Timotsk, hereditary chief of the Klikitats, who as a boy saw the Lewis and Clark expedition as it glided down the Columbia River in c. The most widely held and deeply ingrained popular image of Lewis and Clark also happens to be the most serious misconception of their expedition. In that image, they cross North America on their own at the start of the 19th century, somehow finding their way through an uninhabited wilderness and blazing a trail where no one had ever gone before. The truth is quite different. The West they crossed was hardly an uninhabited space. Indians were not only already inhabiting it, they had been living on it and traveling back and forth across it for hundreds of generations.
Lewis and Clark . Native Americans . Chinook Indians | PBS
Attempting to stop a band of young Blackfoot Indians from stealing his horses, Meriwether Lewis shoots one in the stomach. They reached the Pacific Ocean the following year, and on March 23, , began the return journey. After crossing the worst section of the Rocky Mountains, the expedition split up. Clark took most of the men and explored the Yellowstone River country to the south. Lewis, with nine men, headed west to the Great Falls of the Missouri River where he split the small party still further. Six men remained behind to make the portage around the Great Falls. Lewis took the remaining three and headed north to explore the Marias River country of present-day northwestern Montana.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition came in contact with nearly fifty Native American tribes and soon learned that the various groups had different lifestyles, languages, and opinions of the white men. Some welcomed the explorers and were eager to trade and interact; others acted fearful or threatened. Jefferson had instructed the Corps of Discovery to befriend the Indians, develop trade relations, and collect military and scientific information.
Fifty years before Lewis and Clark, the Blackfeet Indians had a reputation of being hospitable to Europeans, who occasionally even wintered with the tribe. By , however, the world inhabited by the Blackfeet in present-day northern Montana had grown increasingly complex. The Blackfeet were regular commerce partners with Canadian-based British merchants, and in their frequent visits to trading posts, the Indians exchanged wolf and beaver pelts for guns, ammunition and alcohol.