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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 17:
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This morning I arose very early and dispatched Drouilliard and the Indian down the river. Sent Shields to hunt. I made McNeal cook the remainder of our meat, which afforded a slight breakfast for ourselves and the chief. Drouilliard had been gone about two hours when an Indian, who had straggled some little distance down the river, returned and reported that the white men were coming, that he had seen them just below. They all appeared transported with joy, and the chief repeated his fraternal hug. I felt quite as much gratified at this information as the Indians appeared to be. Shortly after, Captain Clark arrived with the interpreter, Charbonneau, and the Indian woman, who proved to be a sister of the chief Cameahwait.
The meeting of those people was really affecting, particularly between Sacagawea and an Indian woman who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her, and who had afterwards escaped from the Minnetarees and rejoined her nation.
At noon the canoes arrived, and we had the satisfaction once more to find ourselves all together, with a flattering prospect of being able to obtain as many horses shortly as would enable us to prosecute our voyage by land should that by water be deemed inadvisable.
We now formed our camp just below the junction of the forks on the larboard side in a level, smooth bottom covered with a fine turf of greensward. Here we unloaded our canoes and arranged our baggage on shore. Formed a canopy of one of our large sails and planted some willow brush in the ground to form a shade for the Indians to sit under while we spoke to them, which we thought it best to do this evening.
Accordingly, about 4 P.M., we called them together and through the medium of Labiche, Charbonneau, and Sacagawea, we communicated to them fully the objects which had brought us into this distant part of the country, in which we took care to make them a conspicuous object of our own good wishes and the care of our government. We made them sensible of their dependence on the will of our government for every species of merchandise as well for their defense and comfort, and apprised them of the strength of our government and its friendly dispositions toward them. We also gave them as a reason why we wished to penetrate the country as far as the ocean to the west of them was to examine and find out a more direct way to bring merchandise to them. That as no trade could be carried on with them before our return to our homes, that it was mutually advantageous to them as well as to ourselves that they should render us such aids as they had it in their power to furnish in order to hasten our voyage and, of course, our return home: that such were their horses to transport our baggage, without which we could not subsist, and that a pilot to conduct us through the mountains was also necessary if we could not descend the river by water. But that we did not ask either their horses or their services without giving a satisfactory compensation in return. That at present we wished them to collect as many horses as were necessary to transport our baggage to their village on the Columbia, where we would then trade with them at our leisure for such horses as they could spare us. They appeared well pleased with what had been said. The chief thanked us for friendship toward himself and nation and declared his wish to serve us in every respect; that he was sorry to find that it must yet be some time before they could be furnished with firearms, but said they could live as they had done heretofore until we brought them as we had promised. He said they had not horses enough with them at present to remove our baggage to their village over the mountain, but that he would return tomorrow and encourage his people to come over with their horses, and that he would bring his own and assist us. This was complying with all we wished at present. We next inquired who were chiefs among them. Cameahwait pointed out two others, who, he said, were chiefs. We gave him a medal of the small size with the likeness of Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States, in relief on one side, and clasped hands with a pipe and tomahawk on the other. To the other chiefs we gave each a small medal which were struck in the Presidency of George Washington, Esq. We also gave small medals of the last description to two young men who, the first chief informed us, were good young men and much respected among them.
Captain Clark and myself now concerted measures for our future operations; and it was mutually agreed that he should set out tomorrow morning with eleven men, furnished with axes and other necessary tools for making canoes, their arms, accouterments, and as much of their baggage as they could carry, also to take the Indians, Charbonneau, and the Indian woman with him. That on his arrival at the Shoshone camp, he was to leave Charbonneau and the Indian woman to hasten the return of the Indians with their horses to this place, and to proceed himself with the eleven men down the Columbia in order to examine the river; and, if he found it navigable and could obtain timber, to set about making canoes immediately. In the meantime, I was to bring on the party and baggage to the Shoshone camp, calculating that by the time I should reach that place, he would have sufficiently informed himself with respect to the state of the river, &c., to determine us whether to prosecute our journey from thence by land or water.
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.