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Entries For August 25:
Captain Lewis (current)
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Some time after we had halted, Charbonneau mentioned to me, with apparent unconcern, that he expected to meet all the Indians from the camp on the Columbia tomorrow on their way to the Missouri. Alarmed at this information, I asked why he expected to meet them. He then informed me that the first chief had dispatched some of his young men this morning to this camp requesting the Indians to meet them tomorrow, and that himself and those with him would go on with them down the Missouri, and consequently leave me and my baggage on the mountain or thereabouts.
I was out of patience with the folly of Charbonneau, who had not sufficient sagacity to see the consequences which would inevitably flow from such a movement of the Indians. Although he had been in possession of this information since early in the morning, when it had been communicated to him by his Indian woman, yet he never mentioned it until the afternoon. I could not forbear speaking to him with some degree of asperity on this occasion.
I saw that there was no time to be lost in having those orders countermanded, or that we should not in all probability obtain any more horses or even get my baggage to the waters of the Columbia. I therefore called the three chiefs together and, having smoked a pipe with them, I asked them if they were men of their word, and whether I could depend on the promises they had made me. They readily answered in the affirmative. I then asked them if they had not promised to assist me with my baggage to their camp on the other side of the mountains, or to the place at which Captain Clark might build the canoes, should I wish it. They acknowledged that they had.
I then asked them why they had requested their people on the other side of the mountain to meet them tomorrow on the mountain, where there would be no possibility of our remaining together for the purpose of trading for their horses as they had also promised. That if they had not promised to have given me their assistance in transporting my baggage to the waters on the other side of the mountain, that I should not have attempted to pass the mountains, but would have returned down the river and that, in that case, they would never have seen any more white men in their country. That if they wished the white men to be their friends and to assist them against their enemies by furnishing them with arms, and keeping their enemies from attacking them, that they must never promise us anything which they did not mean to perform. That when I had first seen them they had doubted what I told them about the arrival of the party of white men in canoes, that they had been convinced that what I told them on that occasion was true; why then would they doubt what I said on any other point? I told them that they had witnessed my liberality in dividing the meat which my hunters killed with them; and that I should continue to give such of them as assisted me a part of whatever we had ourselves to eat; and finally concluded by telling them if they intended to keep the promises they had made me, to dispatch one of their young men immediately with orders to their people to remain where they were until our arrival.
The two inferior chiefs said that they wished to assist me and be as good as their word, and that they had not sent for their people, that it was the first chief who had done so, and they did not approve of the measure. Cameahwait remained silent for some time. At length, he told me that he knew he had done wrong; but that he had been induced to that measure from seeing all his people hungry; but, as he had promised to give me his assistance, he would not in future be worse than his word. I then desired him to send immediately and countermand his orders. Accordingly, a young man was sent for this purpose and I gave him a handkerchief to engage him in my interest.
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.