October 27, 1804
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Aug 30, 1803 Sep 30, 1806

October 27, 1804


27th of October Satturday 1804    we Set out early and Came too at the village [Matootonha] on the L. S. where we delayed a few minits, I walked to a Chiefs Logg [lodge] & Smoked with them, but Could not eat, which did displease them a little, here I met with a Mr: Jessomme, [1] who lived in this nation 18 [13?] years, I got him to interpet & he proceedd on with us    we proceeded on to a Centeral point opposit the Knife River, & formed a Camp on the S. S. above the 2d Mandan village [2] & opsd. the Mah-har-ha village[3]    and raised a flag Staff— [4]    Capt Lewis & the Intepeters walked down to the 2d Village of Mandans, & returned in about an hour, we Sent 3 Carrotes of tobacco to the other villages & enviting them to come down and Council with us tomorrow,—    we endeaver to precure Some Knowledge of the principal Chiefs of the Different nations &.—    well to give my ideas as to the impression thais man [Jusseaume] makes on me is a Cunin artfull an insoncear [insincere?]—    he tels me he was once empld. by my brother in the Illinois & of his description I conceve as a Spye upon the British of Michillinicknac & St Joseph, [5] we think he may be made use full to us & do employ him as an interpeter—    no. of Indians bring their wives &c. to the campes of our party on Shore &c.

Course distanc &c
West 2 m. to a bend on the L. S.    passed a Coal bank on the L. S.
N. 10° W. 2 m to a wood on the S. S.    passed the 2d Mandan V. on the
S. S. to the place we counciled & Stayed untill the 1st Nov.—
Cours & Distance. up the Missouri abov the Mandans [6]
N. 12° W. 3 m. to a Bluff 30 feet high above the wooded bottom S. Side
N. 20° W. 2 m. to a tree under a Bluff of about 20 feet high on the S. S.
N. 30° W. 1 ½ m. to a pt of the Same Bluff 30 feet high in which is Coal
N. 45° W. 1 ½ m. to the lower point of an Island, the Current on the L. S.

we Set out arly    Came too at this Village on the L. S.    this village is Situated on an eminance of about 50 feet above the Water in a handson Plain    it Containes houses in a kind of Picket work.    the houses are round and Verry large Containing Several families, as also their horses which is tied on one Side of the enterance, a Discription of those houses will be given hereafter, I walked up & Smoked a pipe with the Cheifs of this Village    they were anxious that I would Stay and eat with them, my indisposition provented my eating which displeased them, untill a full explination took place, I returned to the boat and Sent 2 Carrots of Tobacco for them to Smoke, and proceeded on, passed the 2d Village and Camped opsd. the Village of the Weter Soon or ah wah har ways which is Situated on an eminance in a plain on the L. S.    this Village is Small and Contains but fiew inhabitents.    above this village & also above the Knife river [7] on the Same Side of the Missouri the Big bellies Towns are Situated [8] a further Discription will be given here after as also of the Town of Mandans on this Side of the river i' e' S. Side—

a fine worm Day    we met with a french man by the name of Jassamme which we imploy as an interpeter    This man has a wife & Children in the Village—    Great numbers on both Sides flocked down to the bank to view us as wee passed.

Capt. Lewis with the Interpetr. walked down to the village below our Camp    After delaying one hour he returned and informed me the Indians had returned to their village &c., &c., we Sent three 〈twists〉 Carrots of Tobacco by three young men, to the three Villages above inviting them to come Down & Council with us tomorrow.    many Indians Came to view us    Some Stayed all night in the Camp of our party—    we procured Some information of Mr. Jessomme of the Chiefs of the Different Nations

Course Distance 27th
West 2 Miles to a bind on the L. S. passing a Cole Bank
N. 10° W 2 miles to a wood on the S. S.    passd. the 2 Village on S. S.

Saturday 27th Oct.    a clear & pleasant morning.    we Set off eairly.    proceeded on.    at 7 oC. we arived at the 1st village of the Mandens on S. S.    their is about 40 houses or lodges in this village which are built much in the manner of the Rekarees.    we found two or 3 frenchmen [9]    one of them kept a Squaw & had a child by hir which was tollorable white.    we delayed about 2 hours with them.    they were assembled on the bank, especially the children, who are verry numerous.    the men mostly a hunting.    we proceeded on    passed a Bluff on the S. S. with a black Stripe through the center of it resembling Stone coal, a bottom opposite on N. S. on which is the 2d village of the Mandens. [10]    we Camped on N. S. little above the 2 village.    the 3rd village nearly opposite on S. S. [11]    this is the most conveneint place to hold a counsel with the whole nation.    we hoisted a flag pole &.C.    from the mouth of the Missouri to this place is 1610 miles.


Saturday 27th.    The morning was clear and pleasant and we set out early. At half past seven we arrived at the first village of the Mandans, [12] and halted about two hours. This village contains 40 or 50 lodges built in the manner of those of the Rickarees. These Indians have better complexions than most other Indians, and some of the children have fair hair. [13] We passed a bluff on the south side with a stratum of black resembling coal. There is a bottom on the north side, where the second Mandan village [14] is situated. We went about a mile above it, and encamped [15] in the same bottom, for the purpose of holding a council with the natives. This place is 1610 miles from the mouth of the river du Bois, where we first embarked to proceed on the expedition. There are about the same number of lodges, and people, in this village as in the first. These people do not bury their dead, but place the body on a scaffold, wrapped in a buffaloe robe, where it lies exposed. [16]


Saturday October 27th    We had pleasant weather, and we set out early, and proceeded on our Voyage.    at 7 o'Clock A. M. we came to the first Village of the Mandan nation of Indians, This Village contain'd between 50 & 60 lodges, built in the same form that the Rick A Ree Indian lodges were built, and is situated on a high plain, which 〈is〉 lay on the South side of the Mesouri River,—    The Mandan Indians are in general Stout, well made Men; and they are the lighest coulour'd Indians I ever saw, We stopped at this Village about 2 hours, and then proceeded on, about one Mile above the 2nd Village of the Mandans, and encamped on a lage Sand beach, near a bottom covered with Timber, The officers had encamped here in Order to hold a Council with the Mandan nation & the Gross Vaunter & Water Soix [17] nation of Indians who all reside near each other, and are friendly to one another, These Indians do not bury their deceas'd as the other nations living on the Mesouri do, The manner in which they treat them, is by placing them on a high Scaffold, wrapped up in Buffalo Robes, we saw Several of their deceased placed on Scaffolds, and was inform'd of it being their custom by the Interpreters among us.—    It was about 11 o'Clock A. M., when we arrived at this place, the distance from where we enter'd the Mouth of the Mesouri River being 1,610 Miles.—

1. Rene Jusseaume, or Jessaume, was a free trader who in 1804 had lived with the Mandans for about fifteen years, drawing his goods on credit from the North West Company. He told Clark he had been a spy for George Rogers Clark in the Illinois country during the Revolutionary War. He acted as Mandan interpreter for many persons, but apparently was not considered a good one. He seems to have participated fully in the social and ceremonial life of the Mandans, which may account for some of the low opinions whites expressed of him. Evans thought that Jusseaume planned his murder in 1796, when Evans tried to exclude him from the Indian trade. David Thompson, whom he accompanied to the Mandans in 1797, was not impressed with his character, and Alexander Henry the Younger called him "that old sneaking cheat." Lewis and Clark also found him "assumeing and discont'd." Nevertheless they hired him to accompany Sheheke (Big White), the Mandan chief, to Washington as interpreter in 1806. During the attempted return of that chief in 1807, which was stopped by the Arikaras, Jusseaume suffered a crippling wound and petitioned Jefferson for a pension. In 1809 he apprenticed his thirteen-year old son to Lewis, to provide for the boy's education. He was still alive at the time of Maximilian's visit to the Mandans in 1833–34, and was still not considered a really good interpreter. Coues (NLEH), 1:333, 401; Glover, 160, 162, 171–72, 180; Masson, 1:294, 303, 376 and n., 377–78; Nasatir (BLC), 1:102–5, 496–97, passim.; Thwaites (EWT), 5:156–59, 167; Luttig, 74, 77; Williams; Speck, 71–78; Nathaniel Pryor to Clark, October 16, 1807, Jackson (LLC), 2:436, 438 n. 8. (back)
2. Rooptahee (Ruptáre, Nuptadi), in McLean County, North Dakota. It has been destroyed by river changes and no trace of it can be found today. It is called the Black Cat site, after the village chief. The camp was on the same side of the river, north of Ruptare and opposite the present site of Stanton, Mercer County, North Dakota. See fig. 4. Appleman (LC), 342; Wood (OHI), 10–11; Ronda (LCAI), 67–132; North Dakota Guide, 317; Atlas map 29; MRC map 52. (back)
3. Mahawha (apparently a Mandan name, maŋxáxa, "spread out place"), on the site of present Stanton; see Atlas map 29. It is called the Amahami site but is largely destroyed by buildings in Stanton, principally the Mercer County Courthouse. See fig. 4. Its inhabitants were the members of one of the three commonly recognized divisions of the Hidatsa, or Minitari, tribe. The captains recognized that the people of this village were somewhat distinct from the Minitaris, though allied with them. This small group had a multitude of names; Clark at various times called them Ahnahaways, Ahwahaways, Gens de Soulier, Mahaha, Maharhar, Shoe Indians, Soulier Noir (Black Shoe), and Watersoons, among other names. The last may come from an Arikara designation, wiitatshaánu'. The name Amahami ("mountainous country") gained acceptance from Washington Matthews's ethnographic studies; Alfred Bowers calls them the Awaxawi. The different spellings reflect two orthographic systems; the term may be related to the Hidatsa word awaxáawi, "mountain." Their dialect was distinct from that of the other two Hidatsa village groups, though all three understood each other readily; all belonged to the Siouan language family. The Awaxawi said they came to the Missouri River from eastern North Dakota. Hodge, 1:47, 547–49; Bowers (HSCO); Wood (OHI); Ronda (LCAI), 67–132; Meyer; Matthews. (back)
4. With this line the Field Notes entry of October 27 continues on document 62. Biddle's note at the top of the page reads "Octo. part of 27 & 29 Octo. 1804." (back)
5. Clark's "Michillinicknac" is likely Fort Michilimackinac located at modern St. Ignace, Mackinac County, Michigan, and controlled by the British from 1761 to 1781. (back)
6. These courses are for Clark's trip above the villages on October 30, repeated in Codex C (for that date). (back)
7. Knife River reaches the Missouri in Mercer County. Atlas map 29; MRC map 52. (back)
8. "Big Bellies" is a literal translation of the French gros ventres , otherwise known as the Minitaris, and now called the Hidatsas. The term Hidatsa may come from hiráaca with an uncertain etymology. Minitari is from mi ŋintari (literally, "water ford"), the Mandan designation for the Hidatsas based on a loan word borrowed from the Hidatsa language. Clark uses all the first three names, in various spellings. The name Gros Ventres apparently derived from the Plains sign language designation for these people, which used both hands to indicate an expanded stomach. Travelers' accounts made the point that the tribe had no larger stomachs than others. The name has been a fruitful source of confusion, since "Gros Ventres" was a name also applied to the Atsinas, a nomadic tribe of Algonquian language stock who apparently broke away from the Arapahoes and lived well to the west of the Hidatsas. Nineteenth-century writers attempted to resolve the confusion by distinguishing between the "Gros Ventres of the Missouri" (Hidatsas) and the "Gros Ventres of the Prairie" (Atsinas). The Hidatsas were of Siouan language family and lived in sedentary farming villages of earth lodges in North Dakota. Lewis and Clark found the Hidatsas in three villages near the mouth of Knife River, in Mercer County. The first was that of the Amahami, or Awaxawi, described in a separate note above. Second going upstream was Metaharta, also called the Sakakawea site from its association with Sacagawea, the captains' Shoshone interpreter. The third village was Big Hidatsa site, home of the Hidatsas proper. The captains frequently referred to the Mandan and Hidatsa villages by numbers from south to north; the Mandan villages were numbers 1 and 2, so the Awaxawi village was number 3, Metaharta number 4, and Big Hidatsa number 5. See Atlas maps 29, 46, 55, and fig. 4. While ethnologists speak of one people called Minitaris or Hidatsas, there were at least three divisions within these people, corresponding roughly to the three villages, each conscious of being somewhat different in language, culture, and antecedents. In the southernmost village were the Awaxawi. The other two groups, distinct yet more closely allied in culture and language than were the Awaxawi, were the Hidatsas proper at Big Hidatsa, the northern village, and the Awatixa, at Metaharta, the middle village. Awatixa is a Hidatsa name, awatìxáa, "high village," while Metaharta is a Mandan term, miŋ'tixata, "village spread out." The Awatixa claimed that they had always lived on the Missouri, which suggests residence there beyond traditional memory. The Hidatsas proper, like the Awaxawi, said they came from eastern North Dakota, the former being the last to arrive. Apparently the Awaxawi and Hidatsas proper lived near the mouth of Heart River before moving north to the Knife River, where all three groups were established by 1787. A further complication is that archaeologists cannot distinguish between prehistoric Hidatsa sites and those of the Mandans on the basis of artifacts. This suggests long association and close cultural connections between the two peoples, in spite of their own awareness of distinctiveness. All of these groups suffered from the great smallpox epidemic of the 1780s and from Sioux attacks. Reduction of population and the need for a defensive alliance were no doubt responsible, at least in part, for the five Mandan and Hidatsa villages drawing closer together in the late eighteenth century. All of these groups were sedentary farmers in permanent earth lodge villages who hunted to supplement their agricultural products. However, the Hidatsas proper are said to have learned corn growing from the Mandans after they reached the Missouri, and even at the time of Lewis and Clark were apparently semi-nomadic. All the Hidatsas seem to have had a stronger military tradition than the Mandans. John Bradbury noted in 1809 that the Awaxawi had only fifty warriors, yet they, like the others, carried out raids against the Shoshones and Flatheads in the Rockies. It was in one of these Hidatsa raids that Sacagawea was captured. The smallpox epidemic of 1837 further reduced the Hidatsas; Metaharta and the Awaxawi village were destroyed by the Sioux in 1834. After the epidemic the Hidatsas absorbed the remnants of the Mandans and moved to Like-a-Fishhook village, near the Fort Berthold trading post, in 1845. The Arikaras joined them there and the defensive alliance of the three tribes, proposed by Lewis and Clark, was finally consummated. The "Three Affiliated Tribes" still live at Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota. Hodge, 1:47, 547–49; Bowers (HSCO); Wood (OHI); Ronda (LCAI), 67–132; Smith (LAFV); Meyer; Thwaites (EWT), 5:163; Catlin (NAI), 1:185–202; Matthews; Clark, 193–97. (back)
9. One of them was Rene Jusseaume, or Jessaume, a free trader. See Clark's entry for this day. (back)
10. The Mandan village Ruptáre, McLean County, North Dakota, called the Black Cat site after the village chief. It has been destroyed by river changes. (back)
11. The Hidatsa village Mahawha, in Stanton, Mercer County, called the Amahami site after their band designation, a group also designated as the Awaxawi. (back)
12. Mitutanka village, Clark's Matootonha, but known to archaeologists as the Deapolis site, Mercer County, North Dakota. (back)
13. This trait led to speculation that the Mandans were the fabled Welsh Indians. (back)
14. Rooptahee to Clark, otherwise Ruptáre village, McLean County, North Dakota. Archaeologists call it the Black Cat site after the village chief. (back)
15. North of Ruptáre, McLean County, opposite Stanton, Mercer County. (back)
16. McKeehan's note: "See Mackenzie's account of the funeral rites of the Knisteneaux, in his General History of the Fur Trade." (back)
17. Another interesting variation by Whitehouse or his scribe. The writer is using the French term Gros Ventres, "big bellies," who were also called Watersoons (spelled variously); they are Hidatsas. (back)