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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 17:
Captain Clark (current)
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We set out at 7 o'clock and proceeded on to the forks. I had not proceeded on one mile before I saw, at a distance, several Indians on horseback coming toward me. The interpreter and squaw, who were before me at some distance, danced for the joyful sight, and she made signs to me that they were her nation. As I approached nearer them, discovered one of Captain Lewis's party with them dressed in their dress. They met me with great signs of joy. As the canoes were proceeding on nearly opposite me, I turned those people and joined Captain Lewis, who had camped with 16 of those Snake Indians at the forks 2 miles in advance. Those Indians sang all the way to their camp, where the others had provided a kind of shade of willows stuck up in a circle.
The three chiefs with Captain Lewis met me with great cordiality, embraced, and took a seat on a white robe. The main chief immediately tied to my hair six small pieces of shells, resembling pearl, which are highly valued by those people, and are procured from the nations residing near the seacoast. We then smoked in their fashion, without shoes.
Captain Lewis informed me he found those people on the Columbia River about 40 miles from the forks. At that place there was a large camp of them. He had persuaded those with him to come and see that what he said was the truth. They had been under great apprehension all the way, for fear of their being deceived. The Great Chief of this nation proved to be the brother of the woman with us, and is a man of influence, sense, and easy and reserved manners. Appears to possess a great deal of sincerity. The canoes arrived and unloaded. Everything appeared to astonish those people - - the appearance of the men, their arms, the canoes, the clothing, my black servant, and the sagacity of Captain Lewis's dog. We spoke a few words to them in the evening respecting our route, intentions, our want of horses, &c., and gave them a few presents and medals. We made a number of inquiries of those people about the Columbia River, the country, game, &c. The account they gave us was very unfavorable, that the river abounded in immense falls - - one, particularly, much higher than the Falls of the Missouri, and at the place, the mountains closed so close that it was impracticable to pass, and that the ridge continued on each side of perpendicular cliffs impenetrable, and that no deer, elk, or any game was to be found in that country. Added to that, they informed us that there was no timber on the river sufficiently large to make small canoes. This information, if true, is alarming. I determined to go in advance and examine the country.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.