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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 30:
Captain Clark (current)
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I saw several men on horseback which with the help of a spyglass I found to be Indians on the high hill to the N.E. We landed on the S.W. side, and I sent out two men to a village of barking squirrels to kill some of those animals.
Immediately after landing, about 20 Indians were discovered on an eminence a little above us on the opposite side. One of those men I took to be a Frenchman from his having a blanket Capote and a handkerchief around his head. Immediately after, 80 or 90 Indian men - all armed with fusees and bows and arrows - came out of a wood on the opposite bank, about a quarter of a mile below us. They fired off their guns as a salute. We returned the salute with two rounds.
We were at a loss to determine of what nation those Indians were. From their hostile appearance, we were apprehensive they were Tetons, but from the country through which they roved we were willing to believe them either the Yanktons, Poncas, or Mahas, either of which nations are well disposed toward the white people. I determined to find out who they were without running any risk of the party and Indians, and therefore took three Frenchmen who could speak the Maha, Pawnee, and some Sioux, and in a small canoe I went over to a sand bar which extended sufficiently near the opposite shore to converse. Immediately after I set out, three young men set out from the opposite side and swam next me on the sand bar. I directed the men to speak to them in the Pawnee and Maha languages first, neither of which they could understand. I then directed the man who could speak a few words of Sioux to inquire what nation or tribe they belong to. They informed me that they were Tetons and their chief was the Black Buffalo. This chief I knew very well to be the one we had seen with his band at Teton river, which band had attempted to detain us in the fall of 1804 as we ascended this river, and with whom we were near coming to blows.
I told those Indians that they had been deaf to our counsels, and ill-treated us as we ascended this river two years past, that they had abused all the whites who had visited them since. I believed them to be bad people and should not suffer them to cross to the side on which the party lay, and directed them to return with their band to their camp; that if any of them came near our camp we should kill them certainly. I left them on the bar and returned to the party and examined the arms, &c. Those Indians, seeing some corn in the canoe, requested some of it, which I refused, being determined to have nothing to do with those people.
Several others swam across, one of which understood Pawnee, and as our Pawnee interpreter was a very good one, we had it in our power to inform what we wished. I told this man to inform his nation that we had not forgotten their treatment to us as we passed up this river, &c., that they had treated all the white people who had visited them very badly - robbed them of their goods, and had wounded one man whom I had seen. We viewed them as bad people and no more traders would be suffered to come to them, and whenever the white people wished to visit the nations above, they would come sufficiently strong to whip any villainous party who dared to oppose them, and words to the same purpose.
I also told them that I was informed that a part of all their bands were going to war against the Mandans, &c., and that they would be well whipped, as the Mandans and Minnetarees, &c., had a plenty of guns, powder and ball, and we had given them a cannon to defend themselves. And directed them to return from the sand bar and inform their chiefs what we had said to them, and to keep away from the river or we should kill every one of them, &c., &c. Those fellows requested to be allowed to come across and make comrades which we positively refused, and I directed them to return immediately, which they did; and after they had informed the chiefs, &c., as I suppose, what we had said to them, they all set out on their return to their camps back of a high hill. Seven of them halted on the top of the hill and blackguarded us, told us to come across and they would kill us all, &c., of which we took no notice. We all this time were extremely anxious for the arrival of the two Fieldses and Shannon, whom we had left behind, and were somewhat concerned as to their safety. To our great joy, those men hove in sight at 6 P.M.
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.