weapons. One man who had been out riding near a creek on the other side of the mountains saw strangers whose faces he had described as "pale as ashes." But the report seemed preposterous and after some talk it was dismissed as an idle boast. What counted that day was that the band would soon join Flathead friends in journeying toward the Three Forks for the buffalo season. They would no longer be ágaideka'a, or salmon eaters, but kutsendeka'a, those who ate the buffalo. There would be danger from enemies like the Atsinas and Blackfeet, but there would also be fresh meat to end days of near starvation. That anything might alter the familiar seasonal rhythm was almost unthinkable.  [25]

 

       Lewis expected the next day to bring the long-hoped-for Shoshoni encounter. Early that morning Lewis sent George Drouillard out to track. Continuing on the trail as it led toward Lemhi Pass, Lewis saw places where Indian women had been digging roots. Brush lodges were also signs that the Shoshinis were near. Although Lewis's party did not find the Shoshonis on August 12, it was a memorable day. Near the crest of the pass the explorers found "the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri." Later recalling McNeal standing astride the headwaters creek, Lewis exalted that "thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years." After drinking from the stream and resting for a moment, Lewis and his men crossed the Continental Divide—the first Americans to make the passage—and stood looking at the Bitterroot Mountains. Not even those "immence ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow" could dampen Lewis's enthusiasm as he drank at the Lemhi River and for the first time tasted western waters.  [26] For all the glory and excitement of the day, Lewis must have known that the expedition's essential problem remained unsolved. Seeing one Shoshoni, observing many Indian signs, and crossing the divide did not bring horses into the explorers' corral.

 

       Breaking camp on August 13 somewhere down a mountain slope toward the Lemhi River, Lewis and his men followed the Indian trail as it led into the Lemhi Valley. After covering about four miles, the explorers' attention was drawn to a ridge directly in front of them. Up on the ridge, watching them intently, were two Shoshoni women, a man, and several dogs. Frightened by the sudden appearance of strangers, two of the Indians sat on the ground as if preparing for the arrival of enemy raiders. When the Americans were no more than half a mile from the Indians, Lewis ordered his men to halt. Leaving his rifle and pack, Lewis picked up a large American flag, unfurled it, and walked slowly toward the Shoshonis. Despite Lewis's cautious approach, the Indian fled. Perhaps once again the word "tab-ba-bone" was more damaging than he understood. The Shoshonis were gone but their dogs were more inquisitive, sniffing and barking at the strangers. Seizing on any tactic that might convince the Indians of his peaceful intentions, Lewis tried to tie trade goods to the dogs' necks. But the animals were too skittish and the plan failed.

 

       Intent on finding the Shoshonis, Lewis and his men began to backtrack along a dusty trail that "appeared to have been much traveled lately both by men and horses." After about a mile of moving through the steep ravines of the Lemhi Valley, the explorers suddenly stumbled on three Shoshoni women. One immediately fled in terror, but an elderly woman and a young girl calmly sat on the ground with their heads down, waiting for what they must have thought was certain death at the hand of hostile strangers. Lewis walked up to the two frightened Indians, took the older woman by the hand, and repeated the now-familiar "tab-ba-bone." At the same time, he pushed up one shirt sleeve to reveal white skin. Seeing that the women were somewhat more calm, he handed out some gifts. Worried that the one woman who ran away might alarm nearby Shoshoni warriors, Lewis made signs for the older woman to call back her companion. The explorer knew from Sacagawea that vermilion symbolized peace for the Shoshonis, and he promptly daubed the women's faces with paint as one more way to communicate his intentions. Once again using signs, he asked them to guide the Americans to the main Indian encampment.

 

       Led by the Indian women along a trail beside the Lemhi River, Lewis and his men were suddenly confronted by a band of some sixty mounted warriors riding at full speed. Warned by one of the Indians who had seen Lewis earlier in the day, Cameahwait had marshaled his warriors and was now prepared to do battle. Acting quickly Lewis dropped his gun, held up a flag, and walked toward the advancing Indians. Out ahead of the main warrior party rode the band chief Cameahwait and two lesser chiefs. Seeing Lewis and the women, the chief reined up his horse, had a hurried talk with the women who excitedly showed them their gifts, and then rode on toward Lewis. In that moment when Cameahwait and his fellow chiefs were coming toward him, Lewis must have wondered just what sort of reception to expect. Any fears he had quickly evaporated as the Shoshoni chiefs warmly embraced him and repeated the word "ah-hi-e," "I am much pleased." What followed was a great festival of embracing and shouting as the Americans were "all carresed and besmeared with their grease and paint" until Lewis admitted he was "heartily tired of the national hug." Following proper plains diplomatic protocol, Lewis sat on the ground with the Shoshonis and smoked a pipe. To show their good faith and genuine welcome, the Indians removed their moccasins during the ritual smoke. Once the smoking was finished, Lewis moved to cement good relations with his new-found friends. While he distributed trade goods—including a generous amount of blue beads and vermilion—Lewis used signs to explain briefly that he and his friends were in Shoshoni country for peace and trade. Hot and thirsty from what had already seemed a very long day, Lewis was anxious to get on toward the Lemhi River Shoshoni camp. But Cameahwait was in no particular hurry and preferred to savor the moment by giving two long speeches to his warriors. It was not until late in the afternoon that the explorers and their native escort came to the Indian camp along the Lemhi.

 

       If Lewis thought that he and his men could rest for the remainder of the day, he had not taken the measure of just how much the Americans were a curiosity and a social happening. Ushered into a skin tepee, the only one still owned by the band after the recent Atsina raid, the explorers were ceremoniously seated on green boughs and antelope skins. Once again there was ritual smoking, as explorers and Indians sat facing each other across what Lewis characterized as a "little magic circle." The ceremony complete, Lewis spoke through Drouillard's signs to explain who they were, what their mission was, and what they hoped to obtain from the Shoshonis. As Lewis talked, the crowd around the tepee swelled with women and children intent on seeing the outlandish pale beings. Now late in the evening, Lewis recalled that he had eaten nothing since the previous night. His request for food brought some serviceberry and chokecherry cakes, plain food but for Lewis and his men a welcome meal. The berry cakes satisfied Lewis's stomach, but a small bit of salmon did more to gratify his mind. That salmon convinced him that "we were on the waters of the Pacific Ocean."

 

       But any hope Lewis had of an easy passage to the Columbia was shattered when Cameahwait told him about the treacherous course of the Salmon River. For now, Lewis consoled himself with the belief that "this account had been exagerated with a view to detain us among them." Exhausted by one of the most momentous days in the life of the expedition, Lewis left Drouillard, Shields, and McNeal to dance with the Shoshonis while he sought "a tolerable sound night's repose."  [27]

 

       The day had been every bit as momentous for Cameahwait's people. Their familiar patterns of hunting, fishing, gathering, and preparing for the annual buffalo hunt had been interrupted by the arrival of strangers whose appearance was disturbing and whose intentions were unknown. Although northern Shoshonis had long been exposed to European goods from Spanish sources, there is little evidence to suggest that anyone in the Lemhi bands had ever seen a white man. It is difficult to know just what the Shoshonis thought of Lewis and the others. Certainly they were fascinated and delighted with the gifts, including mirrors that were described in one oral tradition as "things like solid water, which were sometimes brilliant as the sun, and which sometimes showed us our faces." Dazzled by those mirrors and the sudden arrival of pale strangers, many Shoshonis imagined Lewis and his men were "the children of the Great Spirit."

 

       But not every Shoshoni in camp that night was filled with wonder and delight. There was a great deal of suspicion. A number of warriors believed that Lewis's party were really agents for the Blackfeet or some other hostile people. That fear was increased by the weapons carried by the explorers as well as by Lewis's request that the band go to Shoshoni Cove to aid Clark's party. Despite all the dancing and good cheer in camp that night, the Indians' fears were growing. Those fears would have to be confronted and resolved if the expedition was to gain the Shoshonis' cooperation.  [28]

 

       Knowing he had to give Clark's weary boat crews time to navigate the Beaverhead River as far as the forks, Lewis decided to spend a day at the Shoshoni camp. That extra day would serve Clark's needs as well as give Lewis an opportunity to gain additional geographical information from Cameahwait. The explorer spent most of the morning working on his journal and talking through Drouillard's signs with the chief. At midday Lewis decided to organize a Shoshoni move toward the rendezvous with Clark. Lewis wanted Cameahwait to provide porters and at least thirty horses to carry the expedition's baggage over Lemhi Pass and on to the Indian village. The chief seemingly agreed and, after a long speech to his warriors, told Lewis that everyone would be ready to move the next morning. That news, and a report from Drouillard that the Shoshonis had some four hundred fine horses and mules, gave Lewis reason to believe that his effort to gain Indian support was succeeding.  [29]

 

       Lewis had hoped that on the following morning, August 15, Cameahwait's band and their horses would be ready to make the journey back across the divide. But despite his efforts at gentle persuasion, it became increasingly clear throughout the morning that the Indians were reluctant to leave camp. Cameahwait repeatedly encouraged his people to leave their river village and follow Lewis, but the chief's efforts failed and an exasperated Lewis finally demanded to know what was wrong. As Cameahwait explained it, "Some foolish persons among them had suggested the idea that we were in league with the Pahkees [Siksika Blackfeet] and had come on in order to decoy them into an ambuscade where their enimies were waiting to receive them." While Cameahwait claimed that he did not share his warriors' apprehensions, the chief's behavior both that day and the next suggests that he was quite worried. For these Shoshonis there was ground for fear even if it infuriated Lewis. The band had suffered severe economic and personal losses at the hands of everyone from the Knife River Hidatsas to the Blackfeet. Outgunned and perhaps outmanned by an unknown force, the Indians had every reason to be wary.

 

       At the same time, Lewis realized the necessity of Shoshoni cooperation in ferrying men and equipment over the pass and their overall support in providing horses if no water route to the Columbia could be found. Seeking both to reassure and prod the Shoshonis, Lewis told them he was disappointed in their lack of confidence in his good character. Aware of how much the Indians wanted manufactured goods, he threatened to block any future trade in guns and ammunition. As a final shot, the explorer raised doubts about the valor of Shoshoni men, saying that those who refused to help him were cowards. Lewis believed he had "touched the right string" when he questioned native courage. Whatever caused the turnabout, several warriors now joined Cameahwait and declared their readiness to make the trip. Theirs was not a popular decision, and as the joint Shoshoni-American party left camp "several of the old women were crying and imploring the great spirit to protect their warriors as if they were going to inevitable destruction."  [30] As explorers and Indians camped that night at the upper end of Shoshoni Cove, Lewis might well have pondered his fate and that of the expedition if Clark's party did not appear the next day.

 

       What should have been a pleasant reunion between Lewis and Clark on August 16 proved instead to be a day filled with tension, fear, and deception. Early in the morning, Lewis sent out Drouillard and Shields to do some hunting. Without meaning to, the explorer promptly increased the Shoshonis' suspicions when he asked the Indians to be quiet lest they frighten the game. Thinking that they were now the hunted quarry, two groups of Indians rode off down the cove to shadow Drouillard and Shields. It was not a good way to begin the day, and things soon became even more tense. As Lewis and Cameahwait made their way down through the cove, one of the Indian scouts came riding up the plain at full whip. Lewis's first thought was that by "some unfortunate accident" a hostile war party was in the neighborhood and had been confused with the main expedition group. All fears were quickly allayed when the Shoshoni announced his news, explaining that Drouillard had killed a deer and all were invited to feast on it. As hungry Indians ate the uncooked meat, Lewis took note that the fear of possible ambush had reduced the caravan to no more than twenty-eight men and three women. Since the women were expected to play the porter role, his count was not reassuring.

 

       With the bloody meal over, Lewis carefully explained to Cameahwait just where the main body of the expedition would be encountered. The chief replied by placing skin tippets or mantles around the necks of the Americans. Although impressed with the tippets, Lewis believed that they were an attempt to disguise the explorers as one more move to prepare for a possible ambush. Not wanting to arouse any suspicions, he accepted the tippet and gave Cameahwait his army cocked hat. Wearing a buckskin shirt and sporting a dark summer tan, Lewis looked "a complete Indian." By now his central concern was that Clark would not be at the appointed place and that the Shoshonis would turn either violent or uncooperative. When the explorers and their Indian escort came to within two miles of the forks of the Beaverhead, Lewis could see that Clark's boats were not there. Genuinely worried, he watched as the Shoshonis cautiously slowed their pace. Writing later in his journal, the explorer admitted that he simply did not know what to do. With a determination bred of desperation, Lewis handed Cameahwait his gun, telling him that "if his enemies were in those bushes before him that he could defend himself with that gun." Lewis claimed that for his part he did not fear death and challenged Cameahwait to shoot him if the Americans were guilty of deception. Following Lewis's bold move, the other explorers gave their guns to the warriors. Lewis's quick thinking temporarily quieted the Shoshonis' fears. It also gave the captain time to seize on a second strategem to retain the Indians' confidence. Recalling the notes he had tied to a stake as a means of communication with Clark, Lewis now claimed that the letters were actually written by Clark. Lewis boldly told Cameahwait that the expedition was having difficulty navigating the Jefferson and "was coming up slowly." Lewis later admitted that lying to the chief, although justified by the occasion, "set a little awkward."

 

       Neither Lewis nor the Shoshonis slept well that night. Most of the Indians camped away from the fire light, hiding in the brush to avoid being caught in an enemy raid. Many of them continued to doubt the wisdom of trusting the strangers. Bitterness mounted against Cameahwait as several warriors charged the chief with exposing them to unnecessary danger. Perhaps seeing through some of Lewis's tales, some Shoshonis insisted that the Americans were telling different and contradictory stories. Still smarting from the recent Atsina raid, these wary warriors found only a fitful sleep. Lewis's night was no less troubled. Filled with gloomy thoughts, he turned over in his mind all the possible causes for Clark's delay. His greatest fear was that Clark had found the river so difficult that the main body had halted well below the forks. If Clark's group did not appear the next day, the Indians would abandon Lewis and his men. "I knew," wrote Lewis later, "that if these people left me that they would immediately disperse and secrete themselves in the mountains where it would be impossible to find them or at least in vain to pursue them and that they would spread the allarm to all other bands within our reach & of course we should be disappointed in obtaining horses, which would vastly retard and increase the labour of our voyage and I feared might so discourage the men as to defeat the expedition altogether." Feigning unconcern but in reality as worried as "the most affrighted Indian," Lewis tried to maintain the Indians' confidence with stories, told around a willow brush fire, of York, Sacagawea, and the great store of goods the Shoshonis would get in trade for their horses.  [31] Among the many remarkable days and nights of the expedition, this day and its tension-filled night must have long remained in Lewis's memory. For the Lemhi Shoshonis, it was their last night before entering the world of white men.

 

       Lewis's guess that Clark and the boat crews were having great difficulty navigating the Beaverhead River proved correct. Its swift current and shallow channel had tested the expedition's strength almost to the limit of endurance. Early on the morning of August 17, 1805, the boat crews set out for another day's battle with the Beaverhead. At the same time, Lewis nervously sent out Drouillard and an Indian companion with a note urging Clark to come on with all possible speed. By midmorning Clark was at the forks of the Beaverhead. Anxious not to miss any trace of Lewis or the Indians, Clark, Charbonneau, and Sacagawea walked out ahead. About a mile from the forks, Clark saw several mounted Indians riding toward him. Sacagawea and Charbonneau, who had evidently gotten ahead of Clark, "began to dance and show every sign of joy" as they recognized the Shoshonis. Sacagawea sucked her fingers as a sign that these men belonged to her own people. As the explorer and the Shoshoni party neared each other, Clark recognized George Drouillard. The meeting took place with "great signs of joy." Some time later, as Clark moved up toward what would soon become Camp Fortunate, one of the Indians reported to Lewis that whites had been seen and were coming upriver. The stage was now set for a grand reunion and serious Shoshoni negotiations.

 

       The arrival at Camp Fortunate had all the elements of pageantry and fictional romance. In his understated way, Lewis was "much gratifyed" by Clark's appearance. But there was nothing understated about the Indians' reception. Clark's hair was festooned with shells and he was subjected to the usual round of "national hugs." While Cameahwait was busy welcoming Clark as something akin to a visiting god, other Shoshonis watched in astonishment at the parade of men, boats, and equipment. Not only fascinated with clothing, guns, and canoes, the Indians gaped at York's blackness and "the segassity of Capt. Lewis's dog." In the midst of all this excitement there was another reunion yet more dramatic and improbable. As the baggage was being taken from the canoes, one of the three Shoshoni women in Lewis's group recognized Sacagawea. The two women had been captured in the same Hidatsa raid. No sooner had these two sat down than Sacagawea began to stare at Cameahwait. Suddenly recognizing him as her brother, "she jumped up, ran & embraced him, & threw her blanket over him and cried profusely." In a week that had seen tension, fear, deception, and determination, Sacagawea's homecoming was not out of place. Once again the stars had danced for Lewis and Clark.

 

       Toward late afternoon, with baggage and people sorted out, the captains prepared for some serious talk with Cameahwait and the other Shoshoni chiefs. Sitting under an enclosure of willow brush and sail cloth, Lewis and Clark began their usual diplomatic litany. Not trusting to Drouillard's signs, the captains employed a cumbersome translation chain consisting of Sacagawea, Charbonneau, and François Labiche. By this means, Cameahwait was told "the objects which had brought us into this distant part of the country." But even more important than explaining the expedition's goals or fitting the Shoshonis into the American trade system was the need for Indian horses. Hoping to interest the Shoshonis in horse trading, the captains declared that their principal purpose for making so hazardous a journey was to discover a practical trade route for American merchandise. Because the trade could not begin until the explorers had fulfilled their mission, Lewis and Clark pointedly reminded Cameahwait it would be "mutually advantageous to them as well as to ourselves that they should render us such aids as they had it in their power to furnish to hasten our voyage and of course our return home."

 

       Cameahwait certainly got the message. Faced with well-armed enemies and an uncertain supply of manufactured goods from Spanish sources, he could hardly reject the opportunity to have a place in the new American trade system. Guns and ammunition, especially, were on the chief's mind. Ordway counted only two or three guns and no ammunition among the warriors at Camp Fortunate. Cameahwait's personal war name, Too-et-te-con'l or Black Gun, was just one more indication of the special emphasis northern Shoshonis placed on firearms. Without thinking much about the consequences of arming the Shoshonis—consequences that would be felt by Hidatsa, Blackfeet, and Nez Perce warriors—Lewis and Clark made any promise in order to obtain the necessary horses. Cameahwait's apparent agreement to provide whatever was required was followed by the usual program of handing out medals to chiefs, distributing gifts to onlookers, and showing off the always impressive airgun.

 

       Lewis and Clark finished the eventful day plotting strategy for crossing the Continental Divide and finding western waters. Their plan called for Clark, Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and eleven men to cross the divide and follow the Lemhi River. Charbonneau and Sacagawea were to remain at the Shoshoni village, organizing the Indians' efforts to carry expedition baggage over the pass. Clark and his men were to reconnoiter possible water routes to the Columbia. While these efforts were taking place west of the divide, Lewis proposed to remain at Camp Fortunate to supervise the transportation over Lemhi Pass. Both expedition parties would eventually join forces at the Lemhi River Shoshoni camp.  [32]



 

       The six days Lewis spent at Camp Fortunate were his first extended opportunity to study and record major features of northern Shoshoni culture. Lewis's descriptions of the objects that made up the daily life of the Indians revealed just how much he had learned during the Fort Mandan apprenticeship. With Sacagawea gone, Lewis lacked both a knowledgeable Shoshoni informant and a reliable translator. Nor could he depend on well-informed white traders like those at Fort Mandan. Rather, he had to rely on careful observation; an occasional detail would be added later by Sacagawea or Cameahwait. Despite such problems, Lewis discovered and recorded a vast store of information about Shoshoni life.  [33]

 

       Although Lewis had begun to note important aspects of Shoshoni life as early as August 13, it was not until August 19 that the explorer undertook a systematic description of Shoshoni material culture. Using the now-familiar categories first employed to analyze Upper Missouri villager ways, Lewis wrote about Shoshoni physical appearance, population, disease, clothing, and weapons. Hunting techniques, fishing methods, cooking pots, spoons, and tobacco pipes all were noted in the explorer's record. So long as there were objects for him to look at, Lewis was able to provide masterful descriptions. But when dealing with social values and personal relations, he tended to rely on traditional European stereotypes of Indians.

 

       Because Lewis could handle clothing and observe it with his keen naturalist's eye, he filled his journal with words about moccasins, leggings, shirts, robes, and ornaments. Every piece of clothing, and often its method of construction, was described with his typical attention to detail. But no article in the Shoshoni wardrobe so captivated the explorer as the ermine tippet given to him by Cameahwait. Lewis described it as "the most eligant peice of Indian dress I ever saw."  [34]

 

       Always interested in weapons, Lewis took special note of the various kinds of Shoshoni bows and arrows. Recognizing that sacred forces were often attached to certain weapons, Lewis took time to record the construction of and special ceremonies surrounding Shoshoni hide shields. As he explained it, the preparation of a buffalo-hide shield required several days of feasting and ritual during which band elders and shamans carefully worked the skin. If both the sacred and secular processes were properly done, the Shoshonis believed that the shield would repel arrows and bullets.  [35]

 

       Skilled at describing the shapes and uses of native objects, Lewis found it more difficult to discuss the Indian band's social behavior without falling back on the clichés used by Europeans for centuries. He depicted Shoshoni men as lazy husbands who mistreated their wives while lavishing attention on a favorite horse. He saw Indian women as squaw drudges who did all the heavy work and hardly paused during a supposedly painless childbirth. Indian parents spoiled their sons and sold their daughters to the highest bidder. The explorer insisted that Shoshoni men and women engaged in easy sex, and although he noted that virtue among women was more valued than in the Missouri River villages, he asserted that it was not above price. The expedition's commitment to ethnographic externals suited Lewis's skills and some of his cultural biases. He could bring to life a weapon or a skin shirt, but the people who created those objects always seemed just beyond his reach.

 

       No place was that more plain than in Lewis's attempt to describe the Shoshoni character. By the time Lewis and Clark reached the Shoshonis, the explorers had a well-developed set of ideas about plains natives. The Missouri River villagers were potential customers and allies to be courted and protected. They were, in Clark's memorable phrase, "durtey, kind, pore, and extravigent." But buffalo and horse plains people like the Sioux and Assiniboins held a very different place in the explorers' mind. Those tribes were viewed as hostile, unreliable, and innately violent. When Lewis attempted to evaluate the Shoshoni temperament, he was caught between those negative judgments and the fact that he and others in the expedition found much to admire about Cameahwait's people. Lewis's Shoshonis were honest, well-behaved, and considerate. They would share food with strangers without question even if there was little to go around. Lewis admired their personal bravery and recognized the rough equality that made "every man a chief." But at heart he saw Shoshoni men and women not as adults but as mercurial and ignorant children. Angry at the necessity for Indian support to cross Lemhi Pass, Lewis lamented the fate of the expedition "which appeared at this moment to depend in a great measure upon the caprice of a few savages who are ever as fickle as the wind." When he watched some starving Shoshonis eagerly eat raw venison, Lewis loftily wrote, "I really did not untill now think that human nature ever presented itself in a shape so nearly allyed to the brute creation."  [36] Some of the American party might have reminded the captain how tasty white pudding or boudin blanc, made from buffalo intestines, was when prepared by the skillful hands of Toussaint Charbonneau. Lewis's whole evaluation of the Shoshoni personality can be seen in one vivid journal entry. Writing on August 19, he declared that "from what has been said of the Shoshones it will be readily perceived that they live in a wretched stait of poverty. Yet notwithstanding their extreem poverty they are not only cheerful but even gay, fond of gaudy dress and amusements; like most other Indians they are great egotists and frequently boast of heroic acts which they never performed. They are also fond of games of wrisk. They are frank, communicative, fair in dealing, generous with the little they possess, extreemly honest, and by no means beggarly."  [37] Lewis's Shoshonis were guileless children, fond of dressing up, telling tall tales, and too poor to know they ought to be unhappy without the blessings of civilization.

 

       As Lewis made his catalog of Shoshoni culture, there was much he missed or misunderstood. During the long Fort Mandan winter, Lewis and Clark had heard a good deal about the Shoshonis, especially from Hidatsa informants. Although the captains understood that Shoshoni bands ranged over a wide territory, they did not know the considerable variety and diversity among Shoshonean peoples. Using Sacagawea and other northern Shoshoni captives as models, Lewis and Clark first imagined the Shoshonis to be a plains people something like the Teton Sioux bands but with a less warlike disposition. In fact, there were two very distinct traditions, two ways that joined to make Lemhi Shoshoni life.

 

       Throughout the long days of searching for the Shoshonis beyond Three Forks, Lewis and Clark thought only of horses. But the mounted warrior and hunter was a quite recent development among Shoshoneans. By far the older tradition in northern Shoshoni life came out of the southern Great Basin, especially Nevada and Utah. Indians of the southern Shoshoni lifeway lived in small family groups, were hunter-gatherers, and built wickiup dwellings in a conical shape from brush and grass. Southern Shoshonis did not have horses, nor did they focus their lives on a warrior ideal. When Shoshoneans moved into Montana and Idaho some time in the sixteenth century, they carried that Great Basin culture with them. When Lewis and Clark saw Cameahwait's people eating fish and living in bruch wickiups, the explorers were witnessing the persistence of old ways.

 

       But the northern Shoshonis were more than ágaideka'a, salmon eaters. In the years after 1700, with the introduction of the horse and contact with plains cultures, there was a revolution in northern Shoshoni life. That social and cultural upheaval turned pedestrian small-game hunters and fishermen into equestrian hunters of the buffalo and antelope. Changes in social values and organization paralleled the economic ones. After 1700 the northern Shoshonis developed a culture more like their plains neighbors than their Great Basin relatives. By regional standards, most northern Shoshonis were not the poverty-striken people portrayed by the captains but rather well-to-do, possessing material goods and horses beyond the imagination of most Great Basin peoples. But the acceptance of the horse and some plains nomad traits did not mean that the old ways disappeared. The two traditions were not mutually exclusive. Lewis and Clark saw a people who scheduled their lives and habits to suit salmon runs west of the divide and buffalo herds east of it. Lewis provided in his journal entries a survey of the material culture of people whose lives were poised between a Great Basin past and a plains present. Skin tepees and brush lodges, salmon weirs and buffalo hunts all pointed to Indians who had achieved a balance in a difficult land.



 

       Sandwiched between Lewis's ethnographic work at Camp Fortunate and Clark's difficult reconnaissance of the Salmon River country were two important conferences with Cameahwait. Described by Clark as "a man of Influence Sence & easey & reserved manners, [who] appears to possess a great deal of Cincerity," Cameahwait had proved to be a cooperative and friendly host.  [38] The chief was willing to continue in that role, but he wanted specific things from the expedition in return for his help. And he had no intention of allowing the expedition's desires to thwart the needs of his people. All of this became plain as Clark entered Cameahwait's Lemhi River village on August 20. Ushered into the only skin tepee the band still had, Clark was fed berry cakes and salmon before beginning his talk with the chief. First, the explorer needed geographical information. The future of the expedition now depended on finding a practical route to western waters, whether that path required horses or canoes. Cameahwait listened intently to Clark's request for directions and then constructed a detailed relief map depicting the Lemhi, Salmon, and Bitterroot rivers as well as the Bitterroot Mountains. Cameahwait's report was both accurate and discouraging. Pressed further by Clark, the chief mentioned for the first time "persed nose Indians" who lived on a river "below the rocky mountains [which] ran a great way toward the setting sun and finally lost itself in a great lake of water which was illy tasted, and where the white men lived."

 

       That was just the sort of news Clark was looking for, but he was not yet prepared to decide that this northwestern route was the most acceptable. Turning his attention to an old man said by Cameahwait to know much about the lands to the southwest, Clark asked him about possible trails to the sea in that direction. What Clark got was an image of barren terrain filled with hostile Bannock Indians and a route that eventually led to the Spanish domain. Promptly rejecting such a path, Clark returned to the suggestions offered by Cameahwait. The chief indicated that Nez Perce hunters made annual treks over the mountains to the Missouri. Although Cameahwait insisted that "the road was a very bad one" and lacked game, Clark quickly decided that if Indian hunters could make the crossing on short rations his men could do the same.

 

       Cameahwait was certainly willing to provide Clark with vital geographical information and a guide named Old Toby, but in the chief's mind the meeting had a very different purpose. Faced with a food supply that was precarious and enemies who were well armed, Cameahwait wanted a serious talk about Shoshoni power, American trade, and plentiful supplies of manufactured goods. Although the Atsinas, Blackfeet, and Hidatsas had a ready access to firearms from Canadian traders, the Shoshonis were forced to rely on capturing an occasional gun. Shoshoni trade, which centered on Spanish goods obtained either through direct contact or Ute middlemen, did not provide the needed weapons. Spanish borderlands policy sought to keep weapons out of native hands. What Spanish policymakers saw as an effort to protect their borders and restrain Indians from killing each other was perceived by Cameahwait as "leaving them defenceless and an easy prey to their bloodthirsty neighbors to the east." Hunched over the council fire, "his ferce eyes and lank jaws grown meager for want of food," Cameahwait imagined how different Shoshoni destinies would be if he and his warriors had American guns. "We could then live in the country of the buffalo and eat as our enemies do and not be compelled to hide ourselves in these mountains and live on roots and berries as the bear do." Perhaps caught up in the intensity of that vision, Clark made promises impossible to keep and destined to anger other plains people. The explorer told Cameahwait that the Missouri River villagers had promised to stop raiding the Shoshonis. Clark knew that Hidatsa war parties had left their villages that very spring, but it was news he was not about to share. Restraining the Hidatsas were not possible, nor was it realistic for Clark to promise that Atsina and Blackfeet warriors might accept peace on the plains. Falling back on what was now firm expedition policy, Clark promised that "whitemen would come to them with an abundance of guns and every other article necessary to their defence and comfort." All the Shoshonis needed to do was provide American traders with fur, and the bounty of Western technology would be theirs. Clark did not realize that by arming the Shoshonis and making them fur-trade allies, he ensured bitter responses from the Blackfeet and the Atsinas.  [39]

 

       Two days later, as Clark's reconnaissance of the Salmon River country continued, Cameahwait, Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and some fifty Shoshoni men, along with unnumbered women and children, appeared at Camp Fortunate. Now it was Lewis's turn to trade words with the chief. Although the expedition's record for this meeting is not as full as for Clark's, it is plain that Cameahwait once again emphasized his insecure position and its consequences for the band's food supply. Lewis's reply was once again to stress the value of American trade and the possiblities it offered Shoshonis for a better life. Like Clark, Lewis made Cameahwait a promise of guns. To satisfy more immediate needs, the explorer provided corn, beans, and fish for the hungry band.  [40] Had he been more observant, the captain might have realized that the demands for food were running counter to the needs of the expedition. At some point Cameahwait would be forced to decide between feeding his people or continuing to provide support for the explorers.

 

       On August 24, after some delays, Lewis finally moved out of Camp Fortunate. What seemed to him an essential move must have worried Cameahwait. Just how long, he may have wondered, would his band have to wait before leaving for the Three Forks buffalo hunt? That worry grew into a full-scale confrontation with Lewis the following day. Early in the morning of the 25th, Cameahwait quietly sent some of his young warriors across the pass to the Lemhi River camp. These men were to round up the rest of the band, and all would then travel to their eastern hunting grounds. Cameahwait was not abandoning the expedition. He was simply responding to a food crisis among his own people. But Lewis knew none of this until late in the afternoon when Toussaint Charbonneau casually mentioned that he soon expected to see all the Shoshonis on their way east. Lewis was furious with Charbonneau for withholding vital information, but his real concern was to stop the Shoshoni move until the expedition was across the mountains and had the horses it needed. Lewis knew he needed to act quickly. Calling Cameahwait and two lesser chiefs to meet with him, the explorer bluntly asked whether they were honorable men whose word could be trusted. He forcefully reminded the chiefs of all their promises to aid the expedition across the divide and on to western waters. Not content to challenge their honor, Lewis resorted to a direct threat. "If they wished the whitemen to be their friends," he declared, "and to assist them against their enemies by furnishing them with arms and keeping their enemies from attacking them . . . they must never promise us anything which they did not mean to perform." After an awkward silence, the two lesser chiefs claimed that the decision was made by Cameahwait. Waiting a long time before replying, Cameahwait admitted that his decision had been wrong. The chief explained that he "had been induced to that measure from seeing all his people hungry." Lewis had seen the hunger too and had commented on it repeatedly. Cameahwait's choice had not deserved Lewis's harsh blast. That the chief finally chose honor over starvation deserved more credit than Lewis was willing to grant.  [41]

 

       The last act in the Shoshoni encounter was played out at the end of August when the captains were reunited at the Shoshoni village on the Lemhi River. Once the explorers decided to follow the advice of Old Toby and take their chances on the Nez Perce path over the mountains, there was a flurry of horse trading. Those days of bargaining reveal how quickly the Shoshonis learned to deal with the expedition as a captive market. In the earliest days of the encounter, the Indians were so fascinated with the explorers and their manufactured goods that they were willing to exchange a horse for an old checked shirt, a pair of worn leggings, and a knife. "The Indians," wrote Lewis, "seemed quite as well pleased with their bargain as I was."  [42] But Shoshoni traders soon learned that they could get much more if they bargained more sharply. On the day Lewis moved out of Camp Fortunate he noticed some spare horses. Offering to trade for them, the explorer was bluntly told to display his wares before business could begin. Ragged clothing and mirrors were plainly not sufficient to attract the attention of the Indians. Digging deep into his store of trade goods, Lewis came up with objects that had been the staple of exchange at Fort Mandan. Those iron war axes that had so pleased village warriors had a similar effect on the Shoshonis. With the rate of exchange for horses now changing, Lewis was compelled to offer a battle-axe, a knife, a handkerchief, and some paint for one horse. For a Spanish mule, valued for its surefootedness, the American had to add another knife and some clothing.  [43]

 

       Once over Lemhi Pass and at the Indian village, Lewis began serious trading. On August 23, the first day of bargaining, it was plain that the free and easy days of cheap horses were long gone. Lewis was forced to pay increasingly larger amounts of merchandise for each horse. He had no choice but to accept the Indians' demands. On the second trading lay, Lewis bought five or six more mounts and paid a considerable price for each one. When Clark joined Lewis on August 29, he had to offer his pistol, a knife, and one hundred rounds of ammunition for one horse. Offering guns for horses was a sure indication of both the expedition's need and the Shoshonis' trading skill. Despite their best efforts, the captains did not prove to be especially astute traders. When Clark carefully examined the twenty-nine horses in the expedition's corral, he found them to be "nearly all sore backs, and several pore, and young."  [44] Lewis and Clark had paid dearly for castoffs of the Shoshoni herd. The Shoshonis had proven to be better Yankee traders than the Americans.



 

       Led now by Old Toby, the expedition struggled along the north fork of the Salmon River through country made difficult by heavy timber, steep hills, and dense thickets. Progress was slowed as horses slipped and fell. A snow and sleet storm made the going even more treacherous. The explorers had heard about the Flathead Indians during the winter with the Mandans. The Shoshonis had indicated that the Flatheads might be met as the expedition moved north, but since the Flatheads regularly joined Shoshoni bands for hunting across the mountains at this season, a meeting this late in the year seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, on September 4, as the expedition crossed Lost Trail Pass and entered the Bitterroot Valley, the Americans encountered a large Flathead Indian camp in a place known later as Ross's Hole.

 

       Lewis and Clark's progress toward the Flathead camp had not gone unnoticed. Early that morning and old chief named Three Eagles had grown concerned about possible raiding parties who might steal the band's horses. Out scouting during the day, Three Eagles was the first to see the expedition. Hiding in the brush, he was both bewildered and concerned by the sight. Here were men and horses moving along without any effort to conceal their presence. Seeing that they had no blankets, the Flatheads assumed they were a group of travelers who had been robbed by hostile Indians. Uncertain of the strangers' intention, he hurried back to camp to warn his people.

 

       Still apprehensive about the strangers, Three Eagles returned to a stand of timber where he could watch without being seen. As the Americans drew closer, Three Eagles caught sight of York, whose face, he supposed, was painted black in preparation for war. The Indian assumed that the expedition must have recently emerged from a battle in which they had lost only their blankets. Now convinced that the strangers would soon come upon the Indian camp, Three Eagles once again returned to spread the warning. Because the expedition did not act like a war party, the Flathead chiefs decided to remain quiet and wait for the strangers to arrive in the valley.  [45]

 

       Throughout the day the expedition had seen fresh signs indicating that Indians were nearby. Toward evening the party entered Ross's Hole and saw thirty-three lodges dotting the valley floor. Already convinced that the Americans were not a war party, the Indians greeted Lewis and Clark with a Flathead version of the "national hug" employed by the Shoshonis. While the captains were ceremoniously conducted to Flathead tepees, the rest of the expedition was offered what little food could be found. Because it was late, serious talk had to be postponed until the following day.

 

       Those Indians whom Lewis and Clark and their men insisted on calling the Flatheads were, in fact, Salish-speaking people. They later told the captains that they were Ootlashoots of the Tushepaw nation. "Ootlashoot" was probably from the Salish word for red willow, the native name for the Bitterroot River. The name Flathead proved to be a source of endless confusion from its first appearance in the expedition's records. The Salish seen by Lewis and Clark did not practice head flattening, a fact quickly pointed out by Clark in conversation with Nicholas Biddle. The captains first heard about the Flatheads while at Fort Mandan, and Clark's 1805 map places them approximately where they were found in September 1805. The name Flathead appears to have been the result of interpreting the visual sign language gesture for the Salish. They were signed by pressing both sides of the head with the hands in a flattening motion.

 

       Much of Flathead life was like the cycle of the Shoshoni year. The Ootlashoots maintained close ties with the Lemhi Shoshonis and joined them each year for the Three Forks buffalo hunt. Flathead culture was an adoptive way of life. By the time the captains came to Ross's Hole, these Salish speakers had created a lifeway that blended their plateau past with many plains traits. After 1700, Flathead life became increasingly dominated by horse and buffalo patterns. Perhaps the most significant difference between the Flatheads and their Shoshoni neighbors was language. Both Clark and Ordway noted the difference on the first night in the valley. For Ordway, Salish speakers sounded as if they were lisping or had "a bur on their tongue." The sergeant speculated that this odd way of speaking meant the Flatheads were really the long lost Welsh Indians! Without knowing it, the expedition had passed from the Uto-Aztecan language family, to which Shoshoni belonged, to the Salish family. What Clark graphically described as "a gugling kind of language spoken much thro the throat" was in fact Salish.  [46]

 

       Lewis and Clark did not intend to spend much time among the Flatheads. The Indians were in a hurry to join their Shoshoni hunting partners and the expedition was anxious to make their mountain passage. Thursday, September 5, was a busy day filled with talk and trade, both of which were made difficult by translation problems. Neither Old Toby nor Sacagawea spoke Salish. As luck would have it, among the Flatheads was a Shoshoni boy who had been taken captive by some northern raiding party, was later freed by the Flatheads, and now lived with them. Using the boy's language skills, the captains constructed a translation chain that required each word to pass through the captains' English, Labiche's French, Charbonneau's Hidatsa, Sacagawea's Shoshoni, and on to the boy's Salish. By this cumbersom means, the explorers briefly explained their mission, awarded several medals and flags, and generally made friends. But the real business of the day was horse swapping. The Flatheads generously took a number of worn-out horses in exchange for some of their healthy and "ellegant" ones. Twelve good mounts were added to the expedition's herd. During the day Clark took time to note Flathead hair and clothing styles, observing that they were quite similar to Shoshoni fashions. Whitehouse probably spoke for many when he found the Flatheads to be "the likelyest and honestst Savages we have ever yet Seen."  [47]

 

       The following day the expedition did some more horse dealing, adding two fine animals to the herd. Meanwhile, Lewis struggled to draft a Salish vocabulary. According to Whitehouse, many believed such a vocabulary would prove once and for all time whether these Indians were descendants of Prince Madoc and the Welsh Indians. Here so many miles from the Missouri were echoes still of that persistent myth which had the power to capture the imaginations of men as different as John Evans and Thomas Jefferson. Working in a steady drizzle, the expedition's horse handlers hurried to lighten loads and tighten packsaddle cinches. At mid-afternoon, as the rain let up, a memorable cavalcade marched out of Ross's Hole. The expedition pressed on north while the Flatheads galloped out for Three Forks and the buffalo hunt.  [48]



 

       The next three weeks held some of the most demanding and dangerous days in the history of the Corps of Discovery. After spending a brief time at Travelers' Rest, the explorers turned west to hazard the Lolo Trail across the Bitterroot Mountains. Talks with Old Toby and Cameahwait had prepared Lewis and Clark for a difficult crossing. But information from two Flatheads met near Travelers' Rest had taken the sting out of the Shoshonis' warnings. The Flatheads insisted that the trail took only five days and would bring the expedition directly to Indians who were Flathead relatives. Heartened by those words, the explorers marched out to cross what Gass called "the most terrible mountains I ever beheld."  [49]

 

       From the beginning, the Lolo Trail proved a cruel and unforgiving passage. A clearly marked, well-traveled trail at the outset, it soon became a faint trace often lost in a tangle of fallen timber and dense thickets. Serious trouble struck on September 14 when Old Toby's memory failed and he led the party off the main track, down a fishing path, and to the Lochsa River. On short rations already, the expedition killed one of their horses and remembered how lost and hungry they were by naming a nearby stream Killed Colt Creek. In order to rejoin the trail, the explorers had to make a painful climb up the side of Wendover Ridge. Horses slipped and fell, rolling down in tangles of brush and broken equipment. For hungry and bone-tired explorers, the Lolo was already coming to symbolize the kind of physical challenge they had not experienced since the days at the Great Falls portage and on the Beaverhead River.

 

       Monday, September 16, was perhaps the grimmest day in the expedition's memory. Sleeping on any level places they could find, the explorers awoke to find themselves covered with a heavy blanket of snow. Whitehouse caught the general mood that morning as he watched men without stockings fumble in the cold to wrap rags around already numb feet. Gasping for breath in the thin air, the expedition marched thirteen painful miles "with grat dificulty." Clark, never one to complain in the face of adversity, admitted, "I have [never] been [as] wet and as cold in every part . . . in my life." With no end in sight, there would be another night sleeping in the snow and struggling to survive on meager rations.

 

       By the night of September 17, it was plain that drastic measures had to be taken. The expedition was nearing the limits of its physical endurance. Believing that Nez Perce territories were just ahead, the captains decided that Clark would press ahead with a small band of hunters while Lewis worked to bring along the main group. On the morning of September 18, Clark and his men set out toward a broad valley they could see in the distance. Ahead lay two more days of difficult going. Rescue from the bitter snows was now at hand, but few would forget what Gass called "this horrible mountainous desert."  [50]

 

       Sometime on September 20, Clark and his hunters at last escaped the Lolo Trail and broke out on a small upland plain known afterward as Weippe Prairie. Long a gathering place for Nez Perce families to dig and cook camas roots and fish in the nearby Clearwater River, the prairie was filled with signs of Indian activity. Riding some three miles through the plain, Clark and his men could see many Nez Perce lodges in the distance. When the Americans were within a mile of the first cluster of lodges, they suddenly came upon three young Indians. Seeing the strangers and fearing a raid, the boys scattered and hid in the high prairie grass. Clark worried lest they alarm the village and make the first expedition-Nez Perce meeting a troubled one. He quickly dismounted, handed his gun to one of the hunters, and began to search the tall grass. That hasty search turned up two very frightened boys. To quiet their fears, Clark gave each one several small pieces of ribbon and then urged them with gestures to announce the arrival of friendly visitors in their village.

 

       Clark's party waited nervously as the boys hurried away. A short time later, one man emerged from the village and walked cautiously toward the explorers. The Nez Perce used signs to invite the Americans into a large tepee. He explained that the lodge belonged to the band's chief Broken Arm, now absent on a raid. Most of the men in the band were with the chief and would not return for two weeks. By now Clark and his men were surrounded by a few elderly men and many women, all eager to see the bearded strangers. Although the Nez Perces had heard about white men, only a handful had ever seen them. Clark sensed that curious Nez Perce eyes betrayed both fear and genuine pleasure. Why they might have been pleased to greet the Corps of Discovery did not become clear until later. But now food was the order of the day and pieces of buffalo, dried salmon, and camas bread were passed around. Not knowing the consequences of that diet, Clark and the others ate the camas with unthinking abandon. After handing out a few small gifts, the captain moved on to the second Nez Perce camp.

 

       At the second camp, a cluster of fifteen lodges, Clark finally had time to take note of the Indians around him. Although Nez Perce dress and ways seemed similar to what he had seen at Ross's Hole, Clark's ears told him that Nez Perce language was quite different from the Salish spoken by Flatheads. Without knowing it, the explorers had crossed an important linguistic boundary and were now in the territory of Sahaptian speakers. Clark recorded that these Indians called themselves "Chopunnish or Pierced noses." Chopunnish may have been Clark's fractured effort to spell "Sahaptian," the Salish word used by Flatheads and their neighbors to describe the Nez Perces as "those who lived to the south."  [51] Looking at Nez Perce men, Clark found them large and "portly" while the women appeared small and "handsome featured." With an eye toward future trade, Clark noted Nez Perce bead-color preferences (blue and white) and the ornamental uses for brass and copper. Perhaps remembering how good camas bread tasted, Clark took time to record the method Indian women used to steam the roots and prepare the bread. Later in the evening the explorer began to regret his healthy appetite. As it would for days, the root bread produced diarrhea and painful intestinal gas. Clark may have made a mental note to warn Lewis not to eat the bread!  [52]

 

       On the following day, Clark dispatched hunters to find something to vary the camas and fish diet while he stayed with his Nez Perce host. The captain hoped to settle any Indian fears about the expedition's intentions and obtain much needed information about the route ahead. Anxious to help, a Nez Perce chief drew a hasty chart of the Clearwater and Snake rivers. Clark was told about the Great Falls of the Columbia and also led to believe that whites lived at the falls, where the Nez Perces obtained beads and metal goods. Although the Indians did trade for beads, copper, and brass at The Dalles and Celilo Falls, there were, in fact, no white traders in the territory so jealously guarded by Wishram and Wasco Indian middlemen. Probably a misinterpretation of sign language was to blame here. When Clark asked for additional information, he was told that a more important chief named Twisted Hair was at a fishing camp farther up the Clearwater. After purchasing some extra provisions and sending Reuben Field back toward the Lolo Trail to locate Lewis, he made his way to Twisted Hair's camp.

 

       Traveling over unfamiliar ground without an Indian guide, Clark became lost in the darkness. Fortunately, he stumbled on a Nez Perce man who was willing for the price of one handkerchief to direct the explorer toward Twisted Hair's camp. It was close to midnight when Clark finally reached the fishing camp. Twisted Hair, properly known as Walammottinin, meaning "hair or forelock bunched and tied," was about sixty-five years old, "a Cheerful man with apparant siencerity." Clark's first meeting with Twisted Hair was cordial, and both men smoked together well into the night.

 

       Among the women and children at Twisted Hair's camp was an elderly woman named Watkuweis. In the first draft of his journal for that day, Clark took note of her presence, explaining that she "had formerly been taken by the Minitarries of the North & seen white men." Her name did not appear in his revised journal entry. Clark did not know how important the old woman had been in insuring a friendly reception for the expedition. Watkuweis, whose name meant "returned from a far country," had been captured by Blackfeet or Atsina raiders sometime late in the eighteenth century. Taken into Canada, she had been purchased by a trader and had lived for several years among whites before finding her way home. Watkuweis had been treated well and had never lost her favorable impression of whites. When Clark came to Twisted Hair's camp, Watkuweis urged her people to treat the expedition with all hospitality. Nez Perce oral tradition records that when Watkuweis heard of Clark's arrival, she said, "These are the people who helped me. Do them no hurt."  [53]

 

       But the Nez Perce welcome was based on more than the word of a former captive. Like their Flathead and Shoshoni neighbors, the Nez Perce bands were desperate to obtain guns and ammunition. As weapons from Canadian traders fell into Blackfeet and Atsina hands, Indians without firearms found their situation increasingly precarious. Nez Perce buffalo hunters were threatened, and undefended villages were at risk. Faced with an urgent need to find guns, three warriors from Broken Arm's band had joined Crow traders in a journey to the Knife River Hidatsa towns. That trip, made in the spring of 1805, brought the Nez Perces their first six guns as well as news of Lewis and Clark. More than anything else, it was the need for guns that conditioned the Nez Perces' behavior toward the expedition. The desire for trade and the words of Watkuweis made the expedition's first encounter with the Nez Perces a friendly one.  [54]

 

       September 22 was the day of grand reunion for the Lewis and Clark parties. While Clark spent most of the morning with Twisted Hair and his son, Lewis and his contingent traveled the last few painful miles along the Lolo Trail. Early in the afternoon, the main party came off the trail and was met by Reuben Field. At about five o'clock, Lewis's group reached the first Weippe Prairie village. When all the Indian women hurried to gather their children and flee on horseback into the woods, Lewis was plainly worried since Clark was supposed to have prepared the Indians for his arrival. Lewis feared that moving the women and children out of range now was the first step in a hostile action. But his fears were stemmed when several unarmed men emerged from the village carrying gifts of camas bread for the expedition.

 

       Just at sunset, Clark walked up to the first Nez Perce village to find the main party "much fatigued and hungry." Recalling his own unpleasant experience with the camas bread and fish diet, Clark "cautioned them of the consequences of eating too much." In the twilight, Weippe Prairie was covered with inquisitive Nez Perces, all anxious to catch a glimpse of the strangers and their fascinating equipment. That fascination was evidently too much for some Nez Perces because later Reuben Field discovered his knife, compass, fire steel, and gun wiping rod were missing. Ready to overlook minor pilfering, Lewis and Clark were intent on obtaining accurate geographical information from the Nez Perces. But communication was difficult since neither Old Toby nor Sacagawea could speak Nez Perce. Although forced to rely on sign language, the captains managed to obtain valuable data about the way ahead. Twisted Hair took a whitened elk skin and drew an accurate map of the rivers that would take the expedition to the Columbia. The chief claimed a bit optimistically that five days of travel would take the Americans to the Falls of the Columbia and places where white traders lived. Always the cautious cartographer, Clark finished the evening gathering "maps of the Country & river with the Situation of Indians, Towns from Several men of note Seperately which varied verry little."  [55]

 

       Lewis and Clark did not intend to remain long among the Nez Perces, no matter how friendly they were. With the Columbia and Pacific waters so close, the explorers were anxious to find winter quarters somewhere along the coast. The expedition's most immediate needs were to replenish food supplies and exchange horses for canoes. There might be time for some ritual diplomacy, but linguistic and ethnographic studies would have to wait until the return trip. On September 23, Lewis and Clark called a council at the first Nez Perce village. Although Broken Arm was still absent on a raid, other chiefs joined Twisted Hair in listening to the captains recite the usual formulas of United States Indian policy. But efforts to inform the Nez Perce chiefs of American intentions were hampered by translation problems and once again all relied on Drouillard's signs. With serious diplomacy cut to a minimum, gifts of tobacco, clothing, flags, and medals had to convey the expedition's message. Just what Twisted Hair and his fellow chiefs gathered from the conference remains unclear, but Clark claimed that the gifts and American policies "appeared to satisfy them much." Determined to cultivate friendship with the Americans, the Nez Perce diplomats might have been more satisfied with direct talk about guns.

 

       While the diplomats were occupied in exchanging gestures and gifts, most of the expedition was busy trading for food and getting to know their Nez Perce neighbors. John Ordway's usual eye for telling details did not fail him as he caught sight of copper kettles and other metal goods obtained from middle Columbia traders. The sergeant also noticed something that indicated the adoptive nature of so many plateau peoples: among the plains-style skin tepees were reed or "flag" lodges reminiscent of those seen in Shoshoni country. But ethnography was not the order of the day. Trade for camas, dried fish, and berries was far more important, and the Nez Perces were eager to barter for precious cloth and metal. Blue beads were the most sought-after commodity, but Whitehouse saw real Indian interest in "a small piece of red cloth, as wide as a mans hand." Although Clark later complained that the Nez Perces were "very selfish and stingey," both peoples appeared pleased with their trade bargains.  [56]

 

       Lewis and Clark planned to brand their horses, leave them with the Indians, and begin canoe building as quickly as possible. The Nez Perces were no hindrance to that plan, but their food was. In the evening after the conference, Lewis and two men began to suffer from severe gastrointestinal distress. Whether it was the change in diet or bacteria in the food is not clear, but the consequences were serious. Constant debilitating diarrhea and gas pains sometimes so pressing as to make breathing difficult afflicted others in the expedition. On September 24, when the captains wanted to get closer to the Clearwater River, many men were sick and Lewis himself was "scarcely able to ride on a jentle horse." Explorers who had weathered the Great Falls portage and the Lolo Trail were now lying along the path doubled over with pain and too weak to walk.  [57] Despite the fact that he was still unwell, Clark joined Twisted Hair and two of his sons in searching for good canoe timber and a boat-building site close to the river. The place they found was a narrow pine bottom on the south side of the river, opposite the junction of the north fork of the Clearwater and the main stem.

 

       Despite widespread illness, the expedition made their canoe-building camp on September 26 and began to work. It quickly became apparent that the small axes Clark distributed were simply inadequate for the task. Not enough able workers and the wrong tools made progress slow. Looking to the Nez Perces for help, the expedition followed Indian practice in making dugout canoes by burning the centers of the logs. Even with that labor-saving technique, it took the Americans ten days to construct five canoes. If Nez Perce technology made the construction possible, Nez Perce skill of another sort was to be available for the journey on to the Columbia. Twisted Hair and a younger chief named Tetoharsky had promised to accompany the expedition and serve as intermediaries between the explorers and the Sahaptian-speaking peoples.  [58]

 

       Toward midafternoon on October 7, the Lewis and Clark expedition was at last prepared to begin the final leg of its journey to the western sea. With canoes loaded, balanced, and in the water, all seemed ready to seek the Columbia and a saltwater tide. Disappointed that the two Nez Perce chiefs had not yet appeared, the captains decided that they could wait no longer. It was not until the next day that Twisted Hair and Tetoharsky joined the expedition. No sooner had the Nez Perce guides appeared than Old Toby and his son left. Deciding that their term of enlistment was complete, the Shoshonis were last seen running along the river bank, having neither announced their departure nor waited to be paid. Just why Old Toby fled is not clear, although Gass believed that a canoe accident in dangerous rapids earlier in the day frightened the Indian. Old Toby may have been equally concerned about traveling farther among unknown and potentially hostile tribes.  [59]

 

       On the night that Old Toby slipped away, the expedition and its Indian contingent stopped to make camp along the Clearwater River. Feeling stronger now and filled with the expectation that their canoes would soon ride in saltwater, the explorers were ready to celebrate. Gathered around blazing fires, they joined hands with the Nez Perces and "were very merry." The whine of Pierre Cruzatte's fiddle and the shouts of dancing men cut the chilly air. Frenchmen like Labiche and Drouillard enjoyed roasted dog while others picked at salmon and camas staples. But the night suddenly became stranger when a Nez Perce woman was seized by an apparent fit. Shouting and singing, she attempted to give gifts of camas roots and brass bracelets to one of the startled Americans. When the gifts were refused, the woman angrily cut her arms with sharp flint. What Clark and Ordway recorded as a seizure was perhaps the woman's Wyakin or guardian spirit at work. Whatever the cause, the entire night was both festive and disconcerting.  [60] In the firelight and shadows it was time to remember how far they had all come since the winter with the Mandans. While Cruzatte's fiddle music accompanied Nez Perce shrieks, there may have been a moment to recall Cameahwait's lean face as he talked about guns or to recall the strange gurgling sound of Salish speakers at Ross's Hole, who many thought were the long-lost Welsh Indians. But retrospective romance was never the stock-in-trade of the expedition. Tomorrow promised to be another demanding day on the river.




Abbreviations  

       B A E       Bureau of American Ethnology

 

       Field Notes.       Osgood, Ernest, S., ed. The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, 1803–1805. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964.

 

       Gass, Journal.       Gass, Patrick. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery. Edited by David McKeehan. 1807. Reprint, with preface by Earle R. Forrest. Minneapolis: Ross and Haines, 1958.

 

       Ordway, Journal.       Quaife, Milo M., ed. The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway. Madison: Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1916.

 

       Thw.       Thwaites, Reuben G., ed. The Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 8 vols. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1904–1905.

 

       Whitehouse, Journal.       "The Journal of Private Joseph Whitehouse." In Thw. 7:29–190.




Notes  

1. Thw. 1:284–85. (Return to text.)

 

2. Lewis to Jefferson, April 7, 1805, Jackson, ed., Letters, 1:233. (Return to text.)

 

3. Thw. 2:12, 6:105. (Return to text.)

 

4. Lewis to Jefferson, April 7, 1805, Jackson, ed., Letters, 1:232; Thw. 1:284. (Return to text.)

 

5. Thw. 1:302, 306, 313. (Return to text.)

 

6. Ibid. 1:318. (Return to text.)

 

7. Ibid. 1:360, 362, 365, 366. (Return to text.)

 

8. Ibid. 2:12. (Return to text.)

 

9. Ibid. 2:20. No other expedition diarist records this concern on May 10. Either Lewis and Clark kept their fears to themselves or those fears were somewhat exaggerated. (Return to text.)

 

10. Thw. 2:88. (Return to text.)

 

11. Ibid. 2:92–93; W. Raymond Wood, "Lewis and Clark and Middle Missouri Archaeology," Quarterly Review of Archaeology 3 (1982):3–5. (Return to text.)

 

12. Thw. 2:175. (Return to text.)

 

13. Ibid. 2:234; Whitehouse, Journal, p. 115. Since northern Shohshonis like those in Cameahwait's band did not usually make their crossing to eastern hunting grounds until September, it is not clear who these Shoshonis were. (Return to text.)

 

14. Thw. 2:244. (Return to text.)

 

15. Ibid. 2:252, 254. (Return to text.)

 

16. Ordway, Journal, p. 251; Thw. 2:260; Whitehouse, Journal, p. 119. (Return to text.)

 

17. Ordway, Journal, p. 251; Thw. 2:271. (Return to text.)

 

18. Ibid. 2:279. (Return to text.)

 

19. Ordway, Journal, p. 254. This was the first recognition that Shoshonis might still be on the western side of the Great Divide. (Return to text.)

 

20. Thw. 2:290. (Return to text.)

 

21. Ibid. 2:313. (Return to text.)

 

22. Ibid. 2:321. (Return to text.)

 

23. Ibid. 2:323–27. (Return to text.)

 

24. Ibid. 2:329–31. (Return to text.)

 

25. The phrase "men with faces pale as ashes" comes from an oral tradition about the initial Shoshoni-expedition meeting. The account was collected by Thomas J. Farnham in 1839 at Brown's Hole. The information was given to Farnham by a Shoshoni who claimed to have been the man seen by Lewis on August 11. Much of this account does not square with events recorded by Lewis. Thomas J. Farnham, "Travels in the Great Western Prairies" (1843), Thwaites, ed., Early Western Travels, 28:272–73. Because northern Shoshoni history and culture so pervades the following discussion, I have chosen to list all major sources in one note. Sven Liljeblad, The Idaho Indians in Transition, 1805–1960 (Pocatello: Idaho State University Museum, 1972); Robert H. Lowie, The Northern Shoshone, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 2, pt. 2 (New York, 1909), pp. 169–306; Robert H. Lowie, Notes on Shoshonean Ethnography, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 22 (New York, 1922), pp. 187–314; Brigham D. Madsen, The Lemhi: Sacajawea's People (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 1979); John E. Rees, "The Shoshoni Contribution to Lewis and Clark," Idaho Yesterdays 2 (1958):2–13; Julian H. Steward, "Culture Element Distributions: 23 Northern and Gosiute Shoshoni," Anthropological Records 8, pt. 3 (1943):263–392; Omer C. Stewart, "The Shoshoni: Their History and Social Organization," Idaho Yesterdays 9 (1965):2–5, 28; Virginia C. Trenholm and Maurine Carley, The Shoshonis: Sentinels of the Rockies (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964). (Return to text.)

 

26. Thw. 2:333–36. (Return to text.)

 

27. Ibid. 2:337–43. (Return to text.)

 

28. Clues about Shoshoni attitudes are scattered in Lewis's journal entries for August 13–15, 1805. The most reliable Shoshoni oral account of the August 13 meeting and events through the 15th is in Warren A. Ferris, Life in the Rocky Mountains,. ed. Paul C. Phillips (Denver: The Old West Publishing Co., 1940), pp. 90–93. (Return to text.)

 

29. Thw. 2:347–48. (Return to text.)

 

30. Ibid. 2:349–51. (Return to text.)

 

31. Ibid. 2:354–58. (Return to text.)

 

32. "Biddle Notes," 2:518–19; Ordway, Journal, pp. 267–69; Thw. 2:361–67. (Return to text.)

 

33. The bulk of Lewis's Shoshoni ethnography is in his journal entries for August 19–21, and 23–24, 1805. (Return to text.)

 

34. Lewis's almost photographic ability to portray Shoshoni clothing can be seen in his entries for August 19–21. A drawing of Lewis wearing his Shoshoni tippet by Charles B. J. F. de Saint-Mémin is in Paul R. Cutright, "Lewis and Clark Portraits and Portraitists," Montana: The Magazine of Western History 19 (1969):43. (Return to text.)

 

35. Ths. 3:20. (Return to text.)

 

36. Ibid. 2:355, 358, 3:43. (Return to text.)

 

37. Ibid. 2:370. (Return to text.)

 

38. Ibid. 2:366. (Return to text.)

 

39. The fullest account of this meeting is in Lewis's entry, Thw. 2:380–84. Clark's own entry contains only the barest outline of the conference. (Return to text.)

 

40. Ordway, Journal, p. 272; Thw. 3:13–14. (Return to text.)

 

41. Thw. 3:34–36. For Lewis's comments on Shoshoni hunger see Thw. 2:355, 3:14, 18, 41. (Return to text.)

 

42. Ordway, Journal, p. 270; Thw. 2:367. (Return to text.)

 

43. Thw. 3:27–28. (Return to text.)

 

44. Ordway, Journal, pp. 275–76; Thw. 3:46–48. (Return to text.)

 

45. Olin D. Wheeler, The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804–1904, 2 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904), 2:65–66. (Return to text.)

 

46. Ordway, Journal, p. 281; Thw. 3:53. Information on Flathead history and culture can be found in John Fahey, The Flathead Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974); H. H. Turney-High, The Flathead Indians of Montana, Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association, vol. 48 (Menasha, Wisconsin, 1937), pp. 1–161; Verne F. Ray, Cultural Relations in the Plateau of North-western America, Publications of the Frederick Webb Hodge Fund, no. 3 (Los Angeles: Southwest Museum, 1939). Important aspects of Flathead life after Lewis and Clark but before substantial white contact can be found in missionary accounts by Gregory Mengarini, Recollections of the Flathead Mission, ed. Gloria R. Lothrop (Glendale: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1977) and Joseph P. Donnelly, trans. Wilderness Kingdom: Indian Life in the Rocky Mountains, 1840–1847; The Journals and Paintings of Nicholas Point, S. J. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967). (Return to text.)

 

47. "Biddle Notes," 2:519; Ordway, Journal, pp. 281–82; Thw. 3:53–54; Whitehouse, Journal, p. 150. (Return to text.)

 

48. Thw. 3:54–55; Whitehouse, Journal, pp. 150–151. (Return to text.)

 

49. Gass, Journal, p. 164. (Return to text.)

 

50. The best treatments of the Lolo Trail segment of the journey are Appleman, Lewis and Clark, pp. 171–75; DeVoto, Course of Empire, pp. 503–6; John J. Peebles, Lewis and Clark in Idaho (Boise: Idaho Historical Society, 1966), pp. 16–22 and folding maps; Ralph Space, Lewis and Clark through Idaho (Lewiston, Idaho: Tribune Publishing Co., 1964). The quote by Clark is from Thw. 3:69; the one by Gass is from his Journal, p. 164. (Return to text.)

 

51. Alvin Josephy, Jr., The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), pp. 645–46. Whether the Nez Perce Indians pierced their noses has long been a subject of heated controversy. There is no question that in 1806, on their return journey, Lewis and Clark saw some Nez Perces sporting shell ornaments in their noses. See Thw. 4:372, 5:30. (Return to text.)

 

52. Ibid. 3:77–79. (Return to text.)

 

53. Josephy, Nez Perce, pp. 37–38; Thw. 3:81–82. (Return to text.)

 

54. Josephy, Nez Perce, p. 38; Thw. 5:22. (Return to text.)

 

55. Ordway, Journal, p. 290; Thw. 3:84–85. The results of Clark's interviews with those Nez Perce "men of note" can be seen in several of his maps. See Thw. 3: between 118 and 119, 8: map 30, pt. 3. (Return to text.)

 

56. Ordway, Journal, p. 290; Thw.3:106; Whitehouse, Journal, p. 162. (Return to text.)

 

57. Thw. 3:87. (Return to text.)

 

58. Gass, Journal, p. 173; Thw. 3:93–94. (Return to text.)

 

59. Gass, Journal, p. 175; Thw. 3:98–100. (Return to text.)

 

60. Ordway, Journal, p. 296; Thw. 3:100–1. (Return to text.)











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