May 12, 1806
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May 12, 1806


This morning a great number of indians collected about us as usual. we took an early breakfast and Capt. C. began to administer eyewater to a croud of at least 50 applicants. The Indians held a council among themselves this morning with rispect to the subjects on which we had spoken to them yesterday.    the result as we learnt was favourable.    they placed confidence in the information they had received and resolved to pusue our advise.    after this council was over the principal Cheif or the broken Arm, took the flour of the roots of cows and thickened the soope in the kettles and baskets [1] of all his people, this being ended he made a harangue the purport of which was making known the deliberations of their council and impressing the necessity of unanimity among them and a strict attention to the resolutions which had been agreed on in councill; he concluded by inviting all such men as had resolved to abide by the decrees of the council to come and eat and requested such as would not be so bound to shew themselves by not partaking of the feast. I was told by one of our men who was present, that there was not a dissenting voice on this great national question, but all swallowed their objections if any they had, very cheerfully with their mush.    during the time of this loud and animated harangue of the Cheif the women cryed wrung their hands, toar their hair and appeared to be in the utmost distress. [2]    after this cerimony was over the Cheifs and considerate men came in a body to where we were seated at a little distance from our tent, and two young men at the instance of the nation, presented us each with a fine horse. we caused the cheifs to be seated and gave them each a flag a pound of powder and fifty balls.    we also gave powder and ball to the two young men who had presented the horses. Neeshneeparkkeeook gave Drewyer a good horse. The band of Ten-nach-e-moo-toolt have six guns which they acquired from the Minnetaries and appear anxious to obtain arms and amunition. [3]    after they had received those presents the Cheifs requested we would retire to the tent whither they accompanied us, they now informed us that they wished to give an answer to what we had said to them the preceeding day, but also informed us that there were many of their people waiting in great pain at that moment for the aid of our medecine.    it was agreed between Capt. C. and myself that he should attend the sick as he was their favorite phisician while I would here and answer the Cheifs. The father of Hohâstillpilp was the orrator on this occasion.    he observed that they had listened with attention to our advise and that the whole nation was resolved to follow it, that they had only one heart and one tongue on this subject.    he said they were fully sensible of the advantages of peace and that the ardent desire which they had to cultivate peace with their neighbours had induced his nation early last summer to send a pipe by 3 of their brave men to the Shoshonees on the S. side of Lewis's river in the Plains of Columbia, that these people had murdered these men, which had given rise to the war expedition against that nation last fall; that their warriors had fallen in with the shoshonees at that time and had killed 42 of them with the loss of 3 only on their part; that this had satisfyed the blood of their disceased friends and that they would never again make war against the Shoshonees, but were willing to receive them as friends. [4]    that they valued the lives of their young men too much to wish them to be engaged in war. That as we had not yet seen the black foot Indians and the Minnetares of Fort de Prarie they did not think it safe to venture over to the Plains of the Missouri, where they would fondly go provided those nations would not kill them.    that when we had established our forts on the Missouri as we had promised, they would come over and trade for arms Amunition &c. and live about us. that it would give them much pleasure to be at peace with these nations altho' they had shed much of their blood.    he said that the whitemen might be assured of their warmest attatchment and that they would alwas give them every assistance in their power; that they were poor but their hearts were good.    he said that some of their young men would go over with us to the Missouri and bring them the news as we wished, and that if we could make a peace between themselves and their enimies on the other side of the mountain their nation would go over to the Missouri in the latter end of the summer.    on the subject of one of their cheifs accompanying us to the Land of the whitemen they could not yet determine, but that they would let us know before we left them.    that the snow was yet so deep in the mountain if we attempted to pass we would certainly perish, and advised us to remain untill after the next full moon when the said the snow would disappear and we could find grass for our horses.—    when the oald man had concluded I again spoke to them at some length with which they appeared highly gratifyed.    after smoking the pipe which was about 2 P. M. they gave us another fat horse to kill which was thankfully received by the party. Capt C. now joined us having just made an end of his medical distrabution.    we gave a phiol of eyewater to the Broken Arm, and requested that he would wash the eyes of such as might apply for that purpose, and that when it was exhausted we would replenish the phiol.    he was much pleased with this present.    we now gave the Twisted hair one gun and a hundred balls and 2 lbs. of powder in part for his attention to our horses and promised the other gun and a similar quantity of powder and lead when we received the ballance of our horses.    this gun we had purchased of the indians below for 2 Elkskins. [5]    this evening three other of our original stock of horses were produced, they were in fine order as well as those received yesterday. we have now six horses out only, as our old guide Toby and his son each took a horse of ours when they returned last fall. [6]    these horses are said to be on the opposite side of the river at no great distance from this place. we gave the young men who had delivered us the two horses this morning some ribbon, blue wampum and vermillion, one of them gave me a hansome pare of legings and the Broken Arm gave Capt. C. his shirt, in return for which we gave him a linin shirt.—    we informed the indians of our wish to pass the river and form a camp at some proper place to fish, hunt, and graize our horses untill the snows of the mountains would permit us to pass.    they recommended a position a few miles distant from hence on the opposite side of the river, but informed us that there was no canoe at this place by means of which we could pass our baggage over the river, but promised to send a man early in the morning for one which they said would meet us at the river by noon the next day. The indians formed themselves this evening into two large parties and began to gamble for their beads and other ornaments.    the game at which they played was that of hiding a stick in their hands which they frequently changed acompanying their opperations with a song.    this game seems common to all the nations in this country, and dose not differ from that before discribed of the Shoshonees on the S. E. branch of Lewis's river.    we are anxious to procure some guides to accompany us on the different routs we mean to take from Travellers rest; for this purpose we have turned our attention to the Twisted hair who has several sons grown who are well acquainted as well as himself with the various roads in those mountains.    we invited the old fellow to remove his family and live near us while we remained; he appeared gratifyed with this expression of our confidence and promissed to do so.—    shot at a mark with the indians, struck the mark with 2 balls.    distn. 220 yds.


a fine Morning    great number of Indians flock about us as usial. after brackfast I began to administer eye water and in a fiew minits had near 40 applicants with Sore eyes, and many others with other Complaints    most Common Rhumatic disorders & weaknesses in the back and loins perticularly the womin.    the Indians had a grand council this morning after which we were presented each with a horse by two young men at the instance of the nation.    we caused the chiefs to be Seated and gave then each a flag a pint of Powder and 50 balls    to the two young men who had presented the horses we also gave powder and ball. The broken arm or Tun na che mootoolt pulled off his leather Shirt and gave me. I in return gave him a Shirt.    we retired into the Lodge and the natives Spoke to the following purpote, i e they had listened to our advice and that the whole nation were deturmined to follow it, that they had only one heart and one tongue on this Subject.    explained the Cause of the War with the Shoshones.    they wished to be a peace with all nations & Some of their Men would accompany us to the Missouri &c. &c.    as a great number of men women & Children were wateing and requesting medical assistance maney of them with the most Simple Complaints which Could be easily releived, independent of maney with disorders intirely out of the power of Medison all requesting Some thing, we agreed that I Should administer and Capt L—to here and answer the Indians. I was closely employed until 12 P. M. administering eye water to about 40 grown persons. Some Simple Cooling Medicenes to the disabled Chief, to Several women with rhumatic effections & a man who had a Swelled hip &c. &c—.    in the evening three of our horses were brought all in fine order.    we have now only Six remaining out.    we gave to each a Cheif a pint of Powder and 50 Balls a Small flag and to the two young men who delivered us the horses we gave also powder & Ball and Some blue wompom & ribin.    all appeared much pleased—. Those people are much affraid of the black foot indians, and the Big bellies of Fort deprarie establishment.    those indians kill great numbers of this nation whenever they pass over to hunt on the Missouri.    one of our men bought a horse for a fiew Small articles of an Indian. The Indians brought up a fat horse and requested us to kill and eate it as they had nothing else to offer us to eate. The Cut nose made a present of a horse to Drewyer at the Same time the two horses were offered to Capt. Lewis & my self. The horses of those people are large well formed and active. Generally in fine order. Sore backs Caused by rideing them either with out Saddles, or with pads which does not prevent the wate of the rider pressing imedeately on the back bone, and weathers of the horse.    the Indians formed two partis and [one word crossed out, illegible] plaied for their beeds.    we gave the twisted hair a gun, powder & 100 ball in part for takeing care of our horses &c. and wish him to Camp near us untill we Crossed the Mountains which he agreeed to do, and was much pleased    we have turned our attentions towards the twisted hair who has Several Sons grown who are well acquainted as himself with the various roads through the rocky Mountains and will answer very well as guides to us through those Mountains—.

In the Council to day the father of Hohâstillpelp Said the Chopunnish were fully Convinced of the advantages of peace and ardently wished to cultivate peace with their neighbours.    early last Summer 3 or their brave men were Sent with a pipe to the Shoshones on the S E. fork of Lewis's river in the Plains of Columbia, their pipe was disreguarded and their 3 men murdered, which had given rise to the War expedition against that nation last fall; that their warriers had fallen in with and killed 42 of the Shoshones with the loss of 3 men only on their part; that this had Satisfied the blood of the deceased friends and they would never again make war against the Shoshones, but were willing to receve them as friends—. That as we had not Seen the Indians towards Fort de prere they did not think it Safe to venture over to the Plains of the Missouri, where they would fondly go provided those nations would not kill them. I gave a vial of eye water to the Broken arm for to wash the eyes of all who applied to him and told him when it was out we would replenish it again


Monday 12th of May 1806.    a clear pleasant morning. Capt. Clark attended on the Sick natives.    three brave men of this tribe painted up three of their horses the best they had & were excelent horses they made a present of them to our officers.    our officers then gave them Some ammunition and they locked hands with our officers as a Sincere token of friendship &C.    we killed another horse they gave us to eat.    our officers gave the chief a musket towards takeing care of our horses. Swapped Several of our horses for better ones &C.


Monday 12th.    We had another fine morning and remained here also to-day. The natives in the course of the day gave us four horses, one of which we killed to eat. We also got bread made of roots, which the natives call Co-was, [7] and sweet roots which they call Com-mas. [8] In the afternoon they brought three more of our old stock of horses. [9]

1. From "the roots of" to here, the words are underlined in red, apparently by Biddle. (back)
2. The Nez Perces needed to establish trade relations with the whites, to obtain guns and ammunition for defense against Blackfeet and Atsinas. For the implications and results of this council decision, see Ronda (LCAI), 226. (back)
3. The presence of guns among people who had never before seen whites indicates the extent and importance of intertribal trade networks. Ewers (ILUM), 14–44. This sentence and the previous one are marked through with two vertical lines, perhaps done by Biddle. (back)
4. At this period the Flatheads, Kutenais, and Nez Perces were sometimes allies of the Shoshones against the Blackfeet and sometimes their enemies. Secoy, 58–59; Ronda (LCAI), 226–27. (back)
5. Presumably some sort of trade musket. (back)
6. For "Old Toby" see August 20, 1805. (back)
7. Cous. (back)
8. Camas. (back)
9. Acknowledging that there is little information about the country west of the Rockies, McKeehan then expounds on the subject. Note that he uses the term "our country" for the region west of the Continental Divide, which was not part of the Louisiana Purchase. Before Lewis and Clark, Europeans knew virtually nothing of what lay inland from the Pacific coastal ranges, except for what Mackenzie had learned by reaching the Pacific in British Columbia. There is indeed a "large tract of open country" in the area McKeehan describes, including the Great Columbian Plain, the Snake River Plains, and the Great Basin. McKeehan inserted the bracketed material.

McKeehan's note: "The information yet acquired, furnishing but few certain data, on which a correct general view of the country west of the Rocky Mountains could be founded, especially on the south side of the Kooskooske, Lewis's river, and the Columbia after its confluence with that river, it would only be attempting imposture to pretend to be able to give it. A few observations, however, may be of some use to such readers, as have paid but little attention to the Geography of our country, and prompt to further inquiry.

"Between the Rocky Mountains, which running a northwest course, are said to enter the North Sea [Arctic Ocean] in latitude 70° north, and longitude 135° west from London or 60° west from Philadelphia (about 11° west of the mouth of the Columbia) and another range of high mountains, running nearly in the same direction along the coast of the Pacific, there is a large tract of open country extending along the above rivers and towards the north, in breadth from east to west 350 to 400 miles; but which, by Mr. M'Kenzie's account, appears to be contracted in the latitude of his route near the 53rd degree to the breadth of about 200 miles, where the country is rough and covered with timber. Mr. M'Kenzie represents some part of these mountains to be of an amazing height, with their snow-clad summits lost in the clouds, Describing the situation of his party 'sitting round a blazing fire' the first evening of the day, which they had begun to ascend these mountains on their return, and which was that of the 25th of July; he observes 'even at this place, which is only, as it were, the first step towards gaining the summit of the mountains, the climate was very sensibly changed. The air that fanned the village which we left at noon, was mild and cheering: the grass was verdant, and the wild fruits ripe around it. But here the snow was not yet dissolved, the ground was still bound by the frost, the herbage had scarce begun to spring, and the crowberry bushes were just beginning to blossom.' This range of lofty mountains prevents the Tacoutche or Columbia river from finding a direct course to the ocean, and forces it in direction somewhat east of south, until it arrives near the 45th degree of latitude, when it turns to the west, and at length finds its way to the Ocean through the Columbia valley.

"From the information gained by the late expedition, by M'Kenzie's voyage, the discoveries of Captain Cooke and others, it appears there are great quantities of timber, chiefly of the pine or fir kind, between the shore of the Pacific and the chain of mountains which run near it; but between there and the Rocky Mountains, especially south of M'Kenzie's route, a great part is open prairie or plains almost totally without timber. Mr M'Kinzie says of the information of the chief, who delineated for him a sketch of the river and country on a piece of bark, 'As far as his knowledge of the river extended, the country on either side was level, in many places without wood, and abounding in red deer, and some of the fallow kind.'

"According to the verbal relation of Mr. Gass, the land on the Columbia is generally of a better quality than on the Missouri; and where a greater number of roots grow, such as the natives subsist on. The Missouri in its general course is deeper, more crooked and rapid than the Columbia; but the latter has more rapids or cataracts; and its water is clear."