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Entries For August 11:
Captain Lewis (current)
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We set out very early this morning, but the track which we had pursued last evening soon disappeared. I therefore resolved to proceed to the narrow pass on the creek, about 10 miles west, in hopes that I should again find the Indian road at that place. Accordingly, I passed the river, which was about 12 yards wide and barred in several places entirely across by beaver dams, and proceeded through the level plain directly to the pass. I now sent Drouilliard to keep near the creek to my right and Shields to my left, with orders to search for the road, which if they found, they were to notify me by placing a hat on the muzzle of their gun. I kept McNeal with me.
After having marched in this order for about five miles, I discovered an Indian on horseback about two miles distant, coming down the plain toward us. With my glass, I discovered from his dress that he was of a different nation from any that we had yet seen, and was satisfied of his being a Shoshone. His arms were a bow and quiver of arrows, and he was mounted on an elegant horse without a saddle, and a small string which was attached to the under jaw of the horse which answered as a bridle. I was overjoyed at the sight of this stranger, and had no doubt of obtaining a friendly introduction to his nation, provided I could get near enough to him to convince him of our being white men. I therefore proceeded toward him at my usual pace.
When I had arrived within about a mile, he made a halt, which I did also; and unloosing my blanket from my pack, I made him the signal of friendship known to the Indians of the Rocky Mountains and those of the Missouri - which is, by holding the mantle or robe in your hands at two corners and then throwing it up in the air higher than the head, bringing it to the earth as if in the act of spreading it, thus repeating three times. This signal of the robe has arisen from a custom among all those nations of spreading a robe or skin for their guests to sit on when they are visited.
This signal had not the desired effect. He still kept his position, and seemed to view Drouilliard and Shields, who were now coming in sight on either hand, with an air of suspicion. I would willingly have made them halt, but they were too far distant to hear me, and I feared to make any signal to them lest it should increase the suspicion in the mind of the Indian of our having some unfriendly design upon him.
I therefore hastened to take out of my sack some beads a looking glass, and a few trinkets, which I had brought with me for this purpose and, leaving my gun and pouch with McNeal, advanced unarmed toward him. He remained in the same steadfast posture until I arrived in about 200 paces of him, when he turned his horse about and began to move off slowly from me.
I now called to him in as loud a voice as I could command, repeating the word "tab-ba-bone," which, in their language, signifies "white man." But, looking over his shoulder, he still kept his eye on Drouilliard and Shields, who were still advancing, neither of them having sagacity enough to recollect the impropriety of advancing when they saw me thus in parley with the Indian. I now made a signal to these men to halt. Drouilliard obeyed; but Shields, who afterward told me that he did not observe the signal, still kept on.
The Indian halted again, and turned his horse about as if to wait for me, and I believe he would have remained until I came up with him had it not been for Shields, who still pressed forward. When I arrived within about 150 paces, I again repeated the word, "tab-ba-bone," and held up the trinkets in my hands, and stripped up my shirt sleeve to give him an opportunity of seeing the color of my skin, and advanced leisurely toward him. But he did not remain until I got nearer than about 100 paces, when he suddenly turned his horse about, gave him the whip, leaped the creek, and disappeared in the willow brush in an instant; and with him vanished all my hopes of obtaining horses for the present.
I now felt quite as much mortification and disappointment as I had pleasure and expectation at the first sight of this Indian. I felt sorely chagrined at the conduct of the men, particularly Shields, to whom I principally attributed this failure in obtaining an introduction to the natives. I now called the men to me and could not forbear upbraiding them a little for their want of attention, and imprudence, on this occasion.
We now set out on the track of the horse, hoping, by that means, to be led to an Indian camp, the trail of inhabitants of which - should they abscond - we should probably be enabled to pursue to the body of the nation, to which they would most probably fly for safety. This route led us across a large island framed by nearly an equal division of the creek in this bottom. After passing to the open ground on the N. side of the creek, we observed that the track made out toward the high hills about 3 miles distant in that direction.
I thought it probable that their camp might probably be among those hills and that they would reconnoiter us from the tops of them, and that if we advanced hastily toward them that they would become alarmed and probably run off. I therefore halted in an elevated situation near the creek, had a fire kindled of willow brush, cooked and took breakfast. During this leisure, I prepared a small assortment of trinkets consisting of some moccasin awls, a few strands of several kinds of beads, some paint, a looking glass, &c., which I attached to the end of a pole and planted it near our fire in order that, should the Indians return in search of us, they might from this token discover that we were friendly, and white persons. Before we had finished our meal a heavy shower of rain came on with some hail, which continued about 20 minutes and wet us to the skin.
After this shower we pursued the track of the horse, but as the rain had raised the grass which he had trodden down it was with difficulty that we could follow it. We pursued it, however, about 4 miles - it turning up the valley to the left under the foot of the hills. We passed several places where the Indians appeared to have been digging roots today, and saw the fresh tracks of 8 or ten horses, but they had been wandering about in such a confused manner that we not only lost track of the horse which we had been pursuing but could make nothing of them. In the head of this valley we passed a large bog covered with tall grass and moss in which were a great number of springs of cold pure water. We now turned a little to the left along the foot of the high hills and arrived at a small branch on which we encamped for the night, having traveled in different directions about 20 miles and about 10 from the camp of last evening on a direct line. After meeting with the Indian today, I fixed a small flag of the U.S. to a pole which I made McNeal carry, and planted in the ground where we halted or encamped.
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.