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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 16:
Captain Lewis (current)
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I sent Drouilliard and Shields before, this morning, in order to kill some meat, as neither the Indians nor ourselves had anything to eat. I informed the chief of my view in this measure, and requested that he would keep his young men with us lest by their whooping and noise they should alarm the game and we should get nothing to eat. But so strongly were their suspicions excited by this measure that two parties of discovery immediately set out, one on each side of the valley, to watch the hunters, as I believe to see whether they had not been sent to give information of their approach to an enemy that they still persuaded themselves were lying in wait for them. I saw that any further effort to prevent their going would only add strength to their suspicions and therefore said no more.
After the hunters had been gone about an hour, we set out. We had just passed through the narrows when we saw one of the spies coming up the level plain under whip. The chief paused a little and seemed somewhat concerned. I felt a good deal so myself, and began to suspect that by some unfortunate accident, perhaps some of their enemies had straggled hither at this unlucky moment. But we were all agreeably disappointed, on the arrival of the young man, to learn that he had come to inform us that one of the white men had killed a deer.
In an instant, they all gave their horses the whip, and I was taken nearly a mile before I could learn what were the tidings. As I was without stirrups, and an Indian behind me, the jostling was disagreeable. I therefore reined up my horse, and forbade the Indian to whip him, who had given him the lash at every jump for a mile, fearing he should lose a part of the feast. The fellow was so uneasy that he left me the horse, dismounted, and ran on foot at full speed, I am confident, a mile. When they arrived where the deer was, which was in view of me, they dismounted and ran in, tumbling over each other like a parcel of famished dogs, each seizing and tearing away a part of the intestines which had been previously thrown out by Drouilliard, who killed it.
The scene was such, when I arrived, that had I not had a pretty keen appetite myself, I am confident I should not have tasted any part of the venison shortly. Each one had a piece of some description, and all eating most ravenously. Some were eating the kidneys, the milt, and liver, and the blood running from the corners of their mouths. Others were in a similar situation with the paunch and guts, but the exuding substance from their lips, in this case, was of a different description. One of the last who attracted my attention particularly had been fortunate in his allotment, or rather active in the division. He had provided himself with about nine feet of the small guts, one end of which he was chewing on, while with his hands he was squeezing the contents out of the other. I really did not, until now, think that human nature ever presented itself in a shape so nearly allied to the brute creation. I viewed these poor starved devils with pity and compassion. I directed McNeal to skin the deer and reserved a quarter; the balance I gave the chief to be divided among his people. They devoured the whole of it nearly, without cooking.
I now bore obliquely to the left in order to intercept the creek where there was some brush to make a fire, and arrived at this stream, where Drouilliard had killed a second deer. Here nearly the same scene was enacted. A fire being kindled, we cooked and ate, and gave the balance of the two deer to the Indians, who ate the whole of them, even to the soft parts of the hoofs. Drouilliard joined us at breakfast with a third deer. Of this I reserved a quarter, and gave the balance to the Indians.
They all appeared now to have filled themselves, and were in a good humor. This morning early, soon after the hunters set out, a considerable part of our escort became alarmed and returned, 28 men and three women only continued with us. After eating, and suffering the horses to graze about 2 hours, we renewed our march, and toward evening arrived at the lower part of the cove. Shields killed an antelope on the way, a part of which we took and gave the remainder to the Indians. Being now informed of the place at which I expected to meet Captain Clark and the party, they insisted on making a halt, which was complied with.
We now dismounted, and the chief, with much ceremony, put tippets about our necks such as they themselves wore. I readily perceived that this was to disguise us and owed its origin to the same cause already mentioned. To give them further confidence, I put my cocked hat with feather on the chief, and my over - shirt being of the Indian form, my hair disheveled and skin well browned with the sun, I wanted no further addition to make me a complete Indian in appearance. The men followed my example, and we were soon completely metamorphosed. I again repeated to them the possibility of the party not having arrived at the place where I expected they were, but assured them they could not be far below, lest by not finding them at the forks their suspicions might arise to such heights as to induce them to return precipitately.
We now set out and rode briskly within sight of the forks, making one of the Indians carry the flag, that our own party should know who we were. When we arrived in sight at the distance of about two miles, I discovered to my mortification that the party had not arrived, and the Indians slackened their pace. I now scarcely knew what to do, and feared every moment when they would halt altogether. I now determined to restore their confidence, cost what it might, and therefore gave the chief my gun, and told him that if his enemies were in those bushes before him that he could defend himself with that gun, that for my own part I was not afraid to die, and if I deceived him he might make what use of the gun he thought proper, or in other words that he might shoot me. The men also gave their guns to other Indians, which seemed to inspire them with more confidence. They sent their spies before them at some distance, and when I drew near the place I thought of the notes which I had left, and directed Drouilliard to go with an Indian man and bring them to me, which he did, the Indian seeing him take the notes from the stake on which they had been placed.
I now had recourse to a stratagem in which I thought myself justified by the occasion, but which I must confess sat a little awkward. It had its desired effect. After reading the notes, which were the same I had left, I told the chief that when I had left my brother chief with the party below where the river entered the mountain, we both agreed not to bring the canoes higher up than the next forks of the river above us, wherever this might happen; that there he was to await my return, should he arrive first; and that in the event of his not being able to travel as fast as usual from the difficulty of the water, he was to send up to the first forks above him and leave a note informing me where he was, that this note was left here today; and that he informed me that he was just below the mountains and was coming on slowly up, and added that I should wait here for him; but, if they did not believe me, that I should send a man at any rate to the chief, and they might also send one of their young men with him; that myself and two others would remain with them at this place.
This plan was readily adopted, and one of the young men offered his services. I promised him a knife and some beads as a reward for his confidence in us. Most of them seemed satisfied, but there were several that complained of the chief's exposing them to danger unnecessarily and said that we told different stories; in short, a few were much dissatisfied. I wrote a note to Captain Clark by the light of some willow brush, and directed Drouilliard to set out early, being confident that there was not a moment to spare.
We finally lay down, and the chief placed himself by the side of my mosquito bier. I slept but little, as might be well expected, my mind dwelling on the state of the expedition which I have ever held in equal estimation with my own existence, and the fate of which appeared at this moment to depend in a great measure upon the caprice of a few savages, who are ever as fickle as the wind.
I had mentioned to the chief several times that we had with us a woman of his nation who had been taken prisoner by the Minnetarees, and that by means of her I hoped to explain myself more fully than I could do [by] signs. Some of the party had also told the Indians that we had a man with us who was black and had short curling hair. This had excited their curiosity very much, and they seemed quite as anxious to see this monster as they were the merchandise which we had to barter for their horses.
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.