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Lewis and Clark

The Indian Tribes

Biography on Meriwether Lewis
Biography on William Clark
Thomas Jefferson
Indians and Slaves
The Indian Tribes
Maps of the Expedition

    The tribes that the expedition met along the way were the: Arikaras, Hidastas, Mandans, Sioux, Nez Perce, and  Shoshone.

                             Arikara Tribe
    In the beginning of October was when the expedition first saw abandoned villages that were destroyed by smallpox. There were eighteen villages and then it went down to three villages. The Arikaras were at war with the Mandans when Lewis and Clark arrived. They organized a council, on October 10, to meet with the chiefs. Lewis gave a speech that said that they should make peace with the Mandans, shun the Sioux, and trade with the American merchants so that their new father could protect them. After the speech the gave the Arikaras gifts such as vermilion paint, pewter looking glasses, four hundred needles, broadcloth, beads, combs, razors, nine pairs of scissors, knives, tomahawks and more. When they were offered whiskey (beer) they said, " that they were surprised that their father should present them liquor which would make them act like fools." The chiefs were given military coats, cocked hats, medals, and American flags. At the villages York, who was Lewis's salve, was a sensation because, not only because of his size, but they had never seen a black man before. York played with the children acting like a beast but was told to stop because " he Carried on the joke and made himself more turbial then we had wished him to." This tribe had the Arikara women do favors for the Americans and were encouraged to by their husbands who believed that they could get some of the power of the white men from such intercourse transmitted to them from their wives. Previously, the Arikara women had an intercourse with white traders who had venereal disease (sexually transmitted) that was passed on to the soldiers from the women. Sergeant Gas said that the Arikara squaws (wives) were to be'' the most cleanly Indians I have ever seen... handsome...the best looking Indians I have ever seen." Which was certainly not true because of the disease they carried. They brought corn, squash, beans and other vegetables to the expedition. One of the chiefs agreed to go to the Mandan village to try to make peace with them.



                                Sioux Tribe
   The first meeting with the Sioux went really badly. They didn't make a favorable expression but the good thing was that nobody was killed. In the morning the chief, Black Buffalo, insisted that the expedition anchor near his village. Lewis and Clark arrived just when the Sioux had come back from a great battle. They had brought back seventy-five Omaha warriors and captured forty-eight women and children. At the scalp dance that night Lewis and Clark suggested that they make peace with the Omaha. If the chief understood he probably thought they were crazy. He decided to have his scalp dance anyway. This was the first scalp dance observed by the Americans. The dance had finally ended at midnight. It was then when Black Buffalo offered them "bed partners". Clark, who was the only one who understood this, refused. The next night there was another scalp dance that ended at 11:00 p.m.

    In the morning Black Buffalo came and asked them to stay one more day. Clark wanting to go on said no. But at that moment several warriors came and grabbed the bowline. Clark hurried to tell Lewis what was happening and that Black Buffalo wanted tobacco and he'd let them go. Lewis got mad and they had a little catfight for control over the boat. Finally, Lewis got control of the boat and threw a carrot of tobacco on the shoreline.

                                    Mandan Tribe
   The Mandans were the most friendly Indian tribe. They were so nice that they gave corn to the expedition during their first winter. Without the Mandan corn the expedition wouldn't of survived its first winter. The first signs of the Mandans were the abandoned villages. They were abandoned because the tribe was decimated by smallpox. There were only four thousand Mandans left. The chief's name was Black Cat. The expedition and the Mandans got a long fine. They would get together and go hunting, trade, enjoy sexual relations with the women on a regular basis, joked and communicated as best they could.

                             Shoshnoe Tribe
     The Shoshones were described as:
  • diminutive in statue
  • thick ankles
  • crooked legs
  • thick flat feet
  • short but illy formed

The first Shoshone the expedition saw was a teenage scout. He was extremely cautious since the tribe had just suffered a serious loss of people from a Blackfoot raid. He probably thought they were enemy because they were armed. The second time was a Shoshone war party. They were then led to the tribe’s village and introduced to the chief named Cameahwait. Lewis then asked the band to come with them to the Nez Perce route. The chief agreed. In the morning though the warriors wouldn't move for they were suspicious. The chief finally convinced them. On August 16, 1805 he sent Drouillard and Shields to go kill some meat and he asked the Shoshones to stay at camp. That was a wrong move because it awakened the suspicions of the warrior for they thought they were going to try to contact the Blackfoot Indians. They spied on the to men to make sure they were telling the truth. As the party approached the forks where they told the Indians they would meet Clark , Cameahwait insisted on stopping. He then put tippets from the Shoshones on Lewis took make him look like an Indian in case it was the Blackfoot Indians waiting at the end of the forks instead of Clark. Realizing this Lewis put his cocked hat on the chief and ordered the men to the same so that the Indians would look like Americans. On August 26,1805 Lewis saw the women collecting roots for their children because they were starving. At the end, when the tribe had to go to their winter home the expedition bought horses from the tribe. Later on Lewis found out that they had bought the castoffs of the Shoshone herd. To lead them on the Nez Perce trail his name was Old Toby. Later on Old Toby runs away from fear of going over some class five rapids. No one knows where he went to or what happened to him after that.

                     The Clatsop and Chinook Tribes

        When Lewis just arrived The two tribes were very small because they were decimated by smallpox and malaria in the previous years before Lewis and Clark came. They did not a lot of English. Lewis said that they only knew: "musquit (musket) ,powder ,shot ,nife (knife) ,file" and a few cuss words. He found the natives:
  • low  in stature
  • proportionally small 
  • more illy formed than the Indians in the Missouri  

They also had:

  •  thick broad feet
  • thick ankles
  • crooked legs
  •  wide mouths
  •  thick lips
  • large noses
  • black eyes and hair

 Lewis also observed the games they played but unfortunately there were no festivals or celebrations for him to describe while he was there. He also found out that the two tribes were peaceful people and didn't argue amongst themselves much and what pleased him the most was that they did not ask for liquor. And he also learned that the Chinooks buried their dead in canoes. The expedition never would of made it through the winter without the help from the Chinooks and the Clatsops. Sadly, these two tribes died out because the diseases that the   "white men" carried got to them.

UNDAUNTED COURAGE gave me all this info. Read it for yourself! This book is reccomend for 14 years and up.