Homage to Lewis and Clark (2000)
Today, Lewis and Clark began their expedition. From the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation:
The Expedition broke camp on May 14, 1804. Clark wrote in his journal: "I set out at 4 oClock P.M …and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missouri." The party traveled in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats, called "pirogues." Through the long, hot summer they laboriously worked their way upriver. Numerous navigational hazards, including sunken trees called "sawyers," sand bars, collapsing river banks, and sudden squalls of high winds with drenching rains slowed their progress. There were other problems, including disciplinary floggings, two desertions, a man dishonorably discharged for mutiny, and the death of Sgt. Charles Floyd, the only member to die during the Expedition. In modern day South Dakota, a band of Teton Sioux tried to detain the boats, but the explorers showed their superior armaments and sailed on.
A French-Canadian named Toussaint Charbonneau visited the captains with his young pregnant Shoshone wife, Sacagawea. Sacagawea's tribal homeland lay in the Rocky Mountain country far to the west. She had been kidnapped by plains Indians five years before, when she was about twelve years old, and taken to the villages of the Mandan and Minitari, where she was eventually sold to Charbonneau. Sacagawea spoke both Shoshone and Minitari, and the captains realized that she could be a valuable intermediary if the party encountered the Shoshones. They also knew that she and Charbonneau could be helpful in trading for the horses that would be needed to cross the western mountains. In addition, Sacagawea and her baby would prove to be a token of truce, assuring the Indians that the Expedition was peaceful. Clark later noted this while descending the Columbia River, "No woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter."
Some tribes had never seen a white or black man before Lewis and Clark. Others spoke bits of English and wore hats and coats they received from European sea captains.
Over the course of the expedition, Lewis and Clark developed a ritual that they used when meeting a tribe for the first time. The captains would explain to the tribal leaders that the their land now belonged to the United States, and that a man far in the east -- President Thomas Jefferson -- was their new “great father.” They would also give the Indians a peace medal with Jefferson on one side and two hands clasping on the other, as well as some form of presents (often trade goods). Moreover, the Corps members would perform a kind of parade, marching in uniform and shooting their guns.
And from an article in the Sioux Fall Argus-Leader:
In Idaho, boxes upon boxes of Lewis and Clark refrigerator magnets occupy the back room of Dave Hunt's gift shop.
He wonders whether they'll ever sell.
In Great Falls, Mont., dismal orders for advance tickets haunt an upcoming monthlong festival pegged to the bicentennial of the explorers' push into the Rockies. And downstream on the Missouri River, Williston, N.D., hotel operator Tom Kasperson flatly assesses the effect of Lewis and Clark tourism on his business: "Zero."
In South Dakota, however, the first year of the Corps of Discovery Bicentennial received a mixed review from tourism officials, and some communities in the state saw a significant boost in tourism related to the event. "I know some events didn't see the numbers they were hoping for. Others went way beyond what they were expecting," said Kerry Frei, Lewis and Clark Tourism Manager for South Dakota Tourism.
But gasoline prices soared, media attention waned and "Lewis and Clark fatigue," as some are calling it, set in.
So did reality. Despite historian Stephen Ambrose's prediction that one-quarter of the U.S. population would involve itself in the bicentennial, how many want to hightail to Williston, N.D. -- honestly?
I grew up in South Dakota in an area rich in Lewis and Clark history -- but had never thought much about their remarkable journey. I swam in lakes named after them and floated in the same river where their canoes once drifted. One day, in 1973, when I was in college in Sioux City, Iowa, I sat at the base of the Floyd Monument one morning and watched the sun come up over the Missouri River. I remember wondering what it must have been like on another morning many years ago to climb the bluff and bury a companion -- knowing that you could easily share his fate -- with no clue or map as to what dangers and wonders wait around the next bend -- and so very far to go -- into the wild --