The Lewis and Clark Expedition
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Lewis and Clark began an expedition of Western parts of America upon Thomas Jefferson’s request. The journey lasted for an approximate period of two years, from 1804 to 1806. It was intended to explore, as well as map, the Western half that was under American territory. There was fear that Britain as well as other major European powers could claim it. The mission intended to explore the ethnographic features of the populace and consequently their culture and their way of life would be changed. It was simply “the beginning of an end of the way of life of the Indian cultures.” Their lives were about to be altered completely and forever. Furthermore, it signified the beginning of interrelationship between soldiers, fur traders, and missionaries. The contact was expected to impact gradual changes to the way of the lives of indigenous people. During the wake of the Lewis and Clark expenditure, missionaries, soldiers and fur traders would consequently alter the lives of the Native Americans although the change was gradual.
The explorers were supposed to create diplomatic ties with the Native Americans. During the expedition, there were several activities that were carried out. They promised the hosts the creation of trade ties, held talks with the Indian representatives, handed out peace medals, and agitated for inter-tribal peace. Indian representatives were invited to travel to Washington. Jefferson believed that reaching there first was essential, given that knowing the region well would assist to block other countries from accessing it since it was vital to the growth of the young country.
There was a desire to shift the trading exercises from the dominant French, Spanish, English and Russian societies for the benefit of the Americans. Lewis and Clark wanted to establish long-term trading ventures while the Indians wanted immediate exchanges. At last, the Native American, Indian culture, would be changed completely after the contact with the expedition.
The explorers came into contact with over fifty Native American tribes. Most of the tribes welcomed the visitors and agreed to trading opportunities. In return, they gave out assistance through food, shelter, entertainment, knowledge and guides. However, there were numerous challenges faced by the explorers mostly because they were not conversant with the geographical location of the area they were exploring. Thomas Jefferson had sent the group led by Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest. The expedition became the major historical event in America. Jefferson sent the soldiers to make ambassadorial contact with the Indians, explore Missouri river, locate the northward region of the pacific and facilitate the expansion of fur trade. The mission had its fair share of challenges.
Indians from Oto and Missouri were some of the first groups of Native Americans whom Lewis and Clark met in their voyage. Lakota, a group they encountered in South Dakota, had British commercial ties and was not ready to welcome them because they viewed it as strengthening the competitive advantage of an enemy5. They did not view the American competition as favorable. The continuation of the expedition nearly turned violent at this point but Chief Black Buffalo prevented the occurrence of violence through his diplomacy.
Some of the groups such as Mandans were very friendly to them. They even went ahead and showed them the route they would use to advance heading west towards Pacific Ocean. The Frenchmen who lived among the Mandans also served as translators and guides. A woman names Sacajawea of the group of Shoshone played a key role in the success of the expedition. This was attributed to her language skills and knowledge of the west. The first tribe they met was the Sioux group, the Yankton Sioux. It was a peaceful encounter6. The meeting with Teton Sioux was not peaceful because the group asked for a boat so that the soldiers could pass but after they refused conflict erupted but ceased before it escalated to dangerous levels.
At one point in their journey, they met the Nez Perce group. At that time, they were very exhausted and hungry. These people assisted the corps with food and a place they could rest and build up their strength. The group, Arikara Indians, received the corps very warmly and they even stayed in their village for five days. The group took the directives from the corps and even the leaders agreed to make peace with their neighbors especially the Mandans. They agreed to trade with them and pay a special visit to them.
The Assiniboin Indians at one point threatened the ‘Corps of Discovery’ who also challenged the Mandan because they had made trade treaties and friendship with the expedition. There was a confrontation between the Blackfeet Indians and the Corps of Discovery in a night that they attempted to steal their guns. Chinook Indians were very friendly to the visitors except for some very few instances of tension which was calmed later on. Clatsop Indians seemed to have been the friendliest group to the Corps according to Lewis of any other group in the new exploration.
Hidatsa group created tension at first but later emerged helpful to the expedition, as they were able to direct the expedition towards the route they could use. Tillamook Indians were friendly to the team and traded with them. Walla Walla Indians were also friendly to the exploring team and even convinced them to spend an extra night when the team was in their region. They gave them presents like horses, canoes and food and directed them on their next destination. Wishram Indians were friendly to the corps and dried fish for them as food during winter. Although the trading discussions with the Yankton Sioux had at first failed, the group agreed to negotiate with the visitors and even to visit America for more talks with Jefferson in Washington.
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