The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804)
THE JOURNALS OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION (1804)
The Lewis and Clark Expedition across the American continent began in May 1804 and concluded over two years later in September 1806. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark held joint command over about thirty soldiers and pilots, including the French trader Touissant Charbonneau and his wife, Sacajawea, a young Shoshone. The thirty-year old Lewis was a native Virginian, friend of, and personal secretary to President Thomas Jefferson. He was intelligent, commanding, and given to fits of depression. Less learned, yet more at ease with the Native Americans was Clark, younger brother of the famous Revolutionary War General George Rogers Clark. William was a skilled navigator, engineer, and frontier diplomat. Lewis, more sophisticated, was the scientist of the expedition. Both men practiced medicine on their men, with mixed results. The two shared as well the responsibilities of keeping a detailed journal of observations and events. Lewis and Clark learned to become remarkable observers of human nature, anthropology, geography, natural history, and human history.
The journal excerpt records their adventures on the Missouri River in what is today North Dakota during the autumn and early winter of 1804. The Mandan, Assiniboin, and Minnetaree Indians lived in the region of the confluence of the Knife and the Missouri Rivers. The Mandans were once strong, though by 1804 weakened by disease and war, particularly with the Sioux, who lived further west up the Missouri. Lewis and Clark planned to winter at this location, building a fort, gaining the trust of the Indians, establishing trade, and encouraging the Indians to rely on the United States for protection against their enemies. The men built huts and a fort out of the cottonwood trees that grew along the Missouri River. Living with these people for several months, Lewis and Clark and the Indians of the upper Missouri grew to have mutual respect and affection. It was an auspicious beginning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Lewis and Clark Penetrate the West
Tuesday 13. We this morning unloaded the boat and stowed away the contents in a storehouse which we have built. At half-past ten ice began to float down the river for the first time: in the course of the morning we were visited by the Black Cat, Poscapsahe, who brought an Assiniboin chief and seven warriors to see us. This man, whose name is Chechawk, is a chief of one out of three bands of Assiniboins who wander over the plains between the Missouri and Assiniboin during the summer, and in the winter carry the spoils of their hunting to the traders on the Assiniboin River, and occasionally come to this place: the whole three bands consist of about eight hundred men. We gave him a twist of tobacco to smoke with his people, and a gold cord for himself: the Sioux also asked for whisky, which we refused to give them. It snowed all day and the air was very cold.
Wednesday 14. The river rose last night half an inch, and is now filled with floating ice. This morning was cloudy with some snow: about seventy lodges of Assiniboins and some Knistenaux are at the Mandan village, and this being the day of adoption and exchange of property between them all, it is accompanied by a dance, which prevents our seeing more than two Indians today: these Knistenaux are a band of Chippeways, whose language they speak; they live on the Assiniboin and Saskashawan rivers, and are about two hundred and forty men. We sent a man down on horseback to see what had become of our hunters, and as we apprehend a failure of provisions we have recourse to our pork this evening. Two Frenchmen who had been below returned with twenty beaver which they had caught in traps.
Thursday 15. The morning again cloudy, and the ice running thicker than yesterday, the wind variable. The man came back with information that our hunters were about thirty miles below, and we immediately sent an order to them to make their way through the floating ice, to assist them in which we sent some tin for the bow of the periogue and a towrope. The ceremony of yesterday seems to continue still, for we were not visited by a single Indian. The swan are still passing to the south.
Friday 16. We had a very hard white frost this morning, the trees are all covered with ice, and the weather cloudy. The men this day moved into the huts, although they are not finished. In the evening some horses were sent down to the woods near us in order to prevent their being stolen by the Assiniboins, with whom some difficulty is now apprehended. An Indian came down with four buffalo robes and some corn, which he offered for a pistol, but was refused.
Saturday, November 17. Last night was very cold, and the ice in the river today is thicker than hitherto. We are totally occupied with our huts, but received visits from several Indians.
Sunday, November 18. Today we had a cold windy morning; the Black Cat came to see us, and occupied us for a long time with questions on the usages of our country. He mentioned that a council had been held yesterday to deliberate on the state of their affairs. It seems that not long ago, a party of Sioux fell in with some horses belonging to the Minnetarees, and carried them off; but in their flight they were met by some Assiniboins, who killed the Sioux and kept the horses: a Frenchman too, who had lived many years among the Mandans, was lately killed on his route to the British factory on the Assiniboin; some smaller differences existed between the two nations, all of which being discussed, the council decided that they would not resent the recent insults from the Assiniboins and Knistenaux, until they had seen whether we had deceived them or not in our promises of furnishing them with arms and ammunition. They had been disappointed in their hopes of receiving them from Mr. Evans and were afraid that we too, like him, might tell them what was not true. We advised them to continue at peace, that supplies of every kind would no doubt arrive for them, but that time was necessary to organize the trade. The fact is that the Assiniboins treat the Mandans as the Sioux do the Ricaras; by their vicinity to the British they get all the supplies, which they withhold or give at pleasure to the remoter Indians: the consequence is, that however badly treated, the Mandans and Ricaras are very slow to retaliate lest they should lose their trade altogether.
Monday 19. The ice continues to float in the river, the wind high from the northwest, and the weather cold. Our hunters arrived from their excursion below, and bring a very fine supply of thirty-two deer, eleven elk, and five buffalo, all of which was hung in a smokehouse.
Tuesday 20. We this day moved into our huts which are now completed. This place, which we call Fort Mandan, is situated in a point of low ground, on the north side of the Missouri, covered with tall and heavy cotton wood. The works consist of two rows of huts or sheds, forming an angle where they joined each other; each row containing four rooms, of fourteen feet square and seven feet high, with plank ceiling, and the roof slanting so as to form a loft above the rooms, the highest part of which is eighteen feet from the ground: the backs of the huts formed a wall of that height, and opposite the angle the place of the wall was supplied by picketing: in the area were two rooms for stores and provisions. The latitude by observation is 4 degrees 21′47″, and the computed distance from the mouth of the Missouri sixteen hundred miles.
In the course of the day several Indians came down to partake of our fresh meat; among the rest, three chiefs of the second Mandan village. They inform us that the Sioux on the Missouri above the Chayenne River threaten to attack them this winter; that these Sioux are much irritated at the Ricaras for having made peace through our means with the Mandans, and have lately ill-treated three Ricaras who carried the pipe of peace to them, by beating them and taking away their horses. We gave them assurances that we would protect them from all their enemies.
November 21. The weather was this day fine: the river clear of ice and rising a little: we are now settled in our new winter habitation, and shall wait with much anxiety the first return of spring to continue our journey.
The villages near which we are established are five in number, and are the residence of three distinct nations; the Mandans, the Ahnahaways, and the Minnetarees. The history of the Mandans, as we received it from our interpreters and from the chiefs themselves, and as it is attested by existing monuments, illustrates more than that of any other nation the unsteady movements and the tottering fortunes of the American nations. Within the recollection of living witnesses, the Mandans were settled forty years ago in nine villages, the ruins of which we passed about eighty miles below, and situated seven on the west and two on the east side of the Missouri. The two, finding themselves wasting away before the smallpox and the Sioux, united into one village, and moved up the river opposite to the Ricaras. The same causes reduced the remaining seven to five villages, till at length they emigrated in a body to the Ricara nation, where they formed themselves into two villages, and joined those of their countrymen who had gone before them. In their new residence they were still insecure, and at length the three villages ascended the Missouri to their present position. The two who had emigrated together still settled in the two villages on the northwest side of the Missouri, while the single village took a position on the southeast side. In this situation they were found by those who visited them in 1796; since which the two villages have united into one. They are now in two villages, one on the southeast of the Missouri, the other on the opposite side, and at the distance of three miles across. The first, in an open plain, contains about forty or fifty lodges, built in the same way as those of the Ricaras: the second, the same number, and both may raise about three hundred and fifty men.
On the same side of the river, and at the distance of four miles from the lower Mandan village, is another called Mahaha. It is situated in a high plain at the mouth of Knife River, and is the residence of the Ahnahaways. This nation, whose name indicates that they were "people whose village is on a hill," formerly resided on the Missouri, about thirty miles below where they now live. The Assiniboins and Sioux forced them to a spot five miles higher, where the greatest part of them were put to death, and the rest emigrated to their present situation, in order to obtain an asylum near the Minnetarees. They are called by the French, Soulier Noir or Shoe Indians; by the Mandans, Wattasoons, and their whole force is about fifty men.
On the south side of the same Knife River, half a mile above the Mahaha and in the same open plain with it, is a village of Minnetarees surnamed Metaharta, who are about one hundred and fifty men in number. On the opposite side of Knife River, and one and a half miles above this village is a second of Minnetarees, who may be considered as the proper Minnetaree nation. It is situated in a beautiful low plain, and contains four hundred and fifty warriors. The accounts which we received of the Minnetarees were contradictory. The Mandans say that this people came out of the water to the east, and settled near them in their former establishment in nine villages; that they were very numerous, and fixed themselves in one village on the southern side of the Missouri. A quarrel about a buffalo divided the nation, of which two bands went into the plains, and were known by the name of Crow and Paunch Indians, and the rest moved to their present establishment. The Minnetarees proper assert, on the contrary, that they grew where they now live, and will never emigrate from the spot; the great spirit having declared that if they moved they would all die. They also say that the Minnetarees Metaharta, that is, Minnetarees of the Willows, whose language with very little variation is their own, came many years ago from the plains and settled near them, and perhaps the two traditions may be reconciled by the natural presumption that these Minnetarees were the tribe known to the Mandans below, and that they ascended the river for the purpose of rejoining the Minnetarees proper. These Minnetarees are part of the great nation called Fall Indians, who occupy the intermediate country between the Missouri and the Saskaskawan, and who are known by the name of Minnetarees of the Missouri, and Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie; that is, residing near or rather frequenting the establishment in the prairie on the Saskaskawan. These Minnetarees indeed told us that they had relations on the Saskaskawan, whom they had never known till they met them in war, and having engaged in the night were astonished at discovering that they were fighting with men who spoke their own language. The name of Grosventres, or Bigbellies, is given to these Minnetarees, as well as to all the Fall Indians. The inhabitants of these five villages, all of which are within the distance of six miles, live in harmony with each other. The Ahnahaways understand in part the language of the Minnetarees: the dialect of the Mandans differs widely from both; but their long residence together has insensibly blended their manners, and occasioned some approximation in language, particularly as to objects of daily occurrence and obvious to the senses.
November 22. The morning was fine, and the day warm. We purchased from the Mandans a quantity of corn of a mixed color, which they dug up in ears from holes made near the front of their lodges, in which it is buried during the winter: this morning the sentinel informed us that an Indian was about to kill his wife near the fort; we went down to the house of our interpreter where we found the parties, and after forbidding any violence, inquired into the cause of his intending to commit such an atrocity. It appeared that some days ago a quarrel had taken place between him and his wife, in consequence of which she had taken refuge in the house where the two squaws of our interpreter lived: by running away she forfeited her life, which might have been lawfully taken by the husband. About two days ago she had returned to the village, but the same evening came back to the fort much beaten and stabbed in three places, and the husband now came for the purpose of completing his revenge. He observed that he had lent her to one of our sergeants for a night, and that if he wanted her he would give her to him altogether: we gave him a few presents and tried to persuade him to take his wife home; the grand chief too happened to arrive at the same moment, and reproached him with his violence, till at length they went off together, but by no means in a state of much apparent love.
November 23. Again we had a fair and warm day, with the wind from the southeast: the river is now at a stand having risen four inches in the whole.
November 25. The wind continued from the same quarter and the weather was warm: we were occupied in finishing our huts and making a large rope of elk-skin to draw our boat on the bank.
Sunday, November 25. The weather is still fine, warm and pleasant, and the river falls one inch and a half. Captain Lewis went on an excursion to the villages accompanied by eight men. A Minnetaree chief, the first who has visited us, came down to the fort: his name was Waukerassa, but as both the interpreters had gone with Captain Lewis we were obliged to confine our civilities to some presents with which he was much pleased: we now completed our huts, and fortunately too, for the next day.
Monday, November 26. Before daylight the wind shifted to the northwest, and blew very hard, with cloudy weather and a keen cold air, which confined us much and prevented us from working: the night continued very cold, and,
Tuesday 27. The weather cloudy, the wind continuing from the northwest and the river crowded with floating ice. Captain Lewis returned with two chiefs, Mahnotah, an Ahnahaway, and Minnessurraree, a Minnetaree, and a third warrior: they explained to us that the reason of their not having come to see us was that the Mandans had told them that we meant to combine with the Sioux and cut them off in the course of the winter: a suspicion increased by the strength of the fort, and the circumstance of our interpreters having been removed there with their families: these reports we did not fail to disprove to their entire satisfaction, and amused them by every attention, particularly by the dancing of the men, which diverted them highly. All the Indians whom Captain Lewis had visited were very well disposed, and received him with great kindness, except a principal chief of one of the upper villages, named Mahpahpaparapassatoo or Horned Weasel, who made use of the civilized indecorum of refusing to be seen, and when Captain Lewis called he was told the chief was not at home. In the course of the day seven of the northwest company's traders arrived from the Assiniboin River, and, one of their interpreters having undertaken to circulate among the Indians unfavorable reports, it became necessary to warn them of the consequences if they did not desist from such proceedings. The river fell two inches today and the weather became very cold.
Wednesday 28. About eight o'clock last evening it began to snow and continued till daybreak, after which it ceased till seven o'clock, but then resumed and continued during the day, the weather being cold and the river full of floating ice: about eight o'clock Poscopsahe came down to visit us, with some warriors; we gave them presents and entertained them with all that might amuse their curiosity, and at parting we told them that we had heard of the British trader, Mr. Laroche, having attempted to distribute medals and flags among them, but that those emblems could not be received from any other than the American nation without incurring the displeasure of their great father the president. They left us much pleased with their treatment. The river fell one inch today.
Thursday 29. The wind is again from the northwest, the weather cold, and the snow which fell yesterday and last night is thirteen inches in depth. The river closed during the night at the village above, and fell two feet; but this afternoon it began to rise a little. Mr. Laroche, the principal of the seven traders, came with one of his men to see us; we told him that we should not permit him to give medals and flags to the Indians; he declared that he had no such intention, and we then suffered him to make use of one of our interpreters, on his stipulating not to touch any subject but that of his traffic with them. An unfortunate accident occurred to Sergeant Pryor, who in taking down the boat's mast dislocated his shoulder, nor was it till after four trials that we replaced it.
Friday 30. About eight o'clock an Indian came to the opposite bank of the river, calling out that he had something important to communicate, and on sending for him, he told us that five Mandans had been met about eight leagues to the southwest by a party of Sioux, who had killed one of them, wounded two, and taken nine horses; that four of the Wattasoons were missing, and that the Mandans expected an attack. We thought this an excellent opportunity to discountenance the injurious reports against us, and to fix the wavering confidence of the nation. Captain Clark therefore instantly crossed the river with twenty-three men strongly armed, and circling the town approached it from behind. His unexpected appearance surprised and alarmed the chiefs, who came out to meet him, and conducted him to the village. He then told them that having heard of the outrage just committed, he had come to assist his dutiful children; that if they would assemble their warriors and those of the nation, he would lead them against the Sioux and avenge the blood of their countrymen. After some minutes conversation, Oheenaw the Chayenne arose: "We now see," said he, "that what you have told us is true, since as soon as our enemies threaten to attack us you come to protect us and are ready to chastise those who have spilled our blood. We did indeed listen to your good talk, for when you told us that the other nations were inclined to peace with us, we went out carelessly in small parties, and some have been killed by the Sioux and Ricaras. But I knew that the Ricaras were liars, and I told their chief who accompanied you, that his whole nation were liars and bad men; that we had several times made a peace with them which they were the first to break; that whenever we pleased we might shoot them like buffalo, but that we had no wish to kill them; that we would not suffer them to kill us, nor steal our horses; and that although we agreed to make peace with them, because our two fathers desired it, yet we did not believe that they would be faithful long. Such, father, was my language to them in your presence, and you see that instead of listening to your good counsels they have spilled our blood. A few days ago two Ricaras came here and told us that two of their villages were making moccasins, that the Sioux were stirring them up against us, and that we ought to take care of our horses; yet these very Ricaras we sent home as soon as the news reached us today, lest our people should kill them in the first moment of grief for their murdered relatives. Four of the Wattasoons whom we expected back in sixteen days have been absent twenty-four, and we fear have fallen. But, father, the snow is now deep, the weather cold, and our horses cannot travel through the plains: the murderers have gone off: if you will conduct us in the spring, when the snow has disappeared, we will assemble all the surrounding warriors and follow you."
Captain Clark replied that we were always willing and able to defend them; that he was sorry that the snow prevented their marching to meet the Sioux, since he wished to show them that the warriors of their great father would chastise the enemies of his obedient children who opened their ears to his advice; that if some Ricaras had joined the Sioux, they should remember that there were bad men in every nation, and that they should not be offended at the Ricaras till they saw whether these ill-disposed men were countenanced by the whole tribe; that the Sioux possessed great influence over the Ricaras, whom they supplied with military stores, and sometimes led them astray, because they were afraid to oppose them: but that this should be the less offensive since the Mandans themselves were under the same apprehensions from the Assiniboins and Knistenaux, and that while they were thus dependent, both the Ricaras and Mandans ought to keep on terms with their powerful neighbors, whom they may afterward set at defiance, when we shall supply them with arms, and take them under our protection.
After two hours' conversation Captain Clark left the village. The chief repeatedly thanked him for the fatherly protection he had given them, observing that the whole village had been weeping all night and day for the brave young man who had been slain, but now they would wipe their eyes and weep no more as they saw that their father would protect them. He then crossed the river on the ice and returned on the north side to the fort. The day as well as the evening was cold, and the river rose to its former height.
Saturday, December 1. The wind was from the northwest, and the whole party engaged in picketing the fort. About ten o'clock the half-brother of the man who had been killed came to inform us that six Sharhas or Chayenne Indians had arrived, bringing a pipe of peace, and that their nation was three days' march behind them. Three Pawnees had accompanied the Sharhas, and the Mandans, being afraid of the Sharhas on account of their being at peace with the Sioux, wished to put both them and the three Pawnees to death; but the chiefs had forbidden it as it would be contrary to our wishes. We gave him a present of tobacco, and although from his connection with the sufferer, he was more embittered against the Pawnees than any other Mandan, yet he seemed perfectly satisfied with our pacific counsels and advice. The Mandans, we observe, call all the Ricaras by the name of Pawnees; the name of Ricaras being that by which the nation distinguishes itself.
In the evening we were visited by a Mr. Henderson, who came from the Hudson Bay Company to trade with the Minnetarees. He had been about eight days on his route in a direction nearly south, and brought with him tobacco, beads, and other merchandise to trade for furs, and a few guns which are to be exchanged for horses.
Sunday, December 2. The latter part of the evening was warm, and a thaw continued till the morning, when the wind shifted to the north. At eleven o'clock the chiefs of the lower village brought down four of the Sharhas. We explained to them our intentions, and advised them to remain at peace with each other: we also gave them a flag, some tobacco, and a speech for their nation. These were accompanied by a letter to Messrs. Tabeau and Gravelines at the Ricara village, requesting them to preserve peace if possible, and to declare the part which we should be forced to take if the Ricaras and Sioux made war on those whom we had adopted. After distributing a few presents to the Sharhas and Mandans, and showing them our curiosities we dismissed them, apparently well pleased at their reception.
Monday, December 3. The morning was fine, but in the afternoon the weather became cold with the wind from the northwest. The father of the Mandan who was killed brought us a present of dried pumpkins and some pemitigon, for which we gave him some small articles. Our offer of assistance to avenge the death of his son seemed to have produced a grateful respect from him, as well as from the brother of the deceased, which pleased us much.
Tuesday 4. The wind continues from the northwest, the weather cloudy and raw, and the river rose one inch. Oscapsahe and two young chiefs pass the day with us. The whole religion of the Mandans consists in the belief of one great spirit presiding over their destinies. This being must be in the nature of a good genius since it is associated with the healing art, and the great spirit is synonymous with great medicine, a name also applied to every thing which they do not comprehend. Each individual selects for himself the particular object of his devotion, which is termed his medicine, and is either some invisible being or more commonly some animal, which thenceforward becomes his protector or his inter-cessor with the great spirit; to propitiate whom every attention is lavished, and every personal consideration is sacrificed. "I was lately owner of seventeen horses," said a Mandan to us one day, "but I have offered them all up to my medicine and am now poor." He had in reality taken all his wealth, his horses, into the plain, and turning them loose committed them to the care of his medicine and abandoned them forever. The horses, less religious, took care of themselves, and the pious votary traveled home on foot. Their belief in a future state is connected with this tradition of their origin: the whole nation resided in one large village under ground near a subterraneous lake: a grapevine extended its roots down to their habitation and gave them a view of the light: some of the most adventurous climbed up the vine and were delighted with the sight of the earth, which they found covered with buffalo and rich with every kind of fruits: returning with the grapes they had gathered, their countrymen were so pleased with the taste of them that the whole nation resolved to leave their dull residence for the charms of the upper region; men, women, and children ascended by means of the vine; but when about half the nation had reached the surface of the earth, a corpulent women who was clambering up the vine broke it with her weight, and closed upon herself and the rest of the nation the light of the sun. Those who were left on earth made a village below where we saw the nine villages; and when the Mandans die they expect to return to the original seats of their forefathers; the good reaching the ancient village by means of the lake, which the burden of the sins of the wicked will not enable them to cross.
Wednesday 5. The morning was cold and disagreeable, the wind from the southeast accompanied with snow: in the evening there was snow again and the wind shifted to the northeast: we were visited by several Indians with a present of pumpkins, and by two of the traders of the northwest company.
Thursday 6. The wind was violent from the north northwest with some snow, the air keen and cold. At eight o'clock A.M. the thermometer stood at ten degrees above 0, and the river rose an inch and a half in the course of the day.
Friday, December 7. The wind still continued from the northwest and the day is very cold: Shahaka the chief of the lower village came to apprise us that the buffalo were near, and that his people were waiting for us to join them in the chase: Captain Clark with fifteen men went out and found the Indians engaged in killing the buffalo, the hunters mounted on horseback and armed with bows and arrows encircle the herd, and gradually drive them into a plain or an open place fit for the movement of horse; they then ride in among them, and singling out a buffalo, a female being preferred, go as close as possible and wound her with arrows till they think they have given the mortal stroke; when they pursue another till the quiver is exhausted: if, which rarely happens, the wounded buffalo attacks the hunter, he evades his blow by the agility of his horse, which is trained for the combat with great dexterity. When they have killed the requisite number they collect their game, and the squaws and attendants come up from the rear and skin and dress the animals. Captain Clark killed ten buffalo, of which five only were brought to the fort, the rest which could not be conveyed home being seized by the Indians, among whom the custom is that whenever a buffalo is found dead without an arrow or any particular mark, he is the property of the finder; so that often a hunter secures scarcely any of the game he kills if the arrow happens to fall off; whatever is left out at night falls to the share of the wolves, who are the constant and numerous attendants of the buffalo. The river closed opposite the fort last night, an inch and a half in thickness. In the morning the thermometer stood at one degree below 0. Three men were badly frostbitten in consequence of their exposure.
Saturday 8. The thermometer stood at twelve degrees below 0, that is at forty-two degrees below the freezing point: the wind was from the northwest. Captain Lewis with fifteen men went out to hunt the buffalo; great numbers of which darkened the prairies for a considerable distance: they did not return till after dark, having killed eight buffalo and one deer. The hunt was, however, very fatiguing, as they were obliged to make a circuit at the distance of more than seven miles: the cold too was so excessive that the air was filled with icy particles resembling a fog, and the snow generally six or eight inches deep and sometimes eighteen, in consequence of which two of the party were hurt by falls, and several had their feet frostbitten.
Sunday 9. The wind was this day from the east, the thermometer at seven degrees above 0, and the sun shone clear: two chiefs visited us, one in a sleigh drawn by a dog and loaded with meat.
Monday 10. Captain Clark who had gone out yesterday with eighteen men to bring in the meat we had killed the day before, and to continue the hunt, came in at twelve o'clock. After killing nine buffalo and preparing that already dead, he had spent a cold disagreeable night on the snow, with no covering but a small blanket, sheltered by the hides of the buffalo they had killed. We observe large herds of buffalo crossing the river on the ice, the men who were frostbitten are recovering, but the weather is still exceedingly cold, the wind being from the north, and the thermometer at ten and eleven degrees below 0: the rise of the river is one inch and a half.
Tuesday 11. The weather became so intensely cold that we sent for all the hunters who had remained out with Captain Clark's party, and they returned in the evening, several of them frostbitten. The wind was from the north and the thermometer at sunrise stood at twenty-one below 0, the ice in the atmosphere being so thick as to render the weather hazy and give the appearance of two suns reflecting each other. The river continued at a stand. Pocapsahe made us a visit today.
Wednesday, December 12. The wind is still from the north, the thermometer being at sunrise thirty-eight degrees below 0. One of the Ahnahaways brought us down the half of an antelope killed near the fort; we had been informed that all these animals return to the Black Mountains, but there are great numbers of them about us at this season which we might easily kill, but are unwilling to venue out before our constitutions are hardened gradually to the climate. We measured the river on the ice, and find it five hundred yards wide immediately opposite the fort.
Thursday 13. Last night was clear and a very heavy frost covered the old snow, the thermometer at sunrise being twenty degrees below 0, and followed by a fine day. The river falls.
Friday 14. The morning was fine, and the weather having moderated so far, that the mercury stood at 0, Captain Lewis went down with a party to hunt; they proceeded about eighteen miles, but the buffalo having left the banks of the river they saw only two, which were so poor as not to be worth killing, and shot two deer. Notwithstanding the snow we were visited by a large number of the Mandans.
Saturday 15. Captain Lewis finding no game returned to the fort hunting on both sides of the river, but with no success. The wind being from the north, the mercury at sunrise eight degrees below 0, and the snow of last night an inch and a half in depth. The Indian chiefs continue to visit us today with presents of meat.
Sunday 16. The morning is clear and cold, the mercury at sunrise 22 degrees below 0. A Mr. Haney, with two other persons from the British establishment on the Assiniboin, arrived in six days with a letter from Mr. Charles Chaubouilles, one of the company, who with much politeness offered to render us any service in his power.
Monday 17. The weather today was colder than any we had yet experienced, the thermometer at sunrise being 45 degrees below 0, and about eight o'clock it fell to 74 degrees below the freezing point From Mr. Haney, who is a very sensible intelligent man, we obtained much geographical information with regard to the country between the Missouri and Mississippi, and the various tribes of Sioux who inhabit it.
Tuesday 18. The thermometer at sunrise was 32 degrees below 0. The Indians had invited us yesterday to join their chase today, but the seven men whom we sent returned in consequence of the cold, which was so severe last night that we were obliged to have the sentinel relieved every half hour. The northwest traders, however, left us on their return home.
Wednesday 19. The weather moderated, and the river rose a little, so that we were enabled to continue the picketing of the fort. Notwithstanding the extreme cold, we observe the Indians at the village engaged out in the open air at a game which resembled billiards more than any thing we had seen, and which we inclined to suspect may have been acquired by ancient intercourse with the French of Canada. From the first to the second chief's lodge, a distance of about fifty yards, was covered with timber smoothed and joined so as to be as level as the floor of one of our houses, with a battery at the end to stop the rings: these rings were of clay-stone and flat like the chequers for drafts, and the sticks were about four feet long, with two short pieces at one end in the form of a mace, so fixed that the whole will slide along the board. Two men fix themselves at one end, each provided with a stick, and one of them with a ring; they then run along the board, and about half way slide the sticks after the ring.
Thursday 20. The wind was from the N.W., the weather moderate, the thermometer 24 degrees above 0 at sunrise. We availed ourselves of this change to picket the fort near the river.
Friday 21. The day was fine and warm, the wind N.W. by W. The Indian who had been prevented a few days ago from killing his wife came with both his wives to the fort, and was very desirous of reconciling our interpreter, a jealousy against whom, on account of his wife's taking refuge in his house, had been the cause of his animosity. A woman brought her child with an abscess in the lower part of the back, and offered as much corn as she could carry for some medicine; we administered to it, of course, very cheerfully.
Saturday 22. A number of squaws and men dressed like squaws brought corn to trade for small articles with the men. Among other things we procured two horns of the animal called by the French the rock mountain sheep, and known to the Mandans by the name of ahsahta. The animal itself is about the size of a small elk or large deer: the horns winding like those of a ram, which they resemble also in texture, though larger and thicker.
Sunday 23. The weather was fine and warm like that of yesterday: we were again visited by crowds of Indians of all descriptions, who came either to trade or from mere curiosity. Among the rest Kogahami, the Little Raven, brought his wife and son loaded with corn, and she then entertained us with a favorite Mandan dish, a mixture of pumpkins, beans, corn, and chokecherries with the stones, all boiled together in a kettle. and forming a composition by no means unpalatable.
Monday 24. The day continued warm and pleasant, and the number of visitors became troublesome. As a present to three of the chiefs, we divided a fillet of sheep-skin which we brought for spunging into three pieces each of two inches in width; they were delighted at the gift, which they deemed of equal value with a fine horse. We this day completed our fort, and the next morning being Christmas.
Tuesday 25. We were awakened before day by a discharge of three platoons from the party. We had told the Indians not to visit us as it was one of our great medicine days; so that the men remained at home and amused themselves in various ways, particularly with dancing, in which they take great pleasure. The American flag was hoisted for the first time in the fort; the best provisions we had were brought out, and this, with a little brandy, enabled them to pass the day in great festivity.
Wednesday 26. The weather is again temperate, but no Indians have come to see us. One of the northwest traders who came down to request the aid of our Minnetaree interpreter informs us that a party of Minnetarees who had gone in pursuit of the Assiniboins who lately stole their horses had just returned. As is their custom, they came back in small detachments, the last of which brought home eight horses which they had captured or stolen from an Assiniboin camp on Mouse River.
Thursday 27. A little fine snow fell this morning and the air was colder than yesterday, with a high northwest wind. We were fortunate enough to have among our men a good blacksmith, whom we set to work to make a variety of articles: his operations seemed to surprise the Indians who came to see us, but nothing could equal their astonishment at the bellows, which they considered as a very great medicine. Having heretofore promised a more particular account of the Sioux, the following may serve as a general outline of their history:
Almost the whole of that vast tract of country comprised between the Mississippi, the Red River of Lake Winnipeg, the Saskaskawan, and the Missouri, is loosely occupied by a great nation whose primitive name is Darcota, but who are called Sioux by the French, Sues by the English. Their original seats were on the Mississippi, but they have gradually spread themselves abroad and become subdivided into numerous tribes. Of these, what may be considered as the Darcotas are the Mindawarcarton, or Minowakanton, known to the French by the name of the Gens du Lac, or People of the Lake. Their residence is on both sides of the Mississippi near the falls of St. Anthony, and the probable number of their warriors about three hundred. Above them, on the River St. Peter's, is the Wahpatone, a smaller band of nearly two hundred men; and still further up the same river below Yellowwood River are the Wahpatootas or Gens de Feuilles, an inferior band of not more than one hundred men; while the sources of the St. Peter's are occupied by the Sisatoones, a band consisting of about two hundred warriors.
These bands rarely if ever approach the Missouri, which is occupied by their kinsmen the Yanktons and the Tetons. The Yanktons are of two tribes, those of the plains, or rather of the north, a wandering race of about five hundred men, who roam over the plains at the heads of the Jacques, the Sioux, and the Red River; and those of the south, who possess the country between the Jacques and Sioux Rivers and the Desmoine. But the bands of Sioux most known on the Missouri are the Tetons. The first who are met on ascending the Missouri is the tribe called by the French the Tetons of the Boise Brule or Burntwood, who reside on both sides of the Missouri, about White and Teton Rivers, and number two hundred warriors. Above them on the Missouri are the Teton Okandandas, a band of one hundred and fifty men living below the Chayenne River, between which and the Wetarhoo River is a third band, called Teton Minnakenozzo, of nearly two hundred and fifty men; and below the Warrecoune is the fourth and last tribe of Tetons of about three hundred men, and called Teton Saone. Northward of these, between the Assiniboin and the Missouri, are two bands of Assiniboins, one on Mouse River of about two hundred men, and called Assiniboin Menatopa; the other, residing on both sides of White River, called by the French Gens de Feuilles, and amounting to two hundred and fifty men. Beyond these a band of Assiniboins of four hundred and fifty men, and called the Big Devils, wander on the heads of Milk, Porcupine, and Martha's Rivers; while still farther to the north are seen two bands of the same nation, one of five hundred and the other of two hundred, roving on the Saskaskawan. Those Assiniboins are recognized by a similarity of language, and by tradition as descendants or seceders from the Sioux; though often at war are still acknowledged as relations. The Sioux themselves, though scattered, meet annually on the Jacques, those on the Missouri trading with those on the Mississippi.
SOURCE: The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In History of the Exploration of Lewis and Clark. Edited by John B. McMaster. Vol. 1. New York: 1922, pp. 182–206.
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