Essay Sample on Lewis and Clark and Their Visit of Indian Tribes

Posted on July 17, 2009

During their expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark Met and Encountered many different Indian tribes. Since Lewis and Clark met so many tribes they decided that they would greet every Indian tribe the same way. Some of the tribes greeted them with gifts, while others greeted them with immediate violence.

Lewis and Clark met with the Arikara Indians on October 8,1804. When they met the Arikara Indians, only a small population of their tribe had existed. They found three Arikara villages, where most of the people lived in earth lodges. There were about 2,000 people in all of these villages combined. “Arikara men wore buffalo robes, leggings and moccasins, and many warriors wielded guns that they had acquired in trade. Women were clad in fringed antelope dresses.” Most of the Arikara were farmers. When crops did not grow well they resorted to shooting buffalo. “Arikara men wore buffalo robes, leggings and moccasins, and many warriors wielded guns that they had acquired in trade. Women were clad in fringed antelope dresses.” The Arikaras agreed to send a group east to meet with President Jefferson. However York, Clark’s slave, impressed the Indians most because they never saw a black man before and because of that they thought he had special spiritual powers.

“Eight Blackfeet warriors encountered Meriwether Lewis and a party of the Corps of Discovery in July 1806.” The Blackfeet saw the Americans as a threat to their tribe. One night the Blackfeet tried to steal the Americans guns, but failed and two of the tribes’ warriors were killed by Lewis and Reuben Field. From then on, the whole tribe treated the Corps of Discovery with opposition.

“On October 26, 1805, two Chinook chiefs and several men came to the expedition’s camp to offer gifts of deer meat and root bread cakes. The captains responded by presenting the chiefs with medals and the men with trinkets.” They lived next to the Columbia River in the northwestern part of Oregon. They mostly ate fish, rabbit, elk, bird eggs, and clams. For shelter they used houses made of cedar bark, teepees, and brush tents. Many of the families lived together in one house. To get around they used canoes that were hollowed out cedar trees. They also rode on horses or walked on foot. Many of the times during their encounter the Corps were stolen form and they were given unreasonable prices for food.

The Hidatsa Indians lived on the upper Missouri river in North Dakota. They lived in circular earth lodges that enclosed a type of meeting place. A log wall that’s purpose was to keep out invaders surrounded the village. The tribe had three villages along the Missouri river: Mahawha, Metaharta, and the largest, Menetarra. The Hidatsa became involved in trade with many of their visitors. They grew corn, tobacco, squash, and beans, which they used to trade with others. “The Hidatsas did provide the Corps with a number of benefits, including key information about the route ahead.” The also told them about a French trader and his wife Sacagawea.

The Mandan Indians lived along the Upper Missouri River in North Dakota. They lived in two villages: Matootonha and Rooptahee. They Corps arrived at the villages in October and stayed there until the winter of 1804 where they stayed at Fort Mandan. The tribe believed that their ancestors climbed form beneath the earth by means of a grapevine. A post stood at the center of the village that symbolized its hero. At the north end of each plaza was its medicine lodge. The more powerful a family was the closer its’ lodge was to the center. They grew beans, squash, corn, and tobacco.

“Everything from meat products to horses to musical instruments was exchanged for Mandan corn.” When food was running low the Corps went with the Mandans to go on a buffalo hunt. They were awed by the color of York’s skin and they too thought he had spiritual powers because of it. The Mandans supplied the Corps with food and supplies during their stay and when spring came they bid farewell and the Corps continued on their expedition.

During the first meeting of the Corps with the Teton Sioux, the Corps went through their normal ritual of meeting Indians and the tribe were not impressed by it, but instead saw the Corps as competitors for trade in the region. No one in the Corps could speak Sioux so it was very difficult for the two groups to communicate. “Teton men wore hawk feathers about their heads and robes over their bodies, while women dressed in buffalo skins and robes. During the expeditionТs stay, the Tetons held a number of celebrations “scalp dances” of a recent war victory over the rival Omahas.” The difficulty in communication between the groups caused many misunderstandings and those little problems almost led to the point of war. But before there was a big chance of war the Corps decided to leave sooner than anything threatening to their safety could take place.

The Corps met the Walla Wallas during early October in the year 1805. Since the Corps were rushing to get to the Pacific, they rejected their welcome. However the leader, Yelleppit, made them promise to return to the village on their way back. So when the Corps returned in April, they agreed to stay for a while. There were about 15 lodges in the village and because of the request by their leader, the Walla Wallas welcomed the Corps kindly. “Relations between the two groups were simplified by the presence of a Shoshone woman who the Walla Wallas had captured. She translated Walla Walla to Shoshone for Sacagawea, opening the translation chain for the Corps’ interpreters.” Yellepitt gave Clark a white horse and fish and firewood for the rest of the troops. In return Clark gave Yellepitt his sword, 100 rounds of ammunition, and other different trade objects. The Corps told the tribe their plans of leaving but Yellepitt asked them to stay one more night and they agreed to. Because of them willing to stay the tribe gave them horses, food, canoes, and valuable information about the next place they wanted to go. That night neighboring tribes joined the Corps and the Walla Wallas to have a big celebration where they dance to the beats played on the drums and ratlles.

Throughout the duration of the journey the Corps met many different tribes that each helped them in different ways. Some supplied them with food others with supplies and others with valuable information. They were able to see that all Indians were different and none were the same. They were also able to realize that Indians weren’t savages; just people who were trying to get by in life.

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