Great Plains Native American Representations Along The Lewis And Clark Trail
by Kevin S. Blake
(This article first appeared in the
Great Plains Quarterly
24:4 (2004): 263–82.)
Memorializing history in the landscape reflects deep-seated cultural needs. This process not only pays homage to the actions, events, or persons deemed significant at a particular point in time, but it also offers a chance for the creators of the historic marker to write their version of history and to use an interpretive format that highlights their own understanding and values. Cultural geographer Kenneth Foote observes in a study of American memorials, "What is accepted as historical truth is often a narrative shaped and reshaped through time to fit the demands of contemporary society."  The significance of selecting particular historical interpretations for commemoration is that the impress of these upon the landscape plays a key role in shaping social memory, as "nations rewrite their history, forgetting much, denying more, and replacing past perspectives with new national images and explanations."  Ironically, some of the peoples central to American identity—Native Americans—are often memorialized with markers that "mistreat" them, creating a contested landscape of social memory that stands "in desperate need of revision." 
In the midst of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemorations, the significance of American Indians in the social memory of the expedition is strongly debated. Some American Indians express concern over the interpretation of their people and see the bicentennial as an opportunity "to tell their own story of Lewis and Clark, an epic about Indians hailing out whites, showing them where to go, what to eat, whom to avoid along the way, and how to get hack home in one piece." 
Roberta Conner, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon and director of its Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, notes that although the Lewis and Clark Expedition is only a "tiny story" within the context of American Indian history, it is one with "tremendous impact" because it "is a story about land, the places we call home." 
The purpose of this article is to examine the portrayal of American Indians at the interpretive sites along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (NHT) in the Great Plains to see to what extent multicultural awareness exists. My central thesis is that many of the representations of Great Plains Native Americans along the Lewis and Clark Trail are stereotyped and give little or no voice to Native peoples. This is problematic not only because of the slanted messages about American Indians and social memory that increased numbers of visitors during the bicentennial are receiving along the trail landscape, but also because these poorly drawn interpretations should not be the model for new interpretive sites developed during the spate of bicentennial commemorations. Similar to the perspective of cultural historian Matthew Dennis, I question the meaning of commonly accepted representations of the past and examine them from multiple viewpoints in the belief that this process is essential for all groups to gain meaningful interpretations of the complete cultural and historical significance of Lewis and Clark. 
The underlying cause of the desire for a Native American voice in the Lewis and Clark drama goes beyond historical events and the ethnocentric perspective of the expedition journals, it also springs from the privileged status of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in American social memory. The expedition helped America invent its identity, even while the story grows and changes through each generation. Some of the recent interpretations of Lewis and Clark portray them as proto-ecologists and multicultural diplomats, but all stories have two sides and it strips the expedition of meaning to exclude the American Indian perspective.  Examining the misguided interpretations has another benefit, too, since "distorted or oversimplified images of Lewis and Clark are not only inescapable . . . they provide a fascinating index of changes in American society and culture over time."  A more inclusive depiction of Great Plains Native Americans along the NHT (the "Trail Tribes") is a critical element in understanding the rich multicultural heritage of places along the trail and the Native role in helping the expedition travel to the Pacific and back.
This study examines the cultural aftermath of the Lewis and Clark Expedition through a previously untapped source—the landscape of the interpretive sites on the trail itself. Established in 1978 under the administration of the National Park Service, the Lewis and Clark NHT involves dozens of partnering federal, state, and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, American Indian nations, and private landowners. Even the information centers operated by the federal government along the Great Plains portion of the NHT are under multiple jurisdictions, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and National Park Service. To think of the expedition route as the "Lewis and Clark Trail" is somewhat of a misnomer since Lewis and Clark did not typically blaze a new trail. For the most part, the expedition traveled routes previously used by traders or Native Americans, yet the signs of Lewis and Clark pointing the way fix this image in the NHT interpretation.
Great Plains Perspectives
The Great Plains segment of the NHT is the focus of this study for several reasons. Foremost, this is the "home of the peoples who gave to most of the world the current perception of what an American Indian is."  The Plains Indians encountered by Lewis and Clark also were culturally and linguistically distinct (Siouan, Algonquian, Caddoan) from the Rocky Mountain Indians, with a unique set of intertribal relations and interracial dealings with white traders. Furthermore, the Lewis and Clark Expedition expressed a different message to Plains Indians than to those in the mountains or coastal regions because much of the Great Plains had recently been claimed by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
For the purposes of this study, the Great Plains extends from Kaw Point (the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers in Kansas City) to the Gates of the Rocky Mountains in the Big Belt Mountains of Montana.  Even though the mountains are not always in close proximity to the Missouri River upstream of Gates of the Rocky Mountains, here the character of the expedition became focused ever more strongly on crossing the Great Divide, and for the first time the expedition felt it was in the mountains as opposed to viewing mountains. River travelers today also see the Gates as the place at the foot of the mountains where the Great Plains has been left behind. 
One of the Native American messages along the trail is that, to at least some Great Plains tribes in 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was just one more party of outsiders interested in trade, continuing an already well-established trend. Tracy King of the Gros Ventre (A'Aninin) Nation says, "If it wasn't Lewis and Clark, it would have been somebody else."  Indeed, the incursions of whites had already wreaked radical change with the introduction of horses, weapons, and smallpox and other diseases, as well as the subsequently altered power relations. Yet American Indians easily could have eliminated the expedition at numerous points, and without the aid and accommodation of Plains Indians the expedition would have foundered long before reaching the Rockies.  The Native American message also tells of how Lewis and Clark entered an advanced society, not a wilderness, exemplified by the sophisticated agricultural society of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations with large earthlodge towns.  To relate their story during the bicentennial commemoration, the tribes have developed tour packages and resource materials for visitors. In Montana, for example, the Chippewa Cree run a store marketing tribal arts and crafts, the Lower Brule Sioux in South Dakota tell their tribe's history through tipi and buffalo hide tanning displays, and the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara offer overnight stays in North Dakota earthlodges. More than a desire to cash in on Lewis and Clark tourists, this is a prime opportunity for the tribes to educate the public about American Indian culture of two hundred years past. 
Although I have made repeated visits to portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail, this study relies extensively on detailed fieldwork completed in June 2003 along the entire Great Plains segment of the route. In the Great Plains it is impossible to separate the physical character of land and the season of the year from the way in which its sense of place is interpreted. Open vistas begin to dominate the landscape north and west of Kaw Point, where trees seek "the river valleys, as though to escape a limitless expanse of wind-whipped grass," cottonwoods begin to dominate riparian woodlands, and the expedition first encountered American Indians and bison.  In the Dakotas at this time of year the trail strikes through a mostly treeless, rolling green prairie in a big sky country of endless summer thunderheads. In Montana the dappled sunlight on the broad expanses of the shortgrass prairie and river lowlands, and the mountains towering into the cumulus, make for unforgettable images along the trail.
I visited the interpretive sites accessible by automobile within the Great Plains, and closely examined those that have interpretation of American Indians in the context of Lewis and Clark.  Locations visited by a large number of tourists were deemed most central to this study of how American Indians are represented along the NHT. The absence of any single compendium containing every site on the NHT, coupled with the various routes taken by different members of the expedition, resulted, no doubt, in this study's omission of some sites with on-site interpretation of American Indians. Visiting every single interpretive site, however, would not be a feasible nor necessarily meaningful goal given that at any point in time some interpretive sites along the NHT will be closed due to construction, renovation, or decay. Observations were included from nearly all of the major NHT sites, such as national historic landmarks, national historic sites, and places designated as national signature events in 2004–6 by the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. An attempt was also made to include observations from interpretive sites representing each of the Trail Tribes.
Forty-eight locations with on-site interpretation were examined for this study. Detailed notes about the textual and pictorial interpretation of American Indians were taken, along with photographs where permitted.  The sites were then analyzed based on (1) American Indian nations interpreted, (2) date of interpretive site development, (3) funding agency and/or management organization, (4) location, (5) interpretation format (e.g., marker or statue), and most importantly, (6) nature of the American Indian portrayal. The interplay of landscape and memory at these interpretive sites along the trail is important to analyze in this manner since "the very durability of the landscape and the memorials placed in the landscape makes these modifications effective for symbolizing and sustaining collective values over long periods of time."  As much as from wood, plastic, and steel, the interpretive sites are built "from strata of memory."  Some markers may last only a couple decades, while statues and monuments made of steel or stone may interpret a version of events to multiple generations.
The findings are categorized into four major thematic representations of American Indians, each having some connection to specific expedition events and places along the trail: Councils of Power, Hostile Encounters, Good Neighbors, and Sacagawea Reinterpreted. These themes are presented in a westward sequence because each one is shaped by prior events, yet a purely linear or chronological structure would not account for repetition of the representations along the trail. Councils of Power relates to the councils held with the eastern and central Plains Indians. Hostile Encounters encompasses the expedition confrontations with American Indians, primarily with the Teton Sioux (Lakota) in South Dakota and the Blackfeet (Pikuni) in Montana. Good Neighbors relates to the winter spent with the Mandan (Neuidia) and Hidatsa (Nuxbaaga) Nations and the expedition's study of Plains Indians. Sacagawea Reinterpreted includes the multiple archetypes attributed to her, such as guide, interpreter, peace symbol, and Madonna of the trail.
Interwoven throughout the four themes of American Indian representations is a cameo role that is typically reserved for the Natives. American Indian interpretations consistently receive less space than is devoted to any other major aspect of the expedition, such as the transportation, naturalist observations, and camp life displays in the Chamberlain Lewis and Clark Information Center (opened in 2000 by the South Dakota Department of Tourism and the State Historical Society). The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs (built by the National Park Service in 1997 and operated by the State Historical Society of Iowa) pays only token attention to Native Americans, noting a few general ethno-historical events, such as decimation by disease. American Indians break out of the cameo role most significantly at the Blackbird Scenic Overview in northeastern Nebraska; Atka Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota; North Dakota
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn; Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in central North Dakota; and the Lewis and Clark NHT Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana, but even at these locations some interpretation fits within one of the four dominant themes.
Councils of Power
The primary objective of the expedition, ascertaining the practicability of a water route across the continent for the purposes of commerce, was bundled with numerous other objectives, including scientific observation and collection of plant, animal, and mineral specimens, observation of weather data, study of Indian cultures, mapping geographic features, promoting American trade, and conducting councils with the Indians.  The Councils of Power representation of American Indians in trail interpretation dominates from Kansas City to Calumet Bluff at Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border. 
Throughout this stretch the explorers were on the lookout for Indians with whom to meet. Lewis and Clark eventually were able to hold council with the Otoe (Jiwere) and Missouria (Nutachi), Yankton Sioux (Nakota), Teton Sioux, Arikara (Sahnish), and Mandan-Hidatsa, with an intent to promote peaceful trade along the Missouri, inform the Indian children of the replacement of their late Spanish father with a new great white father, andawe the Indians with the military might of the expedition.  Although several NHT sites mention Indian trade, including at Case Park in Kansas City, Missouri, where a marker recently erected by the Choteau Society notes that the Kansa had traded with the French, and at the 1980s-era Sergeant Floyd Riverboat Museum (operated by the Sioux City, Iowa, Museum and Historical Association) with a mention of the trading presence of Indians on the river, the overall American Indian interpretation in this segment of the trail is heavily slanted toward the first Otoe-Missouria council on August 3, 1804.
Images of American Indian acquiescence dominate the Councils of Power representation, such as at the Lewis and Clark Monument in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nebraska's Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (established in 1963 on the western bank of the river at the site of the first council), and the interpretive centers in Chamberlain and Great Falls (opened in 1998). Displays frequently refer to the American Indian desire for peace and ex-tending the hand of friendship. Replica and authentic peace medals are ubiquitous, implying tribal acceptance of the United States as the sovereign power. The North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, opened in 1997 by the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Foundation in Washburn, informs of the American Indian desire for peaceful trade, which is also a major theme at the Knife River and Fort Union National Historic Sites, but the Washburn center also interprets that Indians were unwilling to part with their war rituals, and the diplomacy of Lewis and Clark "never imagined the Indians as true partners." Lewis and Clark's gift-giving is another standard element in Councils of Power, with displays on this at the interpretive centers in Chamberlain, Calumet Bluff, and Sioux City.
In the Councils of Power representation, American Indians are rarely portrayed as equals to Lewis and Clark. The Lewis and Clark Monument in Council Bluffs, erected in 1935 by the Colonial Dames of America and re-dedicated in 1993 to commemorate "the meeting between famed explorers Lewis and Clark and area Native Americans," has two large relief panels depicting American Indians presenting the expedition with melons (a rare instance of interpretation showing gift-giving by the tribes) and shaking hands with the explorers, but there is no further depth to the tribal interpretation. Not only are the indigenous peoples nameless, the Councils of Power representation also renders them land-less in a 1990s-era NHT marker at the monument, with a map showing the expedition route in the western portion of the continent passing through lands either designated Oregon Country, Louisiana Purchase, or New Spain, but not Indian lands. The depiction of American Indian land claims as nonexistent or subservient to other powers is repeated in the interpretative maps at Sioux City's Southern Hills Mall (produced for display in 2003 by Split Rock Studios, a museum outfitting company based in Arden Hills, Minnesota), the interpretive center in Sioux City (opened in 2003 by the Missouri River Historical Development, Inc., a nonprofit organization funded by the local riverboat casino), and the 1960s-era Fort Leavenworth Frontier Army Museum. These representations are ironic given that Clark's 1814 map acknowledged an Indian presence while ignoring Spanish and British claims. 
The geographic imprint of the Trail Tribes is consistently absent from many interpretive maps along the NHT, and the Councils of Power representations are consistent across multiple media and decades. The Council Bluffs monument seemed to set the dominant representation nearly seven decades ago with noble yet stylized depictions of the Otoe-Missouria. Left unsaid is the great change over the past two hundred years for these peoples. Dispossessed of their Platte River homeland in southeastern Nebraska, the Otoe-Missouria eventually relocated to Oklahoma.  Rhonda Dent of the Otoe Nation observes, "We were the first to greet Lewis and Clark, and look what happened to us."  Bicentennial commemorations and interpretive sites containing a Native American voice would provide these peoples a chance to "reconnect to their homeland."  Literally putting the tribes on the maps reinforces the message that the Native peoples, despite overwhelming odds, are still in place to offer their unique perspective. 
The transition from the Councils of Power to Hostile Encounters representation begins in Sioux City and is complete by central South Dakota. The Teton Sioux encounter is perhaps the signature event in the interpretation of American Indians in the Great Plains portion of the trail. This episode is recounted at every interpretive site from Sioux City to Pierre, South Dakota, and in the Pierre area this story is usually the sole focus of the interpretation, such as at Farm Island Recreation Area, LaFramboise Island Nature Area, and the confluence of the Bad and Missouri rivers. Interpretive sites in North Dakota and Montana also focus on this encounter, reflecting its drama and the fixation of the expedition on the Teton Sioux dominance of Missouri River trade.  The significance of the Hostile Encounters representation is indicated on the National Park Service standard map panel installed many places along the NHT. It mentions Plains Indians only three times: first council, Teton Sioux encounter, and Blackfeet encounter (the other major event in Hostile Encounters).
The Hostile Encounters representation is well illustrated by several versions of the Teton Sioux encounter. At LaFramboise Island Nature Area in Pierre, on the east bank of the Missouri River, the 1990s-era NHT marker reads:
The expedition had its first meeting with the Teton Sioux on September 25, 1804, at the mouth of the Teton River (today's Bad River), just across from here. The captains met on shore with three chiefs: Black Buffalo, Partisan and Buffalo Medicine, then took them out to the keelboat. When Clark returned the Chiefs to shore, several Tetons attempted to detain him. Clark drew his sword, the Tetons strung their bows, and Lewis readied the men for action. Black Buffalo moved to diffuse the situation by ordering his men to back off. Eventually, they allowed Clark to return to the keelboat; two of the chiefs went with him.
This text attributes the initiation of hostilities to the Tetons with an attempted detainment of Clark, although it notes Black Buffalo was a calming influence. The Washburn interpretive center expounds on the hostile nature of the Sioux by stating:
Even gift-giving became a disaster when they gave one chief, named the Partisan, fewer gifts than his rival, Black Buffalo. Highly offended, the Partisan hijacked a pirogue.
The Great Falls interpretive center rationalizes the Sioux action this way:
The open trade advocated by Lewis and Clark would wipe out the Lakota monopoly. No wonder they treated the Expedition with hostility.
Although the Great Falls center at least places the encounter in the context of power relationships, the Hostile Encounters interpretations are silent on other possible causes for the tense negotiations, such as preconceived notions on the part of the captains, or how the Teton Sioux were insulted by the expedition's poor diplomacy in offering mere trinkets as gifts, or how the tribe was offended at the idea of subjugation to yet another new great father.  The aggressive theme is oft repeated at other sites: the 1990s-era Calumet Bluff visitor center calls the Teton Sioux "one of the most aggressive of the Sioux bands"; the Chamberlain information center contains text on how the captains reacted with firmness to the Sioux warnings and threats; and the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center (built in 1989 and operated by the State Historical Society) features text about how the expedition was always on its guard after the Tetons tried seizing one of the expedition's canoes as toll. The murals and accompanying text at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City also echo the greedy interpretation of the Teton Sioux by stating that they "demanded more than the expedition could afford."
The same event may be interpreted from several different perspectives, however, and while the Teton Sioux encounter is dominated by interpretation with hostile overtones, a nonattributed west-bank marker of indeterminate age in Lilly Park at the Bad River confluence reads, in part:
President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captains William Clark and Meriwether Lewis to explore the Louisiana Purchase and make peaceful contact with the native nations. Here where the Bad River meets the Missouri, the Corps of Discovery held council, feasting, and celebration with the Teton Sioux. Language barriers led to an armed confrontation, diffused largely through the efforts of Chief Black Buffalo. The expedition continued peacefully to the Pacific Ocean.
Without casting blame on either party or portraying the Tetons as aggressive or greedy, this marker offers a neutral rendition that avoids the Hostile Encounters archetype.
The Blackfeet encounter in northern Montana was the most violent of any of the Hostile Encounters. All the National Historic Trail interpretations of this event follow approximately the same script, illustrated with this text at the Great Falls center:
Lewis, Drouillard, and the Field brothers rode deep into Blackfeet (Pikuni) country. On July 26 near the Two Medicine River, eight Blackfeet men rode towards them. Lewis presented three among them with a flag, a medal, and a handkerchief. That evening he described America's intentions to trade guns with the Salish (Sells), Shoshone (Aqui-Dika), and Nez Perce (Nimiipu). This news may have alarmed the Blackfeet because these tribes were their traditional enemies. At dawn the warriors attempted to steal the party's guns and horses. In the ensuing fight, Reubin Field mortally stabbed an Indian and Lewis shot another, narrowly escaping being killed himself. The Blackfeet beat a hasty retreat. Lewis quickly burned the warriors' abandoned shields and reclaimed the flag given the previous day. He left a peace medal around the dead warrior's neck and fled the scene.
The Montana Historic Expedition Trail Map produced in the past few years by the Bureau of Land Management (exhibited at Pompeys Pillar National Monument and Decision Point) enhances this representation by showing Lewis shooting the "thieving" Blackfeet. The Blackfeet are also represented as hostile in the interpretation at the Washburn center and the Great Falls Ryan Island Day Use Area (developed in 1976 by Montana Power Company). The most biased portrayal of the hostile, powerful Blackfeet, however, is in a mural at the Southern Hills Mall in Sioux City.
As is typical with any narrative, verbal or written, multiple versions of the encounter exist in Blackfeet oral tradition. The only in-stance of this viewpoint presented along the NHT is in the Great Falls interpretive center:
A Pikuni raid near the Two Medicine River in 1806 ended in tragedy. Wolf Calf, a member of the Pikuni party, recalled the incident years later. He said a war party was roaming the southern bounds of their territory when they met the first white men to ever visit the area (Lewis and his men). The Pikuni greeted the white men in a friendly way, but later the chief directed the young men to steal their guns. In the attempt, a Pikuni named Side Hill Calf was killed with the white men's "big knives."
Yet another Blackfeet version, although absent from on-site interpretations, is far different:
Two Blackfeet boys-12 and 13-were on their way home when the men of the expedition spotted them and invited them to camp. Lewis kept insisting they camp with them. He said we have a gift for you, and they had hands on guns at all times. In the middle of the night the boys tried to leave. One of Lewis's men woke up and stabbed one boy. Lewis shot the other. 
Significantly, this is the version that is taught in a Blackfeet school, and thus it may be assumed to have more resonance with the Blackfeet than Wolf Calf's account. Horse stealing, a common action among Plains Indians and a recognized war honor,  is also transformed by some NHT interpretations into a degenerate act. The portrayal of the Crow (Apsaalooka) theft of horses on the return trip, seen in the Chamberlain and Washburn centers, also fits within the Hostile Encounters theme.
The unflattering Hostile Encounters portrayal of American Indians would be expected from an outdated source rather than in so many displays created in the past two decades. The pictorial reinforcement to the written text of this theme in the Sioux City Southern Hills Mall murals and the Montana trail map is particularly disturbing and runs strongly counter to achieving even a modicum of multicultural awareness along the trail. Hostile Encounters may be so firmly entrenched in popular thought because of its portrayal in Bernard DeVoto's generally highly regarded and widely read abridgment of The Journals of Lewis and Clark
. It refers to the Teton Sioux as "among the most warlike of Indians, swaggerers and bullies," and it notes that Lewis handled the Blackfeet encounter "with an expertness that no one could have surpassed."  The journal entries of the expedition members cement this impression; Clark, for example, used words like "vilenous [sic], hostile, and treacherous" to describe the Teton Sioux, who "ill treated us."  Yet cause for hope exists in suggestions for balanced portrayals of American Indians, such as one published by the Montana Governor's Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission. It says that to improve Montana's Lewis and Clark interpretation, interpretive signs should "emphasize the Native American point of view." 
In the vicinity of Washburn, North Dakota, the dominant representations of American Indians change direction in a manner reminiscent of river travelers turning westward at the dramatic Great Bend of the Missouri, as the Good Neighbors theme arises to a primary position among Native American interpretations. The "Good Neighbors" exhibit at the Washburn center discusses at length the mutually beneficial relationship of hospitality, friendship, and military alliance between the expedition and the Mandan. American Indian assistance to the expedition is rarely interpreted in detail elsewhere, with the exception of the Sioux City interpretive center and Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (designated in 1974, with most interpretation development in the past fifteen years).
The NHT interpretations of the expedition's ethnography are also inherent in the representation of Native Americans as Good Neighbors. Jefferson instructed the expedition to study "seventeen areas of Indian life and culture," from "language and law to trade and technology," all with a watchful eye toward business enterprise, national expansion, and the empire of knowledge.  The Good Neighbors representation is manifest throughout the NHT in the elementary interpretation of American Indians as static, passive culture groups worthy of study, such as with artifacts on display in the Sioux City and Pierre centers and the Sergeant Floyd Riverboat Museum; displays on farming and hunting habits at Calumet Bluff, West Whitlock, and Knife River; signs about Indian words or legends providing place names at the Chamberlain center and Big Sky Wayside Exhibit in Terry, Montana; and interpretation of Indian plant use at Pompeys Pillar. While in aggregate Lewis and Clark assembled a valuable ethnographic record, in practice along the NHT it is generally presented piecemeal and in a way that conflates Native American cultures, with the notable exception of the Great Falls NHT center.
The earthlodge exhibit at the Great Falls NHT center notes the role of Lewis and Clark as ethnographers but also recognizes that their views were prejudiced, often describing "only external features and events, neglecting the spiritual and cultural significance of what they saw." This statement aptly illustrates the limited perspectives offered by a Good Neighbors archetype of Plains Indians. The interpretation of the expedition's ethnography is visually oriented toward Native American dwellings, especially tipis and earthlodges. A tipi dominates the Indian display inside the Chamberlain center, and a stylized tipi outside is the signature architectural feature of the center. Tipi replicas are also on display at the Atka Lakota Museum, Fort Union Trading Post, and Southern Hills Mall. Earthlodges are even more frequent on the trail, with displays about their construction or replicas at Blackbird Scenic Overview, Calumet Bluff, West Whitlock, Double Ditch, Great Falls NHT center, and Knife River.
Although the Knife River site offers a great deal of ethnographic interpretation, it still lacks a Native American voice that goes beyond the material culture of tools and housing, to religion and governance, for example. This absence is common among a variety of sites, all developed within the past twenty-five years. Amy Mossett, a Mandan-Hidatsa, wants the commemorations to recognize that "Indians have the strongest sense of place of anyone in the world." Of the sophistication of her society she adds, "Jefferson wanted to make Indians into farmers and traders. But we were already doing all of that. The difference is, we were doing it without slave labor."  Quotations of American Indian perspectives about their own identity, civilization, or beliefs are used liberally at the Great Falls NHT center to add a Native voice.
Changing interpretations of the Lewis and Clark Expedition reflect changes in society, such as the increasing interest in Sacagawea concurrent with the women's movement.  Included in the expedition for her ability to interpret with Shoshones, Sacagawea is the most instantly recognizable individual in displays along the trail since she is the only woman and usually the only depicted Native American.  Her image has transcended her original role in multiple reinterpretations of what she meant to the expedition. Like the Good Neighbors representation, the Sacagawea Reinterpreted theme is a widespread element in the NHT interpretation, but it is strongest from northern South Dakota to Great Falls.
The easternmost and westernmost Great Plains sites on the NHT with on-site interpretation both feature statues: Kansas City's Case Park (erected circa 2000) and the Broadwater Portage Overlook in Great Falls (erected 1989). Sacagawea is a sculpture staple along the trail, featured in Kansas City, Missouri; Bismarck, North Dakota; and Miles City, Fort Benton, and inside the Great Falls NHT interpretive center in Montana.  Sacagawea faces west on all five statues, which points to the emphasis of the Lewis and Clark trail interpretation on the westward adventure rather than the return and to Sacagawea's multiple roles in that westward progress. Her absence from statues in Sioux City, Washburn, and at the Broadwater Portage Overlook symbolically suggests the ambivalence of the American Indian portrayal along the NHT in the Great Plains. Lewis's dog, Seaman, on the other hand, appears on both the Sioux City and Broadwater Portage statues as well as in Kansas City.
So many meanings have been layered upon Sacagawea that her true self could well be unrecognizable in her mythic interpretation. Even her name changes as one moves among the interpretation sites. Sacajawea is often the preferred spelling in Wyoming and Idaho, a reflection of the phonetic Shoshone pronunciation for a name meaning Boat Launcher. Sakakawea is used in northern South Dakota and in North Dakota because of the phonetic Hidatsa pronunciation for a name meaning Bird Woman. Because Sacagawea's name is usually spelled in this fashion along the trail and in the literature, I use this spelling except for when it is spelled differently at a particular interpretive site. Sacagawea is portrayed as the expedition's "indomitable and unerring" guide in the earliest interpretations of her extant along the NHT, dating back to 1910 at the Bismarck statue (erected by the Federated Clubwomen and schoolchildren of North Dakota) and 1920 at the Sakakawea Monument in South Dakota (erected by the Mobridge Hickory Stick Club). The unerring guide representation is repeated many times along the trail in later interpretive efforts, including on the 1928 Daughters of the American Revolution plaque at Pompeys Pillar, the 1972 marker at the Fort Mandan reconstruction, and on the recent Montana trail map at Decision Point and Pompeys Pillar that indicates, "Sacagawea points the way." At the Washburn and Great Falls centers her role as a guide is reinterpreted to say, "She did not guide the Expedition as romanticized accounts claim, but she did provide crucial help in several instances."
According to several reinterpretations of Sacagawea in the Great Plains, this "crucial help" was either as an interpreter for Lewis and Clark or a harbinger of the peaceful intent of the expedition. Both of these perspectives are quoted from the journals of Lewis and Clark at the Sakakawea statue interpretive marker in Bismarck, and they are repeated in the Sioux City and Great Falls interpretive centers.  The Sacagawea interpreter role is also elaborated in a NHT marker at the Jedediah Smith Monument near Mobridge, South Dakota, and Sakakawea as a symbol convincing local tribes that the expedition came in peace is reiterated in the Washburn center. Building upon the Sacagawea archetypes of guide, interpreter, and token of peace, she is also portrayed as a heroic Madonna of the trail, uncomplainingly dealing with the hardships of travel while caring for an infant;  every statue and depiction of her along the trail includes her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Statues and earlier memorials favor the interpretation of Sacagawea as a guide or Madonna, whereas her reinterpretations as interpreter or harbinger of peace come in later displays along the trail.
Native American Voices
Mark Spence highlights the challenges of interpreting American Indians within the context of Lewis and Clark, noting that current commemoration efforts are rooted in old ideas that cloud understanding of the expedition and perpetuate a set of cultural burdens that are increasingly problematic. The interpretation of Lewis and Clark "as exemplary models of multiculturalism" is even "less accurate" than that of a century ago when they were hailed "as champions of industrial growth and resource exploitation."  According to Spence, the danger is that the Lewis and Clark bicentennial will portray excitement and adventure but not all of the expedition's legacies. He calls for "an honest assessment of the expedition as a long, difficult, imperial venture with tragic consequences for the peoples and homelands that Lewis and Clark described and evaluated."  The dependence of Lewis and Clark on resident communities in making their way across the continent is still under-emphasized along the trail. How can we recover what has been lost since the Lewis and Clark Expedition if we do not receive a comprehensive view of who they encountered?
Although the Councils of Power, Hostile Encounters, Good Neighbors, and Sacagawea Reinterpreted representations dominate the Native American interpretation along the Great Plains portion of the Lewis and Clark Trail, eleven of the forty-eight places with on-site interpretation lack even a brief mention of American Indians. In almost every case of omission, the tribes could have been interpreted as part of the Lewis and Clark journey, since American Indians were rarely completely separate from the expedition. The construction and renovation of interpretive sites for the bicentennial commemoration offered a chance to end the silence of Native American voices and the recycling of old themes. 
The persistence of poorly drawn Native American representations along the Lewis and Clark Trail likely emanates from a variety of circumstances, including the influence of DeVoto's seminal work mentioned earlier in Hostile Encounters, and the power of the heroic Lewis and Clark myth. A lag time in either the ability or inclination to replace semipermanent markers contributes to the presence of outdated perspectives, as could the lack of a single management directive to include the Native voice. The variability in American Indian cultures and in the versions of Native oral histories also is a contributing factor. Yet it is also clear from some recent biased interpretations that some organizations are at best uninformed by recent scholarship, or at worst unwittingly racist. 
Rarely do the NHT interpretations attempt comprehensive summaries of the legacy of Lewis and Clark (especially pertaining to Native Americans), but a comparison of two examples illustrates the potential voice versus silence of indigenous peoples in the expedition drama. At the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center a recent interpretive display called the "Explorers' Legacy" reads, "The Lewis and Clark Expedition made the West real for Americans. . . . The Corps of Discovery brought back a wealth of information about land, plants, animals, and native tribes." This passage perpetuates the cameo role for American Indians and implies they had no sense of place prior to the expedition. Conversely, the Atka Lakota Museum (opened in 1991 by St. Joseph's Indian School) strips the journey of its heroic drama and instead focuses on the changes to the people and place:
The Lakota met Lewis and Clark in 1804. Subsequently, increasing contact with the white world included traders, explorers, missionaries, the US Army, Indian Agents, miners, and settlers, bringing sweeping changes to the Great Plains. Thousands of Indians died from diseases, setting off a struggle for the people to retain what was theirs amid the seemingly endless tide of the wasicu (white men). Eighty years after the encounter with Lewis and Clark the buffalo were gone, forever changing the Lakota way of life.
Because no one organization has had total control over the NHT interpretation, there are multiple layers of meaning regarding American Indians. Given the varied and constantly changing perspectives on American Indian interpretation, however, the existing decentralized NHT interpretation model may be best.
Historian Simon Schama notes that "not all cultures" embrace the myths produced by the interplay of landscape and memory "with equal ardor."  Skewed interpretations apparently resulted in the defacement of several Jedediah Smith plaques and the Sakakawea Monument plaque near Mobridge, South Dakota, on the Standing Rock Reservation. The damage is at two different locations separated by several miles of paved and dirt roads, and it is selective at each site, targeting specific language as opposed to random or senseless destruction. Even the choice of the medium for the vandalism seems purposeful and symbolic, as it consists of red paint sprayed over some text in a neat circle. It is not hard to imagine why someone in this area would disagree with the heroic portrayal of Jedediah Smith, but less immediately evident is why some text at the Sakakawea Monument received the same treatment. An explanation may lie within the Native American perspective that urges teachers to "avoid materials which illustrate Native American heroes as only those who helped Euro-Americans."  The Sakakawea Monument interpretive text places her significance entirely within the context of a noble savage helping the expedition: "Sakakawea won her place in history as the indomitable guide of Lewis and Clark on their trip to the Pacific in 1805. . . . By her courage, endurance, and unerring instinct she guided the expedition over seemingly insuperable obstacles. . . . Sakakawea is, beyond question, the most illustrious feminine representative of the Indian race." On the site of the Sakakawea Monument, a bronze relief picturing her and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau is undamaged, as is the nearby Sitting Bull Monument. Likewise, at the Jedediah Smith Monument site the text is untouched that interprets Sacagawea as the trip's only female and a key interpreter with the Shoshone.
Enhancing the contemplative mindset of visitors along the Lewis and Clark Trail could at times be equally important as creating the right tone in American Indian interpretation, however. 
Spirit Mound, South Dakota, offered a powerful opportunity for personal contemplation about the meaning of the place to Lewis and Clark and Native Americans during my fieldwork, but that was by accident, since the site recently was acquired by the state, with the old interpretation mostly removed and the new interpretation not yet installed. Furthermore, road construction forced me to approach the summit from an unconventional direction, making my own path across the prairie; therefore, I drew a sense of place through my own touch, smell, sight, hearing, and spirit. Had I visited Spirit Mound even a few weeks later the interpretive signs would likely have been in place and the visit highly structured, all to the possible detriment of a contemplative experience.
Nevertheless, interpretive sites along the NHT can offer an insightful portrayal of Native Americans. Blackbird Scenic Overview, a relatively unknown Lewis and Clark site in northeastern Nebraska, developed over perhaps the last fifteen years jointly by the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and the Omaha Tribe, illustrates an exception to the overall pattern and provides a possible model for future interpretations. The significance of this site accrues from its sacredness to the Omaha due to the proximity of Chief Blackbird's grave, not just because Lewis and Clark visited the grave. Lewis and Clark are portrayed as a small part of the Omaha story in the detailed signs about Omaha history, earthlodges, social structure, symbols, and contributions to American society and the expedition. Another sign asks visitors to "respect this sacred area." The inclusion of American Indian partners is a key in breaking the mold of the typical Native representations. Including the perspectives of the Trail Tribes would likely lead to interpretation of contemporary issues related to the legacies of the expedition, such as "sacred site protection and the return of human remains and burial goods."  Too often in America an "anti-historical habit of thought" intrudes on the representations of the valued past, with history "merely museumized, not integrated with the present."  Places like Blackbird Scenic Overview and the Great Falls NHT center offer a sharp and refreshing contrast to this tendency.
Analyzing the date, creator, and format of interpretation leads to several conclusions. Surprisingly, the newest interpretive efforts and those by federal agencies do not always offer the most culturally aware interpretations of Native Americans in the context of Lewis and Clark, as evidenced by the Hostile Encounters tone of the 2003 mural display at Sioux City's Southern Hills Mall or the Hostile Encounters and Good Neighbors tropes perpetuated at Decision Point and Knife River. The media used in American Indian interpretation tend to characterize certain themes. Reconstructions, for example, typically focus on material culture, reminiscent of Good Neighbors. Signposts and statues are mixed in their messages of Councils of Power and Sacagawea Reinterpreted, which largely seems a function of whether American Indians were consulted in the interpretation process. Pictorial representations of the Trail Tribes are the most problematic in the portrayals of Hostile Encounters.
It could be unrealistic to expect to see the American Indian voice in the textual interpretation of the trail, since this voice is traditionally oral, not written, and the storyteller tone of voice and listener reaction are elemental to sharing ideas and interpreting meaning.  But to craft new or revise old representations of Native Americans along the trail, recordings of tribal voices, or at least written quotations, and an end to the recycling of insensitive representations would be an appropriate start. Just as some members of the expedition undoubtedly became more attuned to American Indian cultures during their journey, the Lewis and Clark trail interpretation should further evolve toward including the Native American voice.
Kevin S. Blake is an Associate Professor of Geography at Kansas State University. His research interests include nature-society interactions, Native American geography, landscape symbolism, and place identity. Thanks to William R. Blake for assistance during the fieldwork and to John P. Harty for suggestions on the data analysis. This study was funded in part by a Kansas State University Small Research Grant.
KEY WORDS: Blackfeet, cultural resources, interpretive sites, Lakota, landscape, Lewis and Clark, Native Americans, Sacagawea.
This article was reproduced with the permission of the Great Plains Quarterly. The Great Plains Quarterly is published by the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.