"They are generally cheerfull but never gay. With us their conversation generally
turns upon the subjects of trade, smoking, eating or their women; about the latter
they speak without reserve in their presents, of their every part, and of the most
—Meriwether Lewis, 1806
As the Corps of Discovery settled into winter quarters along the Netul (Lewis and Clark) River, William Clark described the site of Fort Clatsop as "the most eligable Situation for our purposes of any in its neighbourhood."  But neither Clark nor his fellow explorers seemed quite able to fix those purposes clearly in mind. It was as if once reaching the Pacific the expedition lost a sense of direction and purpose. The reasons for raising Fort Clatsop seemed less compelling than those that had brought Fort Mandan to life. On the coast the expedition needed time to prepare itself for a demanding return across the continent. The store of notes and maps from the outbound journey had to be consolidated. In the spruce and fir forests and marshlands around the fort, plants and animals new to eastern eyes required observation, description, and cataloging. To continue their ethnography, the explorers would have to question Indians and court their chiefs. And, as always, they looked at the land and its peoples with the needs of an expanding American trade empire in mind. From natural history and economic geography to salt boiling and moccasin making—these seemed to qualify as "our purposes." But none of these could spark the excitement and anticipation that had run through life a winter before at Fort Mandan. In the predictable procession of wind, storm, and fog, the months ahead loomed as an endless round of rain-soaked days. A season at Fort Clatsop seemed to promise mildew, spoiled meat, and numbing boredom.
Clark's "eligable Situation" would have pleased any Chinookan band seeking a winter village site. They might have quickly appreciated the advantages provided by the river and surrounding forests and wetlands. But what any native of the lower Columbia knew to be a bountiful country was soon perceived by Lewis and Clark as a damp prison stocked with meager fare. That there could be two such divergent ways of evaluating the Pacific Northwest is fundamental in understanding expedition-Indian relatins during the winter at Fort Clatsop. Americans and Chinookans saw themselves, each other, and the physical environment in profoundly different ways.
Symbolic of those differences was the expedition's obvious disgust with coastal weather. A powerful entry in Clark's journal for December 16, 1805, captured a sense of awe and fear. "The rain continues, with Tremendious gusts of wind, which is Tremendious. The winds violent Trees falling in every direction, whorl winds, with gusts of rain Hail & Thunder, This kind of weather lasted all day, Certainly one of the worst days that ever was!" Less memorable but perhaps more typical were the string of phrases "we are all wet and disagreeable," "cold and a dreadful day," and most common of all, "the rain continued as usual"  While explorers huddled in their dank quarters and cursed the foul weather, the Indians went about their daily routine knowing that wind, rain, and thunder were but spirit forces making their powers known for all to see. Paddling canoes that defied the worst waves and wearing hats and capes admirably suited to wet days, the Chinookans may have paused to wonder why the bearded men in the log lodge feared the weather and hid from it.
Those Indians perplexed by the strange behavior of their neighbors on the Netul had not lacked contact with other whites or their fascinating metals and textiles. A decade before Lewis and Clark wintered at Fort Clatsop, Europeans had come to the Columbia with stocks of tea kettles, copper sheets, and blue beads. By 1805 the annual spring visits of British and American ships to a rendezvous on the waters of Bakers Bay had become an eagerly anticipated event in the lower Chinookans' year. European-manufactured objects quickly pervaded native life. Guns, brass bracelets, and iron pots took an honored place among the goods in burial vaults up the Columbia and along the coast. As if to emphasize that outside contact, the Chinook trade jargon was amply filled with salty English words and phrases.
The contacts lower Chinookans had with whites before Lewis and Clark determined a substantial part of their reaction to the expedition. Those experiences had their recorded beginnings in 1792 when three distinct parties crossed the treacherous bar of the Columbia and entered the world of the Chinooks and their neighbors. In May of that year, Captain Robert Gray and his ship Columbia Rediviva sailed upriver on a merchant excursion that lasted until the end of the month. Gray, who had already made a journey to the coast, was intent on capturing some of the sea otter trade that had drawn so many ships farther north. The American captain found the Chinooks anxious to exchange skins for a wide variety of hardware and cloth. In the fall of the same year, the river had its second caller. The Royal Navy ship Chatham, under the command of Lt. W. R. Broughton and part of the Vancouver expedition, explored far up the Columbia. Broughton's purpose was not overtly commercial, but he did note the interest of river people in manufactured goods, an observation not lost on English maritime investors. The last visitor in that busy year was the British trader Captain James Baker in the ship Jenny. Baker pursued a brisk trade with the Chinooks at the bay named for him. The ships on the Columbia in 1792 were just the beginning of a whole fleet yet to come. 
By the mid-1790s, traders were making the lower reaches of the Columbia a regular stop on the sea otter network that now stretched from Boston and Bristol to Nootka Sound and on to China. Captains like those the Indians later listed for Lewis and Clark were attracted not only by sea otters and beavers but by arrowproof moosehide armor called clamons. These "leather war dresses" were then exchanged for pelts with the warriors of what is now British Columbia. Typical of those trading ventures and the relations between merchants and Indians was the voyage of the Bristol ship Ruby and her captain Charles Bishop. Late in May 1795, the Ruby braved the vicious currents of the Columbia bar to anchor at Bakers Bay. Already familiar with the trading routine, scores of Chinooks paddled out to the ship and asked Bishop to fire a gun announcing the start of business. If Bishop believed that his fine store of merchandise would tempt Chinooks to hand over quickly valuable skins and clamons, he was quite mistaken. The Indians had already learned about supply and demand. They had become, in Lewis's colorful phrase, "great higlers in trade."  Even if Bishop's array of kettles, brass rods, and brightly colored cloth tempted them, the Chinooks knew the value of tantalizing delay. "In the Evening," recalled the British skipper, "the whole of them took to their cannoes and paddled to shore, leaving us not more disappointed than surprized." Thinking they had made their point, the Chinooks returned the next day and began to set prices. But Bishop was equally willing to play the waiting game, and it was not until the following day that he "broke trade with the Natives." By June 5 the Ruby had on board more than one hundred sea otter pelts of fine quality. If the captain ws pleased, so were the Indians. The rituals of trade had been properly observed and both peoples had increased personal wealth, a cherished goal that united traders on both sides of the cultural divide. 
Out of the sorts of encounters with ships like the Ruby, the Chinookans developed a set of expectations about Europeans. The whites were a trading people who came from the sea in large canoes to exchange valuable metal and cloth for skins. Traders could be violent, but their touchy tempers might be softened by having women do much of the bargaining for both goods and services. The Chinookans were convinced, at least by 1805, that whites would eventually pay any price for sea otter pelts. Trading became a ritual game enjoyed as much for sport as for material reward. But material rewards were never far from the center of all native coastal cultures, and when Lewis and Clark refused to play the trading game there was some confusion and considerable misunderstanding. The whites were traders from the sea, hungry for skins and occasional sex. That a party of them might come overland bringing neither large supplies of goods nor a passion for pelts gave Indians pause to wonder what manner of pâh-shish'-e-ooks or "cloth men" these were.
Maritime traders like Robert Gray and Charles Bishop saw only a small segment of the Indian village world. At Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark had been quite close to their Indian hosts. Such was not the case during the 1805–1806 winter. The decision to establish Fort Clatsop two miles up the Netul River meant that the expedition was at some distance from any substantial Indian settlements. Situated northwest from the fort across the Columbia around Bakers Bay were several villages occupied by the Chinooks-proper. At the time of Lewis and Clark, the most important Chinook village was Qwatsa'mts, at the mouth of the Chinook River on Bakers Bay. This plank-house settlement was home to the powerful chief Comcomly. Although the explorers gave no village-by-village population figures for the Chinooks-proper, they did estimate the total number of houses at twenty-eight and the population at some four hundred.
Still on the north shore and northeast from Fort Clatsop were the two villages of people Lewis and Clark called "Wackiakums." As was so often the case, the explorers had a difficult time separating the names of villages, bands, tribes, and linguistic divisions. The Wahkiakums lived in two villages at the mouth of Elochoman River. The larger one, containing seven houses, was called Wa'qaiya·qam; the smaller, only four houses, was called Lo'xumin. The Wahkiakums were part of the Chinookan dialect division known as Kathlamet, but were not part of the political world of those Cathlamet villagers who lived on the south side of the great river—a fact that proved especially confusing for Lewis and Clark. Kala amat or Cathlamet was the native name for a town of nine large plank houses located on the south side of the Columbia about four miles below Puget Island. The Cathlamets remained at this site until about 1810, when they moved across the river and joined the Wahkiakums at Wa'qaiya·qam.
Lewis and Clark's closest neighbors were the Clatsop Indians. The explorers knew and mapped three of their villages. Nearest to the fort was Lä't'cap, a name that meant "dried salmon" and provided Europeans with the name Clatsop. The "dried salmon" village was about seven miles southwest from Fort Clatsop. Situated on a branch of the Skipanon River near the ocean, the village had three houses with twelve families. To this village William Clark traveled in December and met Cuscalar, a prominent headman. It may also have been home to the Clatsop headman Coboway. North from "Dried Salmon" on Point Adams was the largest Clatsop settlement known to the expedition. Neahkeluk had eight large wooden houses; later in the nineteenth century, it would be palisaded for protection against hostile attack. For reasons that are now unclear, Lewis and Clark never visited this village nor had any recorded contact with its leaders. Farther down the coastal plain at the mouth of the Necanicum River was a cluster of seven houses. Three of those were occupied by the Clatsops; the remainder of the Tillamooks. So at least fourteen houses in the area contained some two hundred Clatsops.
The most distant of Lewis and Clark's neighbors were the Tillamooks. Their villages along the coast began at the Necanicum, with most centered around Tillamook Bay. Because the Tillamooks spoke the Chinook jargon to strangers, the explorers did not realize that these Indians were not Chinookan speakers but belonged to the Salish language family. Early in the winter, Lewis and Clark believed that villages like Necost, Natti, and those around Tillamook Bay represented distinct nations. Only gradually did this confusion clear. It was to the village of Necost, at the mouth of Elk Creek, that Clark traveled on his way to see a beached whale. In their "estimate of Western Indians," the explorers recorded that there were fifty Tillamook houses with a population totaling one thousand. 
In a disconcerting way, the winter at Fort Clatsop has no narrative history. The winter at Fort Mandan had been a dramatic series of alarms and confusions punctuated by buffalo hunts, holiday celebrations, and occasional personal escapades. At Fort Clatsop the major events were Clark's trip to see a beached whale, Hugh McNeal's brush with death at the hands of a dangerous Tillamook, and the ill-advised decision to steal a Clatsop canoe. None of these can compare with the dangers of threatened Sioux attacks or the tensions of a diplomatic mission to a hostile Hidatsa town. At Fort Clatsop, there were only the elemental tasks of hunting, cooking, and mending. Even these had a timeless quality about them as they were repeated day after day. It was more than dampness and slow rot that pervaded life on the coast. Boredom was rife, to be fought off by every means available. Journal entries took on an almost copybook quality, while busy fingers turned out more moccasins than would ever be needed for the return journey. Lewis captured that sense of time in suspension when he wrote, "Every thing moves on in the old way."  Because Indian relations at Fort Clatsop do not follow a chronological pattern, this chapter uses topical categories such as visiting, trading, diplomacy, and ethnography to suggest the ways explorers and Indians dealt with each other.
The Lewis and Clark expedition was one of the greatest tourist attractions the native West had ever seen. Generally, crowds of Indians were attracted by the strangers and their fascinating array of weapons, clothing, and camp gear. Almost everywhere, visiting the explorers became a source of endless diversion and interesting conversation. Each visit had an element of personal discovery as both Indians and explorers eyed each other and then perhaps shared food or trade. At Fort Mandan there had been scarcely a day without a visit by Indians bent on seeing just what went on behind those log walls. Lewis and Clark encouraged visiting, knowing that it brought rewards in food, information, and security. During the winter with the Mandans , visiting was a two-way affair. Members of the expedition regularly paid calls at the earth-lodge villages. On New Year's Day, 1805, the explorers made especially festive trips to their Indian neighbors. Music, dancing, and hearty food marked that holiday fling. Although it would be too much to claim that the Missouri River villagers and the explorers made lasting friendships, the rituals of visiting in lodge and fort softened the rigors of a plains winter.
That kind of visiting, so characteristic of an earlier season, did not occur at Fort Clatsop. For all sorts of reasons, the Chinookans and the Americans did not share much of each other's company. When Indians came to the fort it was for business, not for companionship or curiosity. When Fort Mandan had been under construction, dozens of Indians had watched at every stage of the building. At Fort Clatsop there were far fewer riverbank superintendents. Early in December, four Indians appeared at the fort site and spent the better part of the day staring at the explorers. Later in the month, as work moved slowly on the huts, two other Indians came to observe the project. Social visits were so unusual that when one did happen it was sure to be noted in the expedition's journals. One of those rare calls took place on January 20, when three Clatsops came to the fort and spent the day. As if to underscore how remarkable this was, Clark wrote, "The object of their visit is mearly to smoke the pipe." 
If only a handful of Chinookans bothered to pay friendly visits at Fort Clatsop, there were even fewer white guests in plank houses. Clark's journey to the "Dried Salmon" village on December 9 and 10 and his later trip to the Tillamooks were not so much social calls as reconnaissance probes for a good salt-boiling site or a supply of whale blubber. Members of the expedition did not visit their neighbors. Perhaps blocked by the strong currents in the Columbia estuary, no explorer ventured to the Chinook villages at Bakers Bay. Even more surprising, there is no record of anyone in the expedition visiting the largest Clatsop village, Neahkeluk, located on Point Adams. Not even the usual holiday spirit moved men like Pierre Cruzatte to take his fiddle outside Fort Clatsop's gates. New Year's Day, always a time in the French and English traditions to visit neighbors, did not see any noisy greetings shared with Clatsop villagers. The only members of the expedition who may have visited in Indian homes were those who, like Joseph Field, William Bratton, and Geroge Gibson, spent many days at the salt-boiling camp. At that site there were seven Indian houses, and it is possible that the men found them better shelter than their tents.
It was not from a lack of conviviality that Indians paid so few social calls at Fort Clatsop. When Clark first entered a Clatsop village he was treated with "extrodeanary friendship." His host, a man named Cuscalar, had new mats placed on the floor and presented the captain with platters of food. Lewis and Clark readily admitted that their neighbors could be "very loquacious and inquisitive."  But the social distance between them could not be overcome. Part of the explanation rests with the increasing commercialization of coastal life. Trade and the acquisition of material wealth had always been an important part of Chinookan life. With the coming of white merchants and the influx of manufactured goods, that facet became even more prominant. Contacts with whites were commercial, not social. The Indians found nothing at Fort Clatsop that was especially strange or interesting. Lewis's airgun might have drawn an extra look and Drouillard's marksmanship was impressive, but coastal people were already familiar with firearms, even if they did not own many. York was no attraction. Since American ships out of New England often brought black sailors, a man like York was not going to draw the kind of attention paid on the Upper Missouri. Few trade goods, language problems, and an isolated location served to make Fort Clatsop a place remote from the centers of Indian activity.
Perhaps the central reason for the lack of sociability during the second winter rested with the expedition's Indian policy. As noted above, Lewis and Clark distrusted and disliked the peoples of the region. The explorers viewed them as habitual thives tainted with avarice and treachery. A long series of incidents and misunderstandings beginning with the expedition's descent of the Columbia seemed to justify such suspicion and ill-concealed hostility. The explorers might well have asked how one could find friends among badly clad, ill-shaped people who squatted like frogs and tied the ankles of their young women. They did not want such Indians as part of the expedition's daily life.
The captains' desire to keep the Indians at bay was made plain in special orders written at Fort Clatsop. Issued on January 1, 1806, they established strict procedures for dealing with Indians who came to the fort. Sentries were instructed to watch carefully for "the designs or approach of the savages." Once an Indian was seen coming toward the fort, sentries were required to inform the sergeant of the guard, who in turn was to notify either captain. The specific orders for the treatment of those Indians permitted inside the fort are important enough to be quoted in full.
One further section of the regulation calls for some attention. At Fort Mandan, staying overnight had been an honor freely extended to many Indians. At Fort Clatsop, the sergeant of the guard, accompanied by Charbonneau and two armed sentries, was required to "collect and put out of the fort, all Indians except such as may be permitted to remain by the Commanding Officers."  Only rarely was that permission granted and even visiting chiefs found themselves unceremoniously ejected from the compound at sunset. Such restrictions on hospitality were not lost on the Indians. Accustomed to considerable freedom in dealing with white traders, they could only resent the suspicion directed toward them from the fort on the Netul.
The Commanding Officers require and charge the Garrison to treat the natives in a friendly manner; nor will they be permitted at any time, to abuse, assault or strike them; unless such abuse assault or stroke be first given by the natives. Nevertheless it shall be right for any individual, in a peaceable manner, to refuse admittance to, or put out of his room, any native who may become troublesome to him; and should such native refuse to go when requested, or attempt to enter their rooms after being forbidden to do so; it shall be the duty of the sergeant of the guard on information of the same, to put such native out of the fort and see that he is not again admitted during the day unless specially permitted; and the Sergeant of the guard may for this purpose imploy such coercive measures (not extending to the taking of life) as shall at his discretion be deemed necessary to effect the same.
Although the restrictions on hospitality at Fort Clatsop and the natives' economic expectations of whites limited the number of social visits, there were nonetheless fairly regular meetings between the explorers and the Indians. Trading for objects made by native skill or gathered from the land or sea had always been a point of contact between Indians and Europeans. Even though both parties sometimes believed they were being shortchanged, the lure of furs and iron pots kept them coming back for more.
At Fort Mandan the corn trade had been essential for the expedition's survival. Establishing the war-axe forge had been a measure of how far Lewis and Clark were willing to stretch their diplomacy to ensure a reliable food supply. But at Fort Clatsop there was a conscious effort to achieve self-sufficiency. The south side of the Columbia was chosen as a wintering site because it was reported to have a plentiful game supply. Led by George Drouillard, hunters in the expedition were expected to provide staples for the winter diet. But the scarcity of game, its often poor quality, and the difficulty in preserving meat in a warm, damp climate made self-sufficiency an impossible goal. It was plain that the expedition's larders would be bare or at least its diet monotonous unless an Indian food trade was established.
As their closest neighbors, the Clatsops were most often the expedition's trading partners. Coboway's people soon realized that Lewis and Clark were not ordinary traders in search of fur. Quickly readjusting their own marketing strategies, the Indians were ready to provide produce, not pelts. Beginning in early December 1805, Indian canoes came up the Netul loaded with a wide variety of foodstuffs. Believing that the explorers' tastes were much like their own, native merchants brought quantities of wappato, fish, salal berry cakes, shannetahque (cured edible thistle root), and culhomo (seashore lupine root). Those same canoes also held stacks of hats, bags, mats, and an occasional dog. Sea otter and elk skins were usually offered for sale by traders not familiar with the market conditions. Shrewd dealers as they were, the Clatsops quickly grasped the expedition's needs and increasingly offered what would sell.
The Fort Clatsop market was never as busy or as noisy as the corn exchange at Fort Mandan. During the nearly four months the explorers lived on the coast, Indians came to trade on only twenty-four days. The fort was never a major market stop, something a party of Wahkiakums made plain when they refused to sell all their wappato there, preferring to vend it at the Clatsops for whale blubber.  If native sellers tried to cater to Fort Clatsop needs without abandoning traditional trade patterns, white buyers were equally selective in what they purchased. Prices too high or quality too low were sure grounds for no sale. On well over half of the trading days, goods offered by Indians were rejected or a partial purchase was made. Selective buying meant that Lewis and Clark obtained foodstuffs that were reasonably priced and of good quality while rejecting higher-priced items. In all this there must have been a great deal of haggling conducted by signs and an occasional phrase in the trade jargon.
It did not take Lewis and Clark long to learn that "those people ask generally double and tribble the value of what they have to sell, and never take less than the real value of the article in such things as is calculated to do them service." At that rate, the expedition's stock of merchandise was bound to diminish with alarming speed. Once lavish in their gifts to Indians along the Missouri, the explorers were reduced to a very short supply of trade goods. Gone were the calico shirts, brass combs, and "small cheap looking glasses" that so charmed the Indians up the big river and across the Great Divide. What remained was a motley collection of fishhooks, brass wire and armbands, moccasin awls, worn files, and beads of various colors. By early January 1806, Lewis complained, "Our merchandize is reduced to a mear handfull." Despite an inventory that could fit into two handkerchiefs, trade continued. Throughout the dismal winter months, the expedition purchased roots, berries, and fish. The rain-shedding qualities of Chinookan hats so impressed Lewis and Clark that they had some made especially to their own head measurements. Unfortunately, the journals are silent on the price paid to Indian women for such custom-fitted articles. Wappato continued a major item, so important that Coboway made at least one special trip upriver just to locate a fresh supply of the roots. 
Even with the limited number of trade contacts, there were problems. Those difficulties were not so much disagreements about price or quality as misunderstandings over trading protocol and etiquette. Each partner had rules and believed they should be obeyed, even if his opposite number neither understood nor agreed to those rules. Lewis and Clark expected the Indians to follow the new orders about leaving the fort at sunset. Four Wahkiakums who had been trying to sell roots at rather high prices proved "very forward" and left the fort "with relictiance" when confronted with the new orders.  Perhaps the most memorable case of trade involved the Clatsop Cuscalar and his family. It was Cuscalar who welcomed Clark to "Dried Salmon" village in December 1805, and the two men soon struck up something of a friendship. When the Indian was sick, Clark thoughtfully sent a piece of cinnamon to cheer him. On the day before Christmas 1805, Cuscalar, his younger brother, and two women appeared at the fort. Seated on the ground before the captains, the Indian ceremoniously laid out a supply of mats and roots. Whether this was a gift or goods offered for trade is not clear now and may not have been so to the explorers. Later in the evening Cuscalar asked for several metal files. If the mats and roots were gifts, then the Indian had every reason to think that a reciprocal present would be offered. Plainly confused by what was going on, Lewis and Clark announced that no files were available and abruptly returned Cuscalar's goods. Undaunted, the Indian then offered the captains the services of the two women in his party. When this gesture was rebuffed, Cuscalar was displeased and the women "highly disgusted." 
Whether or not sales were made, and cultural confusions aside, trading did provide the Indians and the explorers a small space of common ground in an otherwise suspicious atmosphere. The cultures of both groups shared many economic values and practices. Each placed great emphasis on acquiring material wealth and measured personal status by that wealth. Individuals who excelled as traders were praised for their skill and rewarded for their enterprise. Yankee capitalists, no less than Chinookans, expected every business contact to have an almost balletlike quality in which both buyer and seller spent hours dancing around each other offering price and counterprice. Lewis learned that lesson when he spent a full day dickering with an Indian over the relative values of a watch and some sea otter pelts, only to have the whole transaction come to naught. Like the New England shopkeeper or the backcountry merchant, the Chinookan trader knew when to hold his ground and when to sell quickly. Sea otter pelts that cost fathoms of blue beads one day might go the next for half a twist of tobacco or some castoff clothing. Had circumstances been different and the traders his own cultural kin, Lewis might have meant as praise his description of Indian merchants as "close dealers" who would "Stickle for a very little, never close a bargin except they think they have the advantage." 
Although Clark called Fort Clatsop "the most eligable Situation for our purposes," no expeditionary assignment proved harder to define or more elusive to execute than diplomatic relations with the coastal peoples. When the Corps of Discovery struggled up the Missouri and wintered at Fort Mandan its diplomatic agenda was very plain. It included proclaiming United States sovereignty, establishing legal relations with native peoples, and surveying the northern and western boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase. Equally important was extending the St. Louis-based American trade empire, something essential in Jefferson's vision of a West more commercial than colonial. The tactics Lewis and Clark employed in pursuing those goals ranged from confronting Canadian traders and meeting with native leaders to forming, ever so slowly, an alliance of villagers against pro-British nomads. Flags, medals, presents, client chiefs, and full-dress parades—all this Lewis and Clark inherited from a long tradition of Indian-white diplomacy that stretched back to eastern forests.
But what seemed so clear on the Missouri and within the bounds of the newly purchased lands became less plain on the other side of the mountains. Despite Robert Gray's effective discovery of the Columbia River in 1792, the infant American Republic had neither the power to proclaim sovereignty in the Northwest nor was this Jefferson's immediate intention. The president did explain to Lewis in 1803 his desire to shift control of the Pacific fur trade out of British hands at Nootka Sound to an America post near the headwaters of the Missouri.  On the Missouri, American efforts aimed at diminishing British influence involved complex attempts to rearrange Indian-trader alliances and recast tribal politics. Promoting peace among tribes, offering weapons and American military protection, promising to bring vast stores of trade goods—all were diplomatic strategies toward that end. But down the Columbia, American interests were less clear. Thinking that their Missouri River diplomacy had succeeded, Lewis and Clark may have attempted to create similar economic alliances on the coast. The effort to patch up quarrels between Sahaptian and Chinookan speakers at The Dalles suggests such diplomacy had not been entirely abandoned. But at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark found no open tensions to resolve, nor were they certain of their own authority. And, of course, if most Indians did not think the writ of the young Republic ran even as far as the Mandans , it surely could not cross the mountains to touch the lives of the Chinooks and the Clatsops.
What passed for diplomacy during the winter among the Clatsops began even before the expedition settled along the Netul. Contacts with the Chinooks-proper started in mid-November 1805 on something less than a friendly note. Angered by an attempt to steal guns from the expedition, Clark bluntly informed the Indians that anyone seen near the baggage would be shot. Two days later, on November 17, a man identified only as "the principal chief of the Chinnooks" appeared at the American camp. Since neither the Chinooks nor any of their neighbors were tribes with unified political leadership but were autonomous villages, this man could have been any one of several headmen. The expedition's records are equally unhelpful in revealing what took place between the captains and their visitor except that the explorers now knew the Chinooks to be "noumerous" and "well armed with fusees." 
It was not until later in November, with the expedition still camped on the north side of the Columbia, that any recorded diplomatic exchanges with the Chinooks took place. On November 20, as Clark and his party returned from their Cape Disappointment reconnaissance, they found the Chinook chiefs Comcomly and Chillarlarwil with Lewis. There are no journal entries by Lewis for this period, so what passed between the explorer and the chiefs is not known. Clark reported only that the two Indians were given medals and one was additionally favored with a flag. Lewis and Clark usually linked such objects to accepting American sovereignty and the essentials of federal Indian policy. But neither at this meeting nor at any other during the winter did the explorers make any promises or require the Indians to submit to American control. Hindered by language problems and mutual wariness, diplomacy with the Chinooks proceeded at a glacial pace. 
Despite the fact that the Chinooks were the largest, best-armed, and most influential native group at the mouth of the Columbia, Lewis and Clark made no effort to build on their initial talks. They did not venture across the Columbia to visit Chinook villages, nor did they invite chiefs like Comcomly, Chillarlawil, or Taucum to council at Fort Clatsop. For explorer-diplomats who had been instructed to redirect the fur trade toward American posts, this was a strangely passive way to go about it.
Throughout the long winter on the coast there was only one other formal meeting with a Chinook chief. Near the end of February 1806, Fort Clatsop's routine was interrupted by the arrival of Taucum and some twenty-five Chinook men. This was the largest Indian delegation to come to the fort, and no doubt some in the expedition nervously fingered their weapons during their stay. Any fears about Taucum's intentions, however, were quickly laid to rest. The Chinook chief had been dealing peacefully with white traders for more than a decade, and he was not about to endanger such good relations or to attack well-armed men. Taucum evidently came to the fort more out of curiosity than a serious interest in negotiation. There was, after all, nothing to negotiate, nor were the white strangers real traders. Whatever his motives, the chief made it plain that his was a friendly call. Impressed by his good looks and taller-than-average stature, Lewis and Clark gave Taucum as warm an official welcome as they ever offered any costal chief. The Indian and his entourage were fed and "plyed plentifully with smoke." Throughout the afternoon Taucum and his friends enjoyed food and tobacco but evidently had no interest in hearing about the ideas of the "great chief of the Seventeen great nations." Almost as an afterthought, Lewis and Clark presented the chief with a medal. Taucum "seemed much gratified" but many have believed that it was no more than his just due. If the Chinook thought the medal was a sign of the expedition's trust and good will, he was quite mistaken. At sunset Taucum an his party were hustled unceremoniously out of the fort as if they were an unwelcome set of traders selling rotten fish. As if to justify such inhospitable conduct, Lewis wrote a long, vindictive journal entry filled with frightening images of treacherous Indians lurking around the fort ready to pounce on unsuspecting explorers. Fort Clatsop may have been secure that night, but closing the gates at dusk was hardly a way to impress important and powerful neighbors. 
If Lewis and Clark's diplomatic relations with neighbors across the Columbia proved oddly inconclusive, much the same was the case in their dealings with the nearby Clatsops. Those Indians, some four hundred strong living in three autonomous villages, had several chiefs, including Coboway, Shanoma, and Warhalott. Coboway, known to the explorers as Comowooll or Conia, was the only Clatsop chief who had any recorded contact with the expedition. Early in December, with Fort Clatsop still under construction, Coboway led two canoes of his folk to pay a call on the white newcomers. The chief exchanged some wappato, shannetahque, and a small sea otter pelt for some fishhooks and a small sack of Shoshoni tobacco. Despite the bustle of construction, Lewis and Clark treated the Clatsop delegation "with as much attention as we could." Coboway was given a medal, but with trade goods already in short supply, others in the delegation probably found American hospitality somewhat meager on the material side. Coboway's visit predated the regulations limiting overnight stays, so the chief spent the night with the explorers.  From Coboway's point of view, the visit had mixed results. He must have been pleased with the attention paid to him, but the evident poverty of the explorers was disappointing. If Coboway thought he had scored a victory in having Fort Clatsop on his side of the river, he never pressed that advantage, nor did the Chinooks see the expedition's wintering place as a slight aimed at them. Lewis and Clark made no promises to any chief and evidently sought nothing more than a friendly but distant relationship.
During the winter, the explorers were visited by two other delegations from nearby villages. In each case, the Indians took the initiative in making contact with the Americans. At the end of December, a young Wahkiakum chief and several people from his village came up the Netul for trade and talk. Once again, expedition records do not reveal what, if any, official words passed between the chief and the captains. The Wahkiakum was given a small medal and, like the Assinboin band chief Chechank at Fort Mandan, a piece of ribbon to put on his hat.  Early in January, the Cathlemat chief Shahharwarcap and eleven men ventured to the fort. Lewis gave the chief a medal of the smallest size and in return received some wappato and tobacco. Following protocol, Lewis then offered some twine for a skimming net. After some time in trading, Shahharwarcap was escorted out of the fort at sunset and spent the night in the woods.  These contacts with Wahkiakum and Cathlamet chiefs hardly qualify as talks, but they did round out a network of reasonably friendly relations between Fort Clatsop and the surrounding villages.
Lewis and Clark's diplomacy at Fort Clatsop was characterized by modest goals and relative inaction. At Fort Mandan there had been a sense of urgency in talks with the Mandans and Hidatsas. The captains had had a clear picture of United States interests on the Missouri, even if their grasp of tribal politics had been less sure. But similar clarity was lacking at Fort Clatsop. American interests in the Pacific Northwest were as yet unformed. The trade empire Lewis and Clark represented was centered in the St. Louis of the Chouteau brothers and Manuel Lisa, not the New York of John Jacob Astor. Here the explorers were uncertain of and uninterested in village and band rivalries. It is revealing that Comcomly, the Chinook headman who emerged in the period after Lewis and Clark as the most powerful political leader in the area, never visited Fort Clatsop. Whatever diplomatic initiatives there were during the winter came from the Indians themselves. It was very rare for whites to winter in the region, and the natives' visits to the fort may be interpreted as an effort to determine the intentions of the expedition. If there was a network of "understandings" binding the Indians and the explorers, it was the result of action by the former. By the second winter, the explorers had expended not only the material substance of diplomacy but much of their intellectual capital as well. Perhaps it seemed enough to fulfill the forms of diplomacy with the few remaining flags and medals, leaving the substance to others.
If Lewis and Clark were reluctant traders and inactive diplomats, they better fulfilled their ethnographic responsibilities. The Fort Clatsop diaries are enlivened with a wealth of information on lower Chinookan life, including drawings of weapons, canoes, and the tools of daily life. At Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark had used a wide variety of techniques to gather and preserve information about the Indians: interviews, direct observation, participation in ceremonies, and collection of artifacts. The results of that considerable effort were recorded in journals, maps, and the impressive "Estimate of the Eastern Indians." Knowing what they did well and what was possible, the expedition's ethnographers centered on describing Indian material culture. If past experience meant anything, the expedition was admirably prepared to document the lives of the coastal people. That the Fort Clatsop ethnographic achievement proved somehow less major than expected was the result of a whole battery of information gathering problems, some beyond the expedition's control and others of its own making.
It has become a historical commonplace to describe the Chinookans encountered by Lewis and Clark as "a decadent stock." In a burst of rhetoric more colorful than accurate, Bernard De Voto branded the Chinooks and their kin as "dullwitted, thievish, lying, [and] rotten with gonorrhoea and the pox"  Although others have not written such powerful slander, students of the expedition have often assumed that Chinookan life was somehow a "culture in decline." This latter-day estimate would have astonished everyone from white traders and explorers to the Indians themselves. When Lewis and Clark came to the coast in 1805, they found a thriving people fully at one with a bountiful physical environment. Arguments about cultural decline to the contrary, the maritime fur trade had dramatically enhanced the wealth and power of the coastal people. As one story describing the advent of metal trade goods put it, "the people bought this and the Clatsop became rich."  Like those ingenious Mandans who dismantled a corn grinder to make tools more suited to their own needs, the Chinookans bought only certain European goods and then quickly made them part of native life. The assertion that the Chinookans were "dull-witted" would have brought looks of disbelief from white merchants who knew firsthand the talents of Indian traders. To be fair, it must be said also that there was probably no more veneral disease on the coast than at Fort Mandan. The expedition's experience suggests that more men had the ailment at Fort Mandan than at Fort Clatsop. And as for the charge that the Chinookans were liars, it is revealing that the only serious case of deception during the winter involved the expedition and not the natives. Coboway, Cuscalar, Taucum, and the women who worked for Delashelwilt's wife was neither noble nor savage. Their lives moved to a pattern often difficult for the explorers to discern. It was just as hard for the natives to comprehend the Lewis and Clark expedition. 
Lewis and Clark were always drawn to the characteristic objects of Indian life. Few items more fully symbolized native cultures on the Northwest Coast than the canoe. From the first time they saw such canoes on the Columbia, Lewis and Clark admired their way in the water and the skill of those who paddled them through heaving river swells. From the Tlingits of British Columbia down to the coastal Salish of Oregon, there were five distinctive canoe styles in use. Ranging south from British Columbia to the mouth of the Columbia River and then up to the Cascades, the Chinook or Nootka canoe was a dominant style. The Chinook canoe, typically twenty to thirty-five feet long with a flat bottom, was quickly recognizable by its separate wood piece fitted over an undercut prow and a sharp, vertical stern. The cutwater canoe, common among lower Chinookans, obtained its name from the use of a board cutwater placed on the prow. Cutwaters were often thirty to thirty-five feet long and carried ten to twelve persons and considerable cargo. Also widespread in coastal Washington and Oregon and on the lower Columbia was the shovel-nose canoe. This style was the only kind used above The Dalles. Shovel-noses could be recognized by their distinctive sharply undercut prow and stern. This canoe was usually some fifteen feet long and maneuvered by two or three paddlers. Perhaps the most impressive and certainly the most memorable canoe in lower Chinookan waters was the double cutwater style. This very large canoe, usually thirty-five feet or longer, had cutwater boards at both bow and stern. More important, both ends were decorated with large carved totem animals. Finally, there were several kinds of simple hunting canoes. 
In a long, illustrated journal entry dated February 1, 1806, both Lewis and Clark presented detailed descriptions of four of the five canoe styles of the Northwest Coast. The first canoe in the sequence of Lewis's drawings was the shovel-nose. Lewis and Clark had often seen the Cathlamets and Wahkiakums use these small canoes around the "marshey Islands" near their villages. Second in Lewis's illustrated entry was the Chinook, the sort of canoe that may have been frequently drawn up on the banks of the Netul. The third drawing depicted the cutwater canoe. Both explorers noted its use up to The Dalles as well as its unmistakable cutwater board. That feature of native naval design was something neither man had ever seen, and both admitted that on first sight they had confused the bow for the stern, perhaps thinking the board was a simple rudder. Like every outsider who ever saw the double cutwater, Lewis and Clark were impressed by its size and ornamentation. Lewis's drawing shows a large double cutwater with what may be a human figure on the prow and a carving, clearly of an animal, at the stern. When Clark visited the Tillamook-Clatsop village at present-day Seaside, Oregon, he measured a double cutwater but evidently either forgot or mislaid the figures when writing his entry. 
The explorers knew that there was more to say about canoes beyond simple physical characteristics. Like James G. Swan who spent three years among the Chinooks in the 1850s, they understood that "the manufacture of a canoe is a work of great moment with these Indians." A brief but accurate discussion of construction techniques and materials completed the captains' journal entry. Impressed by the canoe themselves, Lewis and Clark were even more taken with the skill of their builders. With a chisel made from a worn file embedded in a wooden handle, Indian craftsmen made boats marked by easy handling and graceful lines. "A person would suppose," wrote the captains, "that the forming of a large canoe like this was the work of several years; but these people make then in several weeks." It was no wonder that canoes were prized possessions not to be traded away except at the highest prices. 
Some of the best of Lewis and Clark's ethnography responded to Jefferson's requirement that they describe Indian "food, clothing, & domestic accomodations." Throughout its journey, the expedition took careful note of Indian architecture, recording the designs and construction principles of earth lodges, tepees, brush wickiups, and on the Northwest Coast, plank houses. Lewis and Clark first encountered plank houses around The Dalles and saw them with increasing frequency downriver. Drawing on observations made during the winter, they were able to describe in considerable detail the size, shape, and materials for a Chinookan plank dwelling.
Although there was some variety in the plank house's size and shape, depending on local circumstances and the status of the inhabitants, Lewis and Clark found a common overall plan and structure. After finding a proper location with good access to water and enough sunlight, Indian builders excavated a pit some three to five feet deep. When finished, the pit measured anywhere from fourteen by twenty to forty by one hundred feet on its sides. A strong framework of cedar timber posts and gables was then erected over the pit. Split cedar boards were then driven into the ground vertically so that the tops of these planks could be attached to the gable rafters and eave poles. Roofs were made with thin planks, sometimes laid in a double thickness. Oval door openings often provided a place for Chinookan craftsmen to demonstrate their considerable carving abilities. Entrances were made to appear as animal or human mouths. When Lewis and Clark visited the Cathlamet village on the return journey, they noted such designs, "some of these which represented human figures setting and supporting the burthen on their shoulders." 
The insides of those houses were filled with the domestic clutter of Chinookan daily life. Sleeping mats, bowls, knives, bags, digging sticks, and clothing were only some of the items in a typical coastal household inventory. It was not until the drawings and paintings of John Webber, an artist with Captain Cook at Nootka Sound, and Paul Kane, a nineteenth-century artist, became better known that there was visual confirmation of what Lewis and Clark first described. The explorers provided a catalog of the utensils that the Chinookans used every day. Their journals contain accurate descriptions of wooden bowls, reed mats, different sizes of woven rush bags, and "neet trenchers made of wood." There is a fine account of root-digging sticks with a simple sketch to illustrate the tool. Lewis also made drawings of several weapons, including clubs, swords, and the common double-bladed handknife. 
Food and clothing did not escape the ethnographer's eyes. In a long journal entry written on a dismal, rainy day in January, Lewis took pains to describe "the Culinary articles of the Indians in our neighbourhood." Handsomely carved bowls, water baskets that doubled as hats, and horn spoons were all duly noted, as was the proper way to roast fish on a skewer. Lewis and Clark would not have recognized the word ethnobotany, but their observations on the natives' use of plants as a major food source has no equal in the literature of early exploration. The captains were no less attentive to Chinookan clothing. Despite Lewis's ill-tempered outburst proclaiming Chinookan female dress and ornament as "the most disgusting sight I have ever beheld," the journals contain remarkably precise descriptions of native dress. At one point, Clark summarized: "All go litely dressed ware nothing below the waist in the coldest weather, a pice of fur around their bodies and a short robe composes the sum total of their dress, except a fiew hats, and beads about their necks arms and lets." 
Lewis and Clark were especially fascinated by the unique and skillfully made hats worn by Indians up and down the coast. Made of cedar and bear grass, these brimless, cone-shaped hats were often decorated with geometric or pictorial figures woven into them. Clark saw a common Nootka design and described it as "faint representations of the whales, the Canoes, and the harpooners Strikeing them." Lewis was impressed with their practical design, writing, "They are nearly waterproof, light, and I am convinced are much more durable than either chip or straw." The explorers found such hats so well-suited to endless days of rain that they purchased several for themselves, drew four pictures of them, and took one back for Charles Willson Peale's Philadelphia museum. 
Lewis and Clark's ethnography was never an end in itself, but was always intended for the service of government policy or commercial expansion. When Jefferson instructed Lewis to learn about the "ordinary occupations" of native people, he had in mind the ways that Indian economic patterns might fit into an American trade system. Knowing that an essential part of their mission was to lay the foundations of future "commercial intercourse," the explorers paid special attention to Indian trade routes and the kinds of goods that passed along them. By the time Lewis and Clark got to The Dalles, they were experienced in analyzing trade networks and their potential for the eager merchants of St. Louis. The Northwest Coast contained an exchange system every bit as extensive as that at the Mandan villages. Had Lewis and Clark been farther north, they might have had a closer look at the maritime fur trade, but their location near the Columbia nonetheless provided a good place to watch a stream of brass tea kettles, blue beads, wappato, and pelts pass around a circle of Indian and white hands. 
Despite the fact that more than one hundred American ships had been engaged in fur operations on the Northwest Coast between 1788 and 1803, Lewis knew very little about the organization or the schedule of that trade. When he gathered his notes and began writing about coastal trade, he did not know whether traders who visited the Columbia came from Nootka Sound or made the river their first stop on voyages direct from England or the United States. Lewis was equally unsure about the existence of a trading post somewhere on the Pacific coast south of the Columbia. Strangely enough, the explorer did not even appear aware of the role of Hawaii as an important resupply point, although he speculated that "some island in the pacific ocean" was perhaps being used in the trade. From Indians, Lewis learned that traders came to the Columbia in April, anchored at Bakers Bay, and stayed some six or seven months. More important, he was able to learn what sort of goods the Indians were anxious to obtain. Those goods ranged from high quality two- and three-point blankets and coarse cloth to sheet copper and brassware. Also in demand were knives, fishhooks, pots, kettles, and firearms. The Chinookans enjoyed sporting European fashions, making castoff sailors' clothing an item for exchange. Of course, there was always a market for blue beads, known in the Chinook trade jargon as tyee-kamosuk or "chief beads." In return, the maritime traders obtained dressed and undressed elk skins, sea otter and beaver pelts, and so Lewis thought, dried salmon. Lewis knew that vast quantities of pounded fish came down from The Dalles market but frankly could not understand why white traders wanted it. Later he discovered that he had misinterpreted Indian information. The salmon was not meant for the sailors but was part of a large domestic trade of which the tall ships were only a small part. 
The extensive native trade network also got the expedition's attention. Lewis knew about the role of The Dalles as "the great mart for all the country." After further investigation, he better understood the flow of pounded salmon and European goods up and down the river. Typical of the exchanges that Lewis was able to trace were a variety of products from blubber and whale oil to wappato and beads. On one day in January, Lewis watched Cathlamet canoes loaded with upriver wappato destined for the Clatsop towns. At those towns the wappato would be traded for blubber and oil, items the Clatsops obtained from their Tillamook neighbors. The Clatsops, rich in European trade goods, paid for the whale products with beads and metal. "In this manner," explained Lewis, "is a trade continually carryed on by the natives of the river each trading some article or other with their neighbors above and below them; and thus articles which are vended by the whites at the enterence of this river, find their way to the most distant nations enhabiting its waters." 
Whenever Lewis and Clark ventured beyond describing objects to write about the "character" of an Indian group they ran afoul of powerful stereotypes that had long been a part of the Euro-American frontier experience. The explorers could and did have good relations with individual Indians, but when they tried to evaluate whole cultures, traditional attitudes and categories almost always came to the surface. Until they reached the Columbia, Lewis and Clark made do with two stereotypes for Indians. There were the Missouri River villagers, potential American customers and allies. In the explorers' eyes, these were the good Indians, sometimes childlike and potentially dangerous but good nonetheless. Baptized by reason of their trade potential, cultural salvation was extended to the Shoshonis , Flatheads , and Nez Perces . The Sioux and the Assinboins formed a second image. These natives Lewis and Clark judged harshly, not necessarily because they were nomads but for their links to British traders. This negative evaluation was not unchangeable. If Black Buffalo's warriors abandoned their English friends, they might be redeemed and welcomed into the American congregation. Such attitudes were intellectually satisfying and practically useful; they provided quick reference points as the expedition moved through a maze of Indians in an unknown land. Facial features, treatment of women and the elderly, differing traditions of hospitality toward strangers, economies of hunting and farming, even the sounds of language—all of these could be put into familiar mental pictures that made the world comprehensible.
But in the Northwest those reassuring images were challenged in disturbing ways. Here were people who made graceful caneos but flattened the heads of their children, carved beautiful designs on wooden bowls but squatted like frogs, and bargained with Yankee skill but had a language that sounded like hens clucking. The Chinookans simply did not fit into any convenient mental category. They were villagers who did not farm and warriors who preferred trade to combat. How could they be "Indians" when they did not look or act like any "Indian" the expedition had yet encountered? Confronted with human beings and cultural patterns that did not conform to the familiar categories, Lewis and Clark fell back on intellectual positions prepared by previous generations of Indian-white contact. At a moment when it might have been possible to escape the thrall of perceptions that had held Europeans since the Age of Reconnaissance, Lewis and Clark chose to reassert the familiar themes of native treachery and brutality. Language more suited to the bloody engagements in the Ohio country of the 1790s was conferred on the coastal people. Lewis and Clark had a singular chance to see the Indians beyond stereotype; to see them as inventive, adaptable men and women living prosperous lives between the mountains and the sea. That the explorers failed to transcend their own past is a measure of how deeply rooted those mental categories had become for white Americans.
When Lewis and Clark offered negative evaluations of the Chinookans they usually focused on two features of coastal life, one physical and the other behavioral. There is no doubt that they found the shape of Columbia and coastal peoples unattractive. Like other Euro-Americans, the explorers were conditioned to admire tall, slender bodies. Thin lips, narrow noses, and small feet were all essential parts of the body beautiful. Although the plains and plateau Indians came close to that image, the river and coastal folk surely did not. Lewis and Clark repeatedly used the words "low," "illy formed," and "badly made" to describe Chinookan bodies. Lewis wrote, "They are low in stature, rather diminutive and illy shapen; possessing thick broad flat feet, thick ankles, crooked legs, wide mouths, thick lips, nose moderately large, fleshey, wide at the extremity with large nostrils, black eyes and black coarse hair."  Although its unflattering aspects were surely intended, this physical portrait is generally accurate. More important, it does not directly engage in the kinds of racial typing common later in the century, nor is its language as harsh as that used by later travelers to the coast. It is worth recalling that the most vindictive thing said about Indians in the extant journals—Lewis's cruel characterization of hungry men eating uncooked meat as savage brutes—described Shoshonis , not Chinookans.
But the behavior of some coastal Indians was hardly endearing. From The Dalles down to the coast, Lewis and Clark were troubled by repeated incidents of theft. Those thefts posed two quite distinct problems. Plainly the expedition could not afford to lose tools, weapons, and valuable trade goods. But on another level, the explorers found persistent theft a habit hard to understand. Differing concepts of property, notions of communal sharing, increased commercialization of native life, and theft as an attention-getting tactic were all explanations that did not occur to the ethnographers in the expedition. Instead, Lewis speculated that thievery was an irreducible part of the coastal Indians' psyche. "I therefore believe," he wrote, "this trait in their character proceeds from an avaricious all grasping disposition." 
The captains may not have liked their Fort Clatsop neighbors nor wanted their constant company, but at the same time, they said very positive things that must not be overlooked. Indeed, they had as many favorable things to say about the Chinookans as they had about plains or plateau Indians. For all the talk about "badly made," thievish natives, Lewis and Clark found Coboway and his kin "mild inoffensive people." Hospitality toward strangers was evident when Clark visited a Clatsop house and was treated with "extrodeanary friendship." The explorers were equally impressed with Chinookan family life, noting that "the greatest harmoney appears to exist among them." "Cheerful but never gay," possessed with "good memories," "very loquacious and inquisitive," the Chinookans may have sometimes seemed like transplanted Yankee peddlars—not a wholly flattering estimate, come to think of it, from men with Virginia and backcountry roots. 
By the time Lewis and Clark wintered at Fort Clatsop, they had settled on several ways to record ethnographic information. Journals, maps, vocabularies, artifacts, and tabular estimates were all familiar parts of their ethnography. At Fort Clatsop, the bulk of material about the Indians was written by Lewis in long journal entries. Each entry was a miniature essay on a particular aspect of Indian material culture or behavior. On subjects ranging from trade routes and hunting techniques to clothing styles and burial practices, Lewis's essays represent a substantial achievement in the history of ethnography. They reflect his keen powers of observation and a remarkable ability to bring objects alive with words. 
Although the journals of the captains hold much valuable information about the Indians, the same cannot be said of the diaries kept by Sergeants Ordway and Gass. Earlier in the voyage, Ordway often had recorded telling bits of native life. The look of an Arikara cornfield or the unique sound of the Salish language were things that he would not miss putting in his journal. Gass could be equally observant, especially about Indian houses. But during the winter on the coast, the sergeants' powers of observation declined. For reasons that are not clear, their journals are thin and without significant ethnographic value.
Perhaps the greatest advance in ethnographic recording at Fort Clatsop was the inclusion of illustrations in the journals. Drawings had appeared briefly when the party spent time with the Lemhi Shoshonis , but at Fort Clatsop the illustrative art flowered. Whatever the cause for the drawings, whether sheer boredom or genuine interest in new subjects, these visual records provide a new dimension to the expedition's ethnography. Sketches of North Coast hats, swords, clubs, knives, and arrows dot the journal pages, as do drawings of fishhooks, digging sticks, canoes, and paddles. These drawings continue to enliven our understanding of Chinookan life. Most striking is Clark's simple but powerful set of sketches depicting Chinookan heads and a head-flattening cradleboard.  The quality and perceptiveness in the Fort Clatsop drawings makes one wish that the captains had discovered their artistic gifts earlier and practiced them longer.
The comprehensive "Estimate of the Eastern Indians" had been the lasting ethnographic accomplishment to come out of Fort Mandan. At Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark attempted a similar estimate for western Indians but with far less success. Abandoning the interrogative and comparative structure that made the eastern estimate so valuable and remarkable, the explorers settled for a simple list of tribes, bands, and villages with populations given in numbers of lodges and persons. The "Estimate of Western Indians" was begun at Fort Clatsop, revised during the return journey, and further annotated by Clark when the expedition had ended. In organization, the western estimate is a straightforward recital of native groups, moving from the Shoshonis , Flatheads , and several Nez Perce bands to the Yakimas, Wanapams, and Walulas encountered at the junction of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The estimate enumerates the Columbia River Sahaptians and Chinookans, reaching east to the Shahala or Cascade Indians. Then applying an unusual economic or botanical standard, the explorers list bands from the Cascades of the Columbia to the Cowlitz River as "wappato Indians." These include the Clatskanies, a number of groups living around Wappato or Sauvies Island, and the Skilloots. Moving to the coast, the estimate records the Wahkiakums, Cathlamets, Chinooks-proper, and Clatsops.
Because Lewis and Clark never traveled farther south along the Oregon coast than the Tillamook village of Necost, their information on groups much past Cape Lookout was very sketchy. The explorers knew the names and locations of the Tillamook towns around Tillamook Bay. Perhaps based on information gathered during Clark's visit, the estimate contains a list of Salish and Yakonan speakers south to Cape Blanco and the Rogue River. Lewis and Clark had even less information from the Chinooks-proper north along the coast. The few contacts with Chinooks during the winter made the estimate of those in the northern reaches meager indeed. Under one entry, Lewis and Clark listed a number of groups along the Washington coast as far north as the Quinaults on the Olympic Peninsula. When Clark made his brief reconnaissance up the Willamette River on the return journey, listings were added for bands and peoples commonly known as the Multnomahs. Also noted were groups of Sahaptian speakers living on the middle Columbia above the Snake-Columbia junction. For all the care Lewis and Clark took with it, the western estimate has a barebones quality. Whether it was a failure of energy, imagination, or information, the document did not meet the standard set at Fort Mandan. 
The weaknesses in the "Estimate of the Western Indians" reflect the deeper problems that made Fort Clatsop ethnography less successful than the studies undertaken a winter earlier. The explorers had not abandoned their commitment to "name the nations," nor had they suddenly lost their descriptive skills. At Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark were up against a battery of information-gathering problems, some of their own making and others simply beyond remedy.
Fort Mandan had been ideally situated for ethnographic field work. Two Mandan villages and three Hidatsa ones were close by. Because these villages were the center for northern plains trade, Lewis and Clark had access to Indian information far beyond the range of their own travels. If Fort Mandan was set at what geographer John Allen has aptly termed "the keystone of the upper Missouri region," Fort Clatsop was isolated in a cultural backwater.  Only one small Clatsop village was within easy walking distance. The Chinook villages on the north side of the Columbia seemed as remote as the Tillamook towns to the south.
Compounding the physical isolation at Fort Clatsop was the restrictive visiting policy discussed above. Unfortunately, the evening curfew was enforced in an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Then, too, the coastal Indians did not find the white men a novelty and were disappointed by their slim store of trading goods. The result was far fewer Indian visitors than there had been at Fort Mandan and a sketchier ethnographic record. Lewis and Clark may have felt more secure with fewer Indians about, but their cultural isolation yielded a written record long on objects and short on those who made and used them. 
That mental and physical distance from Indians meant fewer native informants. Even with Indians like Coboway, Cuscalar, and Delashelwilt—men who visited the fort fairly regularly—Lewis and Clark never developed the sort of rapport they had had with Black Cat, Sheheke, or many other Mandan Indians. Some of that difficulty was a matter of language. However difficult and time-consuming the translations at Fort Mandan, at least the words and sentences had been forthcoming. At Fort Clatsop, translation was much more difficult. No one in the party could speak the Chinookan language, and the explorers evidently picked up only a rudimentary knowledge of the trade jargon. Over and over, Lewis lamented: "I cannot understand them sufficiently to make any enquiries." 
During the winter at Fort Mandan, many of the gaps in Indian information could be filled by traders like Jusseaume, Charbonneau, and Heney. At Fort Clatsop, there was no comparable group of knowledgeable whites for Lewis and Clark to question. Already hemmed in by inhospitable weather, miserable food, and a strange language, the absence of helpful traders deepened the expedition's isolation and ignorance.
The winter at Fort Clatsop wore on in days of cold drizzle. The men habitually noted in their journals that "nothing worthy of notice occurred today." No sooner had the fort been built than the whole party began "counting the days which seperate us from the 1st of April and which bind us to fort Clatsop."  In the routine of hunting, cooking, mending, and salt-boiling, several incidents stand out to reveal the lights and shadows of personal relations between the explorers and the Indians. Some of these are no more than snapshots from the Fort Clatsop family album, but at least two might be short films on the subject of friendship betrayed.
At Fort Mandan, Indians and explorers had been allies in a struggle to survive a plains winter. But at Fort Clatsop their relationship was at best an armed truce. Yet there must have been moments, especially at trading times, when something like the atmosphere of that plains winter crept into the Fort Clatsop compound. The Chinooks were convivial folk who enjoyed storytelling and good company. Their zest for life was reflected in a delight with bargaining that went beyond business into the realm of sport. Lewis and Clark never recorded any of the arresting tales in coastal oral tradition, nor do their journals contain any hints of the actual words that passed between Indians and whites. But in a memorable entry written by Lewis, there is a hint of those brief times when neighbors shared trade and food. "With us," he recalled, "their conversation generally turns upon the subjects of trade, smoking, eating or their women; about the latter they speak without reserve in their presents, of their every part, and of the most formiliar connection."  In journal entries usually empty of an Indian presence, this is an especially vivid picture. Earthy talk, a sly wink or pointed finger, and the forceful way the Chinookans blew smoke from their lungs—all lent a flash of color to otherwise gray days.
Talk about that "most formiliar connection" is a reminder that sexual liaisons with Indian women had been part of the life of the expedition at least since the time at the Arikara villages. Lewis certainly was not surprised, and he wisely purchased the proper medical supplies in Philadelphia to cope with venereal disease. The captains simply accepted sexual relations as part of frontier life and were worried only if they endangered the expedition's health or security. It is probably safe to say that "Louis Veneris" was an unpaid, unenlisted, but ever-present member of the Corps of Discovery throughout its long voyage.
Clark once wrote that Chinook women were "lude and carry on sport publickly," and added that "the Clotsops and others appear deffident, and reserved."  His unflattering assessment of Chinook morals and the differences in behavior of women on either side of the Columbia brings us closer to understanding why sex was so freely offered to the Americans. With the coming of white traders in the mid-1790s, Chinook women began to play an increasingly important role in an expanding native economy. Trusted by whites who perhaps feared males, Chinook women soon became the principal intermediaries between fur merchants and their own kin. Women operated their own business canoes and were regularly consulted on trade matters by men on both sides of the counter. In a culture that frowned on sexual intercourse only if it involved incest, it was reasonable for these women to use their own sexual favors and those of others to make and seal trade agreements. Women who made personal and business alliances with traders enhanced the wealth of their own families. Certainly the Chinook who was reported to be "Mr. Haley's favorite woman" brought influence and material rewards to her family. The young woman who had "J. Bowmon" tattooed on her arm probably had a similar relationship with that trader. The plains people, concerned with acquiring spirit power, had used sex as one means to gain that end. The Chinookans, whose lives focused on trading and material wealth, saw sex as an equally valid way to amass the goods that signaled power and prestige.  In a telling set of remarks made in a speech to the Mercantile Library Association of Boston in 1846, one-time coastal trader William Sturgis observed, "Among a portion of the Indians, the management of trade is entrusted to the women. The reason given by the men was, that women could talk with white men better than they could, and were willing to talk more." 
Encounters with Chinook women began while the expedition was still on the north side of the Columbia. Toward evening on November 21, 1805, the wife of the Chinook chief Delashelwilt brought six women to the American camp. Their arrival prompted a brisk exchange of goods and services between young men and women who Clark admitted were "handsome." "The young women sport openly with our men" was Clark's understated way of reporting what must have been quite a romp. In fact, their men were giving away goods at such alarming speed that Lewis and Clark were forced to call a temporary halt to the good times. Finding a ready solution, the captains "divided some ribbon between the men of our party to bestow on their favorite Lasses, this plan to save the knives and more valuable articles."  These sexual contacts produced many venereal complaints, belatedly recorded by Lewis and Clark the following spring.
Just how often the Chinook woman, now known as "the old baud," brought her following to Fort Clatsop is not clear. Although Lewis and Clark remained silent on the subject, there are some clues to suggest that sexual contacts were fairly regular. Exchanging goods for sex may have led to the stern prohibition against selling "any tool or iron or steel instrument, arms, accoutrements or ammunicion," issued as part of the General Order dealing with Indian-expedition relations. More specific and less circumstantial is the evidence from Patrick Gass. The sergeant reported that "the old baud" and nine girls "frequently visited our quarters." He noted that sex was available at any "easy rate," and Nicholas Biddle later commented that payment rates were fixed on the basis of female appearance. Medical evidence for all this activity is not wanting. Lewis and Clark alluded to "many" venereal complaints after the initial Chinook meeting. Although there do not appear to have been as many cases at Fort Clatsop as at Fort Mandan, by January at least two men—Hugh McNeal and Silas Goodrich—had contracted the malady. 
McNeal's case of "the pox" was certainly uncomfortable, but his "connection" to one Chinook woman saved his life and probably rescued the expedition from involvement in a nasty confrontation. On the evening of January 9, Clark and several men were smoking with Indians at a cluster of Tillamook and Clatsop houses on the Necanicum River near the coast. At ten o'clock the quiet was shattered by loud calls from houses across the river. As many Indians rushed to investigate, Clark's Clatsop guide told him that rumor had it someone's throat had been cut. When Clark discovered that Hugh McNeal was missing, he quickly sent Sergeant Pryor and four armed men to find him. Pryor had no sooner set out than he met McNeal coming "in great haste." Regaining his composure, McNeal explained that he had been invited to one of the houses by a Tillamook man. After sampling some blubber at one lodge, the two men had gone on to another. McNeal did not know that the Indian was intent on killing him for his blanket and personal effects. A Chinook woman described only as "an old friend of McNeals" knew of the plot and seized the American by his blanket cape in an effort to thwart the scheme. Still unaware that his life was at risk, McNeal pushed the woman away. Undaunted, she then alerted the village. In the commotion that followed, McNeal's would-be assassin escaped. Clark provided a proper ending to the whole escapade when he dubbed the Necanicum "McNeal's Folly Creek." 
Sex sometimes had comic overtones. When a Clatsop man brought his sister as payment for medical attention, the offer was swiftly rejected. Not to be denied, the woman took up residence with the Charbonneau family. Once her presence was known, a number of men in the expedition came knocking on her door only to find their "solicitations" turned down. After two or three days of sulking around the fort, the woman finally realized that medical bills were easier to incur than to pay.  In mid-March, as the party prepared to leave Fort Clatsop, Delashelwilt, "the old baud," and six girls made camp outside the stockade and laid "close seige" to the expedition's affections. Fearing that the "winning graces" of the Chinooks might touch off another epidemic of venereal disease like that in November 1805 and endanger the return journey, the captains delivered a stiff lecture on the dangers that waited outside the fort. The lecture ended, at least so claimed Lewis and Clark, with the entire party giving "the vow of celibacy." In what must be the most inappropriate gesture in expedition history, Delashelwilt was then given a certificate of "good deportment." Lewis and Clark might as well have gone one step further and awarded his wife and her retinue a citation for meritorious service. 
Friendly talk and intimate encounters made a dismal winter bearable for at least some of the explorers. At those times the distances that separated explorer from Indian was, if not bridged, at least narrowed. But there was a darker side to Indian relations at Fort Clatsop, something that went beyond the indignity of the password "no Chinook" or the inhospitable treatment afforded visiting chiefs. During February and March, the expedition played out a particularly sordid tale of deception and friendship betrayed. It involved a premeditated theft of a Clatsop canoe in plain violation of Indian legal practice and expedition policy. Writers of detective fiction later in the century might have entitled it "The Case of the Purloined Canoe." Whatever the label, it proved a cautionary tale—one that revealed the brand of white morality confronted by the Indians in the grim years to come.
What later became a blot on the expedition's honor began simply enough in early February when some Clatsop Indians took six elk from George Drouillard's cache. Short on food, Lewis and Clark properly complained to Coboway about the theft. Following traditional practice, the chief sent a man to the fort on February 12 with three dogs to pay for the stolen meat. This well-intentional and legally correct act went momentarily awry when the dogs bolted and ran off. But all was put right when Drouillard went to the Clatsop village and retrieved the animals. As far as the Indians were concerned, the case was now closed; proper restitution had been made and accepted. There was every reason to believe that the unpleasantness at the elk cache would be forgotten. 
But in March, with preparations underway for the journey home, the incident suddenly took on new life. Lewis and Clark knew they would need several Indian canoes to flesh out the expedition's flotilla. Drouillard was therefore sent to the Clatsop village to purchase what craft he could find. He returned with some Clatsops and an "indifferent" canoe; the Indians refused to part with it even when offered Lewis's fancy-dress uniform coat. Indians remained at the fort throughout the day but would not sell their canoes "at a price which it was in our power to give consistently with the state of our stock of merchandize." 
Stymied in their efforts to obtain the necessary canoes by honest trade, a plan surfaced that was at worst criminal and at best a terrible lapse of judgment. One of the interpreters—either Drouillard or Charbonneau—and several other men proposed the revival of the elk theft case as a pretext for taking a Clatsop canoe. As Lewis blandly put it, "We yet want another canoe, and as the Clatsops will not sell us one at a price which we can afford to give we will take one form them in lue of the six elk which they stole from us in the winter." Lewis and Clark were not up against the wall of survival, nor was this a food emergency. The captains were abandoning a two-year tradition of never stealing from the Indians. The essential honesty that distinguished Lewis and Clark from explorers like Hernando DeSoto and Francisco Pizarro had been tarnished. Expedition goods were in short supply, but experience always proved that patience in coastal trade usually yielded a satisfactory exchange. Unfortunately, patience was not the order of the day. 
On the next day, March 18, an unsuspecting Coboway spent the whole day at the fort. While the chief was there, four of Lewis and Clark's men slipped away toward his village. Knowing where the canoes were beached, they took one and brought it up near the fort. Because Coboway was still there, the thieves concealed their prize nearby until he left. It had been one thing for Lewis to trick Cameahwait into thinking that Clark's party was close at hand when the fate of the expedition hung in the balance at Shoshoni Cove. Even then Lewis admitted his deception "set a little awkward." It was another thing to cheat Coboway—a man Lewis described as "friendly and decent," "kind and hospitable"—and not even feel a pang of conscience. 
That singular betrayal of friendship begins to make sense when projected against remarks made by Lewis during the period between the stealing of the elk and the stealing of the canoe. After a visit on February 20 by Taucum and a large Chinook delegation, Lewis launched into a vitriolic attack on the natives. Dredging up language and images rooted in two centuries of white frontier experience, Lewis branded the Indians as treacherous savages beyond redemption. Brushing aside any thought that the two peoples might ever be linked in genuine friendship, the explorer maintained that kindness from whites had always been repaid with brutality from Indians. "The too great confidence of our countrymen in their sincerity and friendship," exclaimed Lewis, "has caused the destruction of many hundreds of us." Turning his attention to the expedition, Lewis admitted that long months of good relations with Indians made it difficult to believe the party could fall victim to attack. Against that general good feeling, Lewis charged that the Indians did not deserve the expedition's confidence, no matter how helpful they had been. About all Indians, he declared, there was something fundamentally treacherous. Lewis was determined to do everything in his power to undermine any favorable impression his men had of the Indians. The central theme of Indian treachery had to be drilled into their minds. The Corps of Discovery had to be taught to hate. In phrases reminiscent of Puritan fears of the howling wilderness and savage devils, Lewis repeated his conviction "that our preservation depends on never loosing sight of this trait [treachery] in their character, and being always prepared to meet it in whatever shape it may present itself."  With those words Lewis moved from common-sense vigilance of the sort required of every explorer to a dangerous flirtation with paranoia.
Lewis's ranting was not typical of either the language or the practice of the expedition. It was not even typical of events during the Clatsop winter. But those were powerful words that demand the historian's attention and explanation. A long way from home, the expedition felt hemmed in by a strange environment and seemingly unpredictable people. Isolation, loneliness, and fear—all extract a high price from even the strongest and most moral. Such conditions often release pent-up feelings of hostility toward outsiders. Fort Clatsop always had an atmosphere of "us versus them," unlike the "we" of Fort Mandan. Lewis and Clark were not the first Europeans who had their moral sensibilities challenged and then eroded by the new American land. Lewis's outburst and the theft of the canoe mark a low point in expedition-Indian relations.
The winter at Fort Clatsop ended as it had begun—with overvcast skies and splatters of rain. On March 23, 1806, after giving Coboway possession of their winter quarters, Lewis and Clark "bid a final adieu to Fort Clatsop." Lewis claimed that with the exception of not meeting any white traders, all the expedition's goals had been achieved.  In most particulars his evaluation was accurate. Secured in carefully sewn elkskin bags was what amounted to a virtual catalog of western North America—its land, peoples, plants, and animals. The face of a vast portion of the continent now would be disclosed for all to see in journals, drawings, maps, vocabularies, botanical specimens, and artifacts. If Lewis and Clark were disturbed that their primary mission—finding a passage through the American garden—had not yielded the result Jefferson hoped for, they did not show it. For now there was only the hurry to sever those ties that for a winter had bound them to the North Coast.
Some eight years later there was a disquieting and sad postscript to the Fort Clatop winter. On May 21, 1814, Coboway brought to the North West Company trader Alexander Henry a piece of paper the chief had carefully preserved through all those damp winters. Dated March 19, 1806, it was a list of the members of the Corps of Discovery of the Northwest. Despite their ill treatment of him, the chief obviously cherished this reminder of those his people called pâh-shish-e-ooks, the "cloth men." Coboway's rude introduction to the world of imperial rivalries came when Henry abruptly threw the document into a fire and then presented the chief with a British replacement.  Lewis and Clark had done their work well. Lured by what the captains saw, those eight years had brought a flood of Astorians, Nor'-Westers, and empire builders to the Northwest. And Coboway's world had been transformed in ways hard to understand and difficult to predict.
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.