Journal Entries from Lewis and Clark:
Encounters with the Indians

Captain Lewis, 14 August 1805

The game which they principally hunt is the antelope, which they pursue on horseback and shoot with their arrows. This animal is so extremely fleet and durable that a single horse has no possible chance to overtake them or run them down. The Indians are therefore obliged to have recourse to stratagem when they discover a herd of the antelope. They separate and scatter themselves to the distance of five or six miles in different directions around them, generally selecting some commanding eminence for a stand. Some one, or two, now pursue the herd at full speed over the hills, valleys, gullies, and the sides of precipices that are tremendous to view. Thus, after running them from five to six or seven miles, the fresh horses that were in waiting head them [off] and drive them back, pursuing them as far or perhaps further quite to the other extreme of the hunters, who now in turn pursue on their fresh horses, thus worrying the poor animal down and finally killing them with their arrows. Forty or fifty hunters will be engaged for half a day in this manner and perhaps not kill more than two or three antelopes

Notwithstanding the extreme poverty of those poor people, they are very merry. They danced again this evening until midnight. Each warrior keeps one or more horses tied by a cord to a stake near his lodge both day and night, and are always prepared for action at a moment's warning. They fight on horseback altogether. I observe that the large flies are extremely troublesome to the horses as well as ourselves.

Captain Lewis, 15 August 1805  

I hurried the departure of the Indians. The chief addressed them several times before they would move. They seemed very reluctant to accompany me. I at length asked the reason and he told me that some foolish persons among them had suggested the idea that we were in league with the Pahkees and had come on in order to decoy them into an ambuscade, where their enemies were waiting to receive them; but that, for his part, he did not believe it. I readily perceived that our situation was not entirely free from danger, as the transition from suspicion to the confirmation of the fact would not be very difficult in the minds of these ignorant people who have been accustomed from their infancy to view every stranger as an enemy.

I told Cameahwait that I was sorry to find that they had put so little confidence in us, that I knew they were not acquainted with white men and therefore could forgive them. That among white men it was considered disgraceful to lie, or entrap an enemy by falsehood. I told him if they continued to think thus meanly of us, that they might rely on it that no white men would ever come to trade with them, or bring them arms and ammunition; and that, if the bulk of his nation still entertained this opinion, I still hoped that there were some among them that were not afraid to die -- that were men, and would go with me and convince themselves of the truth of what I had asserted, that there was a party of white men waiting my return, either at the forks of Jefferson's River or a little below, coming on to that place in canoes loaded with provisions and merchandise.

He told me, for his own part, he was determined to go, that he was not afraid to die. I soon found that I had touched him on the right string. To doubt the bravery of a savage is at once to put him on his mettle. He now mounted his horse and harangued his village a third time, the purport of which, as he afterwards told me, was to inform them that he would go with us and convince himself of the truth or falsity of what we had told him [even] if he was certain he should be killed; that he hoped there were some of them who heard him were not afraid to die with him, and if there were to let him see them mount their horses and prepare to set out. Shortly after this harangue, he was joined by six or eight only, and with these I smoked a pipe, and directed the men to put on their packs, being determined to set out with them while I had them in the humor.

At half after 12, we set out. Several of the old women were crying and imploring the Great Spirit to protect their warriors as if they were going to inevitable destruction. We had not proceeded far before our party was augmented by ten or twelve more, and before we reached the creek which we had passed in the morning of the 13th, it appeared to me that we had all the men of the village and a number of women with us. This may serve in some measure to illustrate the capricious disposition of those people, who never act but from the impulse of the moment. They were now very cheerful and gay, and two hours ago they looked as surly as so many imps of Saturn [sic]. When we arrived at the spring on the side of the mountain where we had encamped on the 12th, the chief insisted on halting to let the horses graze, with which I complied, and gave the Indians smoke. They are excessively fond of the pipe, but have it not much in their power to indulge themselves with even their native tobacco, as they do not cultivate it themselves. After remaining about an hour, we again set out, and by engaging to make compensation to four of them for their trouble, obtained the privilege of riding with an Indian myself, and a similar situation for each of my party. I soon found it more tiresome riding without stirrups than walking, and of course chose the latter, making the Indian carry my pack. About sunset, we reached the upper part of the level valley of the cove which we now called Shoshone Cove.

 Captain Lewis, 17 August 1805

This morning I arose very early and dispatched Drouilliard and the Indian down the river. Sent Shields to hunt. I made McNeal cook the remainder of our meat, which afforded a slight breakfast for ourselves and the chief. Drouilliard had been gone about two hours when an Indian, who had straggled some little distance down the river, returned and reported that the white men were coming, that he had seen them just below. They all appeared transported with joy, and the chief repeated his fraternal hug. I felt quite as much gratified at this information as the Indians appeared to be. Shortly after, Captain Clark arrived with the interpreter, Charbonneau, and the Indian woman, who proved to be a sister of the chief Cameahwait.

The meeting of those people was really affecting, particularly between Sacagawea and an Indian woman who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her, and who had afterwards escaped from the Minnetarees and rejoined her nation.

About 4 P.M., we called them together and through the medium of Labiche, Charbonneau, and Sacagawea, we communicated to them fully the objects which had brought us into this distant part of the country, in which we took care to make them a conspicuous object of our own good wishes and the care of our government. We made them sensible of their dependence on the will of our government for every species of merchandise as well for their defense and comfort, and apprised them of the strength of our government and its friendly dispositions toward them. We also gave them as a reason why we wished to penetrate the country as far as the ocean to the west of them was to examine and find out a more direct way to bring merchandise to them. That as no trade could be carried on with them before our return to our homes, that it was mutually advantageous to them as well as to ourselves that they should render us such aids as they had it in their power to furnish in order to hasten our voyage and, of course, our return home: that such were their horses to transport our baggage, without which we could not subsist, and that a pilot to conduct us through the mountains was also necessary if we could not descend the river by water. But that we did not ask either their horses or their services without giving a satisfactory compensation in return. That at present we wished them to collect as many horses as were necessary to transport our baggage to their village on the Columbia, where we would then trade with them at our leisure for such horses as they could spare us. They appeared well pleased with what had been said. The chief thanked us for friendship toward himself and nation and declared his wish to serve us in every respect; that he was sorry to find that it must yet be some time before they could be furnished with firearms, but said they could live as they had done heretofore until we brought them as we had promised. He said they had not horses enough with them at present to remove our baggage to their village over the mountain, but that he would return tomorrow and encourage his people to come over with their horses, and that he would bring his own and assist us. This was complying with all we wished at present. We next inquired who were chiefs among them. Cameahwait pointed out two others, who, he said, were chiefs. We gave him a medal of the small size with the likeness of Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States, in relief on one side, and clasped hands with a pipe and tomahawk on the other. To the other chiefs we gave each a small medal which were struck in the Presidency of George Washington, Esq. We also gave small medals of the last description to two young men who, the first chief informed us, were good young men and much respected among them. 

Captain Clark, 18 August 1805

We set out at 7 o'clock and proceeded on to the forks. I had not proceeded on one mile before I saw, at a distance, several Indians on horseback coming toward me. The interpreter and squaw, who were before me at some distance, danced for the joyful sight, and she made signs to me that they were her nation. As I approached nearer them, discovered one of Captain Lewis's party with them dressed in their dress. They met me with great signs of joy. As the canoes were proceeding on nearly opposite me, I turned those people and joined Captain Lewis, who had camped with 16 of those Snake Indians at the forks 2 miles in advance. Those Indians sang all the way to their camp, where the others had provided a kind of shade of willows stuck up in a circle.

The three chiefs with Captain Lewis met me with great cordiality, embraced, and took a seat on a white robe. The main chief immediately tied to my hair six small pieces of shells, resembling pearl, which are highly valued by those people, and are procured from the nations residing near the seacoast. We then smoked in their fashion, without shoes.

Captain Lewis informed me he found those people on the Columbia River about 40 miles from the forks. At that place there was a large camp of them. He had persuaded those with him to come and see that what he said was the truth. They had been under great apprehension all the way, for fear of their being deceived. The Great Chief of this nation proved to be the brother of the woman with us, and is a man of influence, sense, and easy and reserved manners. Appears to possess a great deal of sincerity. The canoes arrived and unloaded. Everything appeared to astonish those people--the appearance of the men, their arms, the canoes, the clothing, my black servant, and the sagacity of Captain Lewis's dog. We spoke a few words to them in the evening respecting our route, intentions, our want of horses, &c., and gave them a few presents and medals. We made a number of inquiries of those people about the Columbia River, the country, game, &c. The account they gave us was very unfavorable, that the river abounded in immense falls--one, particularly, much higher than the Falls of the Missouri, and at the place, the mountains closed so close that it was impracticable to pass, and that the ridge continued on each side of perpendicular cliffs impenetrable, and that no deer, elk, or any game was to be found in that country. Added to that, they informed us that there was no timber on the river sufficiently large to make small canoes. This information, if true, is alarming. I determined to go in advance and examine the country.

 Captain Lewis, 5 May 1806 

 Collected our horses and set out at 7 A.M. At 4 and a half miles we arrived at the entrance of the Kooskooskee, up the N. Eastern side of which we continued our march 12 miles to a large lodge of 10 families, having passed two other large mat lodges.  

At the second lodge, we passed an Indian man who gave Captain Clark a very elegant gray mare, for which he requested a phial of eye-water, which was accordingly given him. While we were encamped last fall at the entrance of the Chopunnish river, Captain Clark gave an Indian man some volatile liniment to rub his knee and thigh for a pain of which he complained. The fellow soon after recovered, and has never ceased to extol the virtues of our medicines, and the skill of my friend Captain Clark as a physician. This occurrence, added to the benefit which many of them experienced from the eye-water we gave them about the same time, has given them an exalted opinion of our medicine. 

My friend Captain Clark is their favorite physician and has already received many applications. In our present situation, I think it pardonable to continue this deception, for they will not give us any provision without compensation in merchandise, and our stock is now reduced to a mere handful. We take care to give them no article which can possibly injure them. 

While at dinner, an Indian fellow very impertinently threw a poor, half-starved puppy nearly into my plate by way of derision for our eating dogs, and laughed very heartily at his own impertinence. I was so provoked at his insolence that I caught the puppy and threw it with great violence at him and struck him in the breast and face, seized my tomahawk, and showed him by signs, if he repeated his insolence I would tomahawk him.  

We had several applications to assist their sick, which we refused unless they would let us have some dogs or horses to eat. A chief, whose wife had an abscess formed on the small of her back, promised a horse in the morning, provided we would administer to her. Accordingly, Captain Clark opened the abscess, introduced a tent [a roll of lint], and dressed it with basilicon [an ointment of wax, pitch, resin, and olive oil]. Captain Clark soon had more than fifty applications. I prepared some doses of flower of sulphur and cream of tartar, which were given with directions to be taken on each morning.  

A little girl and sundry other patients were offered for cure, but we postponed our operations until morning. They produced us several dogs, but they were so poor that they were unfit for use.  

This is the residence of one of the four principal chiefs of the nation, whom they call Neeshneparkkeook, or The Cut Nose, from the circumstance of his nose being cut by the Snake [Shoshone] Indians with a lance, in battle. To this man we gave a medal of the small size, with the likeness of the President. He may be a great chief, but his countenance has but little intelligence, and his influence among his people seems but inconsiderable. A number of Indians besides the inhabitants of these lodges gathered about us this evening and encamped in the timbered bottom on the creek near us.  

We met with a Snake Indian man at this place, through whom we spoke at some length to the natives this evening with respect to the objects which had induced us to visit their country. This address was induced at this moment by the suggestions of an old man who observed to the natives that he thought we were bad men and had come, most probably, in order to kin them. This impression, if really entertained, I believe we effaced. They appeared well satisfied with what we said to them, and, being hungry and tired, we retired to rest at 11 o'clock.