Some Indians, whom Mr. Pike and his men visited not long after this, were extremely well-formed and elegant people. They were about the middle size; and their complexions, for savages, were, in general, fair: their teeth were good: their eyes were large and somewhat languishing; and they had a mild but independent expression of countenance.
In the evening, these Indians entertained their visitors with the calumet and dog-dance; and with another dance, in which some of the men struck a post, and related their war exploits. After the dance, was a feast of the dead. At this, every two or three persons had a pan or vessel full of meat set before him; a prayer was then said, and the eating commenced. Each was expected to devour his whole portion, and not to drop even a bone; for all the bones were carefully collected and put into a dish. When the eating was finished, the chief gave an exhortation, which concluded the ceremony.
About the end of March, Mr. Pike ordered the boats to be prepared for the voyage, in return, down the river. The ice had not, indeed, yet broken up; but he was every day in anxious expectation of seeing it begin to move. On the 6th of April, the river was found sufficiently clear of ice, to permit the party to re-embark. They accordingly loaded the boats, and, on the ensuing morning, experienced inexpressible joy, in leaving the savage wilderness, in which they had been so long imprisoned. On the 10th, they again reached the Falls of St. Anthony. The appearance of this cataract was much more tremendous than it had been when they ascended; and the great increase of the water occasioned the spray to rise much higher than it had done before. The river was still nearly covered with floating-ice; and much snow continued to fall.
After his arrival at the Prairie des Chiens, Mr. Pike held a council, with the Puant chiefs, respecting some murders which had been committed by the men of their nation; and, in the afternoon, he was entertained with a game of "the cross," between the Sioux on one side, and the Puants and the Reynards on the other. The ball used in this game is made of a hard substance, and covered with leather. When the parties are ready, and the bets have been agreed upon, (and these are sometimes to the amount of several thousand dollars,) the goals are erected on the prairie, about half a mile asunder. The ball is then thrown up, in the middle, and each party, with a kind of racket, strives to beat it to the opposite goal. After the first rubber is gained, which is done by the ball being driven round one of the posts, it is again taken to the centre, the ground is changed, and the contest is renewed; and this is continued until one of the parties has been four times victorious, on which the bets are decided.
It is an interesting sight, says Mr. Pike, to behold two or three hundred naked savages contending, on the plain, who shall bear off the palm of victory; for the man who drives the ball round the goal, receives the shouts of his companions, in congratulation of his success. It sometimes happens, that one of them catches the ball in his racket, and, depending on his speed, endeavours to carry it to the goal; but if he finds himself too closely pursued, he hurls it, with great force and dexterity, to an amazing distance, where there are always flankers, of both parties, ready to receive it. The ball seldom touches the ground; but it is sometimes kept in the air, for hours, before either party can gain the victory.
About ten miles above Salt river, the voyagers, on the 28th of April, stopped at some islands where there were numerous roosts of passenger pigeons; and, in about fifteen minutes, they knocked on the head, and brought on board the boat, about three hundred. Mr. Pike, though he had frequently heard of the fecundity of these birds, had never given credit to it; but, he says, that the most fervid imagination cannot conceive their numbers. The noise, which they made in the woods, was like the continued roaring of the wind. The young ones were still in their nests: these consisted only of small bunches of sticks; and their number was such, that all the small trees were covered with them.
On the 30th of April, after an absence of eight months and twenty-two days, Mr. Pike once more reached St. Louis in safety.
Fifteenth Day's Instruction.
WESTERN TERRITORY OF AMERICA.
The river Missouri.
Previously to the commencement of the expedition commanded by Mr. Pike, the government of the United States had directed arrangements to be made for examining the Missouri, from its mouth to its source; thence exploring the vast and dreary range of mountains, which form the highest land in the centre of that part of the American continent; and afterwards, of descending, by some one of the rivers which flow westward, to the Pacific ocean. This formidable undertaking was committed to captains Lewis and Clarke, two officers, in the American army, who were, in every respect, qualified for the arduous duties which it required; and who had, under their command, a party of forty-two soldiers and boatmen. Its professed object was to ascertain the possibility of opening an inland communication, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; but the American government had also in view the obtaining of information, respecting the country of Louisiana, which they were desirous of possessing, and which has since been ceded to them by France.
Narrative of a voyage from St. Louis to the source of the Missouri. From the travels of Captains LEWIS and CLARKE.
The party having embarked in three boats, set out from St. Louis, on the 14th of May, 1804; and, for several days, they proceeded without interruption. Early in the morning of the twenty-fourth, they ascended a difficult rapid, called the Devil's Race-ground, and narrowly escaped having one of their boats upset. Beyond this place, they met two canoes, laden with furs, which had been eight weeks on their voyage from the Mahar nation, about seven hundred miles distant. On the banks of the river was much timber, consisting of cotton-wood, sycamore, hickory, and white walnut.
On the 1st of June, they passed the mouth of the Osage river, which falls into the Missouri, at the distance of a hundred and thirty-three miles from its junction with the Mississippi. This stream gives name to a nation of Indians which inhabit its banks. The Osage Indians are, in their persons, well formed: they reside in villages, and, having made considerable progress in agriculture, they seem less addicted to war than their northern neighbours.
Beyond the Osage river, the southern bank of the Missouri was low, and covered with rushes; and occasionally with oak, ash, and walnut-trees. On the north, the land was, in some places, rich, and well adapted to agriculture. Near the mouth of Big Manitou Creek, the voyagers met a raft, formed of two canoes joined together. On this, two French traders were descending, from the river Kanzes: it was laden with beaver-skins, which they had collected during the winter. Not long afterwards, captains Lewis and Clarke landed, to examine a singular limestone rock, which was nearly covered with inscriptions and uncouth paintings of animals; but they found the place occupied by a nest of rattlesnakes, and left it. In several parts of their voyage, they passed canoes, boats, and rafts laden with furs.
In many places the river was bordered with prairies or swampy meadows, on which grew several kinds of fruit, such as mulberries, plums, wild apples, raspberries, and strawberries. Numerous herds of deer were seen, pasturing in the plains, or feeding on the young willows of the river.
Near the mouth of the Kanzes, the Missouri is about five hundred yards wide. On the south, the hills or highlands approach within a mile and half of the shore; but, on the north, they are several miles distant; and the country, on all sides, is fine. In some places the navigation was interrupted by sand-banks, and in others, by the remains of trees which had fallen into the water. On the second of July, the whole surface of the stream, for a considerable distance, was covered with drift wood. This had probably been occasioned by the giving way of some sand-bank, which had before detained the wood, as it floated down the stream.
The weather was now so hot that some of the men experienced from it great inconvenience; but the air was occasionally cooled by showers. In the evenings the voyagers often landed and encamped, for the purpose of passing the night on shore. In that part of the river at which they arrived on the 16th, the width, from bank to bank, was about a mile; but the water was so shallow that they could perceive the remains of fallen timber scattered quite across the bottom. The Missouri is here wider than it is below, where the timber, which grows on its banks, resists the power of the current.
On the 21st of July the voyagers reached the mouth of the great river Platte. Captains Lewis and Clarke ascended it for about a mile, and found the current very rapid; rolling over sands, and divided into several channels, none of which, however, appeared to be more than five or six feet deep.
At this place they encamped for several days, in order to dry their provisions, make some oars, prepare an account and make maps of the country through which they had passed. The game they saw here were chiefly deer, turkeys, and grouse; and they obtained an abundance of ripe grapes. During the nights they were much annoyed by wolves. The country behind their camp was a plain, about five miles in extent, one half covered with wood, and the other dry and elevated.
Not far from this place was a settlement of the Pawnee Indians; a race which had once been extremely numerous, but which now consisted of only four bands, comprising, in the whole, about one thousand four hundred persons.
On the 30th of July, the commanders of the expedition directed an encampment to be formed on the southern bank of the river, for the purpose of their waiting the arrival of the chiefs of the Ottoe Indians, with whom an interview had been appointed to take place. From an elevated station near the camp, they had a beautiful view of the river and of the adjoining country. The hunters abundantly supplied them with deer, turkeys, geese, and beavers; and they were well supplied with fish.
A party of fourteen Ottoe and Missouri Indians, came, at sunset, on the 2d of August, accompanied by a Frenchman who had resided among them and acted as an interpreter. The next morning an awning was formed with the mainsail of the largest vessel; and, under this, Captains Lewis and Clarke received them. A speech was made to these Indians, announcing that the territory which they inhabited had been ceded to the American government, and advising them respecting their future conduct towards the Americans. They promised obedience, requested permission to trade with the Americans, asked for a supply of arms, and solicited the mediation of the voyagers, between them and the Mahars, with whom they were then at war. The chiefs were each presented with a medal, to be worn round his neck, some paint, garters, and cloth ornaments of dress: to these were added a canister of gunpowder, a bottle of whiskey, and a few other articles.
Not long after the ceremonies of the council had concluded, the voyagers again embarked. The hills which now extended along the river, were nearly fifteen miles asunder: those on the north were clad with a considerable quantity of timber; but those on the south had only some scattered trees in the ravines or narrow valleys.
On the 5th of August they passed round a peninsula; and, having encamped on the north side of it, Captain Clarke, in pursuing some game, about three hundred and seventy yards from the camp, found himself at a point of the river which they had already passed, and which, by water, was distant nearly twelve miles. Some miles beyond this, on traversing a part of the country, to reach one of the Indian villages, the vegetation was so luxuriant, that the men, who had been sent to explore it, were forced to break their way through grass, sunflowers, thistles, and other plants, more than ten feet high. This village had once consisted of three hundred huts; but, about four years before the voyagers were here, it had been burnt, in consequence of the small-pox having destroyed four hundred of the men, and a great number of women and children. On a hill behind the village were seen the graves of the nation.
The accounts which the voyagers received of the effects of the small-pox among these Indians, were most distressing. They had been a military and a powerful people; but, when they saw their strength wasting before a malady which they were unable to resist, their phrensy was extreme. They burnt their village; and many of them put to death their wives and children, in order to save them from so cruel an affliction, and that they might all go together to the unknown and better country.
A party of Ottoe and Missouri Indians with whom the voyagers had an interview after this, were almost naked, having no covering, except a cloth round their middle, and a loose blanket or buffalo robe thrown over their shoulders.
In one place Captain Lewis noticed that the hills which extended to the edge of the river on the south side, contained alum, copperas, cobalt, (having the appearance of soft isinglass,) pyrites, and sand-stone: the two first very pure. In another cliff, seven miles distant, he observed an alum rock, of dark brown colour, containing, in its crevices, great quantities of cobalt, cemented shells, and red earth. The appearance of these mineral substances enabled him to account for some disorders of the stomach with which his men had of late been much afflicted. They had been in the habit of dipping up the water of the river inadvertently, and drinking it; and he had now no doubt but the sickness was occasioned by a scum which covered its surface along the southern shore. Always after this the men agitated the water, so as to disperse the scum, before they drank of it, and these disorders ceased.
The soil of a plain over which the two commanders and some of the men walked, on the 25th, was exceedingly fine; and was encumbered with but little timber, except immediately on the banks of the Missouri. They found delicious plums, grapes, and blue currants. The musquitoes, and other insects which here abounded, seem, however, to have occasioned them some inconvenience.
On the 29th they were joined by five chiefs and seventy men of the Yanktons, a tribe belonging to the Sioux Indians. The camps or huts of this people are of a conical form: they are covered with buffalo robes, painted with various figures and colours, and have an aperture at the top for the smoke to pass through. Each hut is calculated to contain from ten to fifteen persons, and the interior arrangement is compact and handsome: the kitchen or place for cooking is always detached. Captain Lewis delivered to these people a speech containing, as he says, the usual advice and counsel with regard to their future conduct towards the government and the "great father" (as the Indians are taught to call the president) of the United States. He gave to the grand chief a flag, a medal, a certificate, a laced uniform coat of the United States artillery corps, a cocked hat and a red feather; and to the other chiefs medals, tobacco, and clothing. Among the inferior men were distributed knives, tobacco, bells, tape, binding, and other articles of trifling value. After this the Indian chiefs, and Captains Lewis and Clarke, smoked together the pipes of peace. These chiefs begged the strangers to have pity on them, as they were very poor; to send traders to them, as they wanted powder and ball: they were also anxious to be supplied with some of "the great father's milk," by which they meant rum, or other ardent spirits. This people are stout and well proportioned, and have a peculiar air of dignity and boldness: they are fond of decorations, and use, for this purpose, paint, porcupine-quills, and feathers. Some of them wear a kind of necklace of white bear's claws, three inches long, and closely strung together round their necks. They had among them a few fowling-pieces, but they were, in general, armed with bows and arrows.
Beyond the village of the Yanktons the country, on both sides of the river, was low, and, for the most part, destitute of timber; but, in some places, it was covered with cotton-wood, elm, and oak. The weather had been intensely hot; but, in the beginning of September, the wind was violent, and the weather cold and rainy. On the second of this month, the hunters killed four elks, and the whole party was supplied with an abundance of grapes and plums, which grew wild near the river. They this day observed, on the south side of the Missouri, the remains of an ancient Indian fortification, formed chiefly of walls of earth.
On the 7th of September the weather was very cold. The voyagers, this evening, encamped at the foot of a round mountain, about three hundred feet in height, which, at a distance, had the appearance of a dome. In this part of the country the hunters chiefly killed elks, deer, and squirrels: and they occasionally brought in beavers, porcupines, and foxes. On the 12th they passed an island covered with timber; and they had great difficulty in struggling through the sand-bars, the water being both rapid and shallow. The weather was now becoming so cold, that it was requisite to give out flannel-shirts to the men; and several animals were killed, for the sake of their skins to cover the boats. In many places the strong current of the river had worn away the banks, to considerable extent.
An interview took place, on the 25th, with some chiefs of the Tetons, a tribe of the Sioux Indians: nearly the same ceremonies and agreements were used and entered into, as with the preceding tribes; and similar presents were made. They promised obedience to the "great father," but they soon showed how little dependance could be placed on the promises of uncivilized nations. As they were going away, a party of them endeavoured to seize one of the boats, declaring that they had not received presents enough. On being told they should receive no more, they drew their arrows from their quivers, and were bending their bows, when the swivel-gun in one of the boats was levelled at them. Perceiving from this that the most determined resistance would be made, they at length ceased from their claims.
On the ensuing day these Indians approached the banks of the river, accompanied by their wives and children, and by a great number of their friends. Their disposition now seemed friendly, and the voyagers accepted an invitation to remain, during the night, on shore, to witness a dance which was preparing for their entertainment.
When Captains Lewis and Clarke landed, they were met by ten young men, who took each of them up in a robe highly decorated, and carried him to a large council-house, where he was placed on a dressed buffalo-skin, by the side of the grand chief. The hall or council-room was in the shape of three quarters of a circle, and covered, at the top and sides, with skins sewed together. Under this sate about seventy men, forming a circle round the chief. In the vacant part of the circle, between these men and the chief, the pipe of peace was raised, on two forked sticks, six or eight inches from the ground, and having the down of the swan scattered beneath it. At a little distance was a fire, at which some of the attendants were employed in cooking provisions. As soon as Captains Lewis and Clarke were seated, an old man rose up, and stating that he approved of what they had done, begged of their visitors to take pity on them. Satisfactory assurances of amity were made by both parties; and the chief, after some previous ceremony, held up the pipe of peace, first pointed it toward the heavens, then to the four quarters of the globe, and then to the earth, made a short speech, lighted it, and presented it to the strangers. They smoked it, and he harangued his people, after which the repast was served up. It consisted of the body of a dog, a favourite dish among the Sioux; to this was added a dish made of buffalo-meat dried, pounded, and mixed raw with grease, and a kind of potatoe. Of this the strangers ate freely, but they could not relish the roasted dog. The party ate and smoked till it was dark, when every thing was cleared away for the dance. A large fire was lighted in the centre of the room, for the purpose of giving, at the same time, light and warmth. The music was partly vocal and partly instrumental. The instruments consisted chiefly of a sort of tambourine, formed of skin stretched across a hoop; and a small skin bag with pebbles in it. The women then came forward, highly decorated: some with poles in their hands, on which were hung the scalps of their enemies; and others with guns, spears, or different trophies, taken in war by their husbands, brothers, or connexions. Having arranged themselves in two columns, one on each side of the fire, they danced towards each other till they met in the centre, when the rattles were shaken, and they all shouted and returned to their places. They had no step, but shuffled along the ground. The music appeared to be nothing more than a confusion of noises, distinguished only by hard or gentle blows upon the skin; and the song was extemporaneous. In the pauses of the dance, any man in the company, who chose it, came forward and recited, in a sort of low guttural tone, some story or incident: this was taken up by the orchestra and the dancers, who repeated it in a higher strain, and danced to it. These amusements continued till midnight, when the voyagers retired on board their vessels, accompanied by four of the chiefs.
In their persons these Indians were rather ugly and ill made, their legs and arms being peculiarly slender, their cheek-bones high, and their eyes projecting. The females, with the same character of form, were somewhat more handsome. Both sexes appeared cheerful and sprightly, but afforded many indications of being both cunning and vicious. The men shave the hair off their heads, except a small tuft on the top, which they suffer to grow, so as to wear it in plats over the shoulders. In full dress, the principal chiefs wear a hawk's feather, worked with porcupine-quills, and fastened to the top of the head. Their face and body are generally painted with a mixture of grease and coal. The hair of the women is suffered to grow long, and is parted from the forehead, across the head; at the back of which it is either collected into a kind of bag, or hangs down over the shoulders. This people seem fond of finery. Their lodges are very neatly constructed: they consist of about one hundred cabins, made of white buffalo hides, supported on poles fifteen or twenty feet high; and, having a larger cabin in the centre, for councils and for dances. These lodges may be taken to pieces, packed up, and carried from place to place. The beasts of burden are dogs. Some of these Indians had their heads shaved, and others had arrows stuck through their flesh above and below the elbow: these were indications of mourning.
On Friday the 28th of September, Captains Lewis and Clarke pursued their voyage up the river; and on the ensuing day, they passed a spot where a band of Ricara Indians had had a village, about five years before: but there were now no remains of it, except a mound which encircled the town.
Beyond this, the country, on the north side of the river, presented an extensive range of low prairie, covered with timber: on the south were high and barren hills; but, afterwards, the land assumed the same character as that on the opposite side. A great number of Indians were discovered on the hills at a distance: they approached the river, and proved to be Tetons, belonging to the band which the voyagers had just left. In the course of this day the navigation was much impeded by logs and sand-bars. The weather was now very cold. The voyagers next passed the Chayenne river, which flowed from the south-west, and the mouth of which was four hundred yards wide. On both sides of the Missouri, near this river, are richly timbered lowlands, with naked hills behind them. In this part of the country the hunters observed a great numbers of goats, white bears, prairie-cocks or grouse; and a species of quadrupeds described to resemble a small elk, but to have large, circular horns.
For many successive days Indians were observed on the shores; and, if they had been more numerous, some of them seemed inclined to molest the voyagers. On the sand-bars, which here very much obstructed the course of the river, great number of geese, swans, brants, and ducks of different kinds were seen.
On the 9th of October, the voyagers received visits from three chiefs of the Ricara Indians; and, though the wind was violent, and the waves ran very high, two or three squaws or females rowed off to them, in little canoes, each made of a single buffalo-skin, stretched over a frame of boughs, interwoven like a basket. These Indians did not use spirituous liquors; and had even rejected, with disgust, all attempts which the traders had hitherto made to introduce them: they said they were surprised that their "father," meaning the president of the United States, should present to them a liquor which would make them fools. Captains Lewis and Clarke visited two of the villages, where they were presented with corn and beans boiled; and also with bread made of corn and beans. The Ricara Indians are tall and well proportioned. The men wear skins round their legs, a cloth round their middle, and they occasionally have a buffalo robe thrown over their shoulders: their hair, arms, and ears, are decorated with ornaments of different kinds. The women, who are handsome and lively, wear long shirts made of goats' skin, generally white and fringed, and tied round the waist; and, in addition to these, they have a buffalo robe dressed without the hair. The lodges of the Ricara Indians are of a circular or octagonal form, and generally thirty or forty feet in diameter. They are made by placing forked posts, each about six feet high, round the circumference of a circle; joining these, by poles lying upon the forks; forming a sloping roof; interweaving the whole with branches and grass, and covering it with mud or clay. Before the door there is a sort of entrance about ten feet from the lodge. This people cultivate maize or Indian corn, beans, pumpkins, water-melons, and a species of tobacco which is peculiar to themselves. They are well armed with guns, and carry on a considerable traffic in furs.
For many successive days the voyagers continued to see Indians every day. They had occasionally wet and unpleasant weather. In one place they saw, on the bank of the river, a great number of goats; and, soon afterwards, large flocks of these animals were driven into the river by a party of Indians, who gradually lined the shore, so as to prevent their escape, and fired on them, and beat them down with clubs, with so much success, that, in a short time, they killed more than fifty. Many buffaloes, elks, and deer were seen; and a great number of snakes.
On Thursday the 18th, they passed the mouth of Le Boulet, or Cannon-ball river, the channel of which is about one hundred and forty yards wide. This stream, (which is indebted for its name to a great number of large stones, that are perfectly round and lie scattered about the shore and on the eminences above,) rises in the Black Mountains, and falls into the Missouri on the south. Great numbers of goats were observed to cross the river, and direct their course towards the west. The country, in general, was level and fine, with broken, short, high grounds, low timbered mounds near the river, and a range of rugged hills at a distance. The low grounds had here much more timber than had been observed lower down the river. So numerous are wild animals in this part of the country, that the voyagers counted, at a single view, fifty-two herds of buffaloes, and three of elks.
On the 20th the weather was so cold, that the rain which fell froze on the ground; and, in the course of the night, the ground was covered with snow. A Ricara chief told Captain Lewis that, at some distance up one of the rivers, there was a large rock which was held in great veneration by the Indians, and was often consulted by them, as to their own, or their nations' destinies; all of which they imagine they are able to discern, in some rude figures or paintings, with which it is covered.
The voyagers passed, on each side of the river, the ruins of several villages of Mandan Indians; and, on an island of the river, they found a Mandan chief, who, with some of his men, was on a hunting excursion. As they proceeded, several parties of Mandans, both on foot and on horseback, approached the shore to view them. The vessels here got aground several times, among the sand-bars and rocks. In this part of their voyage they saw two Europeans, belonging to the Hudson's Bay company. These men had arrived about nine days before, to trade for horses and buffalo robes.
From one of the villages of the Mandans, a crowd of men, women, and children, came to see the strangers. Some of the chiefs had lost the two joints of their little fingers; for, with this people, it is customary to express grief for the death of relations, by some corporeal suffering, and the usual mode is to cut off the joints of the little fingers.
There were, in this part of the country, many Indian villages, and Captains Lewis and Clarke held, with the chiefs, a council, similar in its nature to those already mentioned; and afterwards presented them with flags, medals, uniform-coats, and other articles.
Sixteenth Day's Instruction
WESTERN TERRITORY CONTINUED.
Conclusion of LEWIS and CLARKE'S Voyage from St. Louis to the Source of the Missouri.
As the winter was now fast approaching, the commanders of the expedition considered it requisite to look out for some convenient place, where they might pass those months, during which the river would be frozen and unnavigable. Accordingly, on the 2d of November, they fixed upon a place, not far distant from the Indian villages. They cut down a considerable quantity of timber for the formation of huts; and constructed tolerably comfortable habitations. Food could here be procured in such abundance, that, in the course of two days, a Mandan Indian killed as many as two hundred goats.
In the night of the 5th they were awaked by the man on guard, who called them to witness a peculiarly beautiful appearance of the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Along the sky, towards the north, a large space was occupied by a light of brilliant white colour, which rose from the horizon, and extended itself to nearly twenty degrees above it. After glittering for some time, its colours were occasionally overcast and obscured; but again it would burst out with renewed beauty. The uniform colour was pale; but its shapes were various and fantastic. At times the sky was lined with light-coloured streaks, rising perpendicularly from the horizon, and gradually expanding into a body of light, in which could be seen the trace of floating columns, sometimes advancing, sometimes retreating, and shaping into an infinite variety of forms.
Before the middle of November a store-house was completed, in which the contents of the boats were laid up for the winter. On the 13th, ice began to float down the river for the first time; and, on the ensuing day, the ground was covered with snow. In some traps which had been set, twenty beavers were caught. On the 16th the men moved into the huts, although they were not finished. Three days after this the hunters brought in a supply of thirty-two deer, eleven elks, and five buffaloes, all of which were hung up to be smoked, for future subsistence.
The huts were ranged in two rows, each row containing four rooms, fourteen feet square, and seven feet high. The place in which they were erected was called Fort Mandan, and was a point of low ground, on the north side of the Missouri, covered with tall and heavy cotton-wood. The computed distance from the mouth of the Missouri was sixteen hundred miles.
In the vicinity of this place were five villages of three distinct nations: Mandans, Ahanaways, and Minnetarees. Not many years ago the Mandans were a very numerous race, occupying, in the whole, eighteen villages; but their numbers had been so much reduced, by the small-pox and by their wars with the Sioux, that they were compelled to emigrate in a body, and unite themselves with the Ricara nation; and they now occupy only two villages, on opposite sides of the Missouri, and about three miles asunder. Each of these contains forty or fifty lodges, built in the same manner as those of the Ricaras. The whole force of the Ahanaways is not, at present, more than fifty men. Their residence is on an elevated plain, near the mouth of the Knife river. On the south side of the same river, and about half a mile distant from this people, is a village of the Minnetarees; and there are four other villages of these Indians at a little distance.
The religion of the Mandans consists in the belief that one great Spirit presides over their destinies; but they also believe that various beings, some imaginary and some existing in the form of animals, have the power of interceding for them with the great spirit. To these they pay their devotion. They believe in a future state; and that, after death, they shall go to the original seats of their forefathers, which they suppose to be underground, immediately beneath a spot on the banks of the Missouri, where they formerly had nine villages.
On the 7th of December, the Missouri was frozen over, and the ice was an inch and half in thickness. The cold was so intense, that the air was filled with icy particles resembling a fog; and the snow was several inches deep. Notwithstanding this, one of the commanders, accompanied by some of the men, went out almost every day to hunt. On the tenth, Captain Clarke and his hunters, after having killed nine buffaloes, were obliged to spend a wretched night on the snow: having no other covering than a small blanket and the hides of the buffaloes they had killed. The next day the wind blew from the north; and the ice in the atmosphere was so thick, as to render the weather hazy, and to give the appearance of two suns reflecting each other. On the seventeenth, the mercury in the thermometer fell to seventy-four degrees below the freezing point. The fort was completed on the day before Christmas.
The Indians, inured to the severity of the climate, are able to support the rigours of the season, in a way which Captains Lewis and Clarke had hitherto considered impossible. Many parts of their bodies were exposed; and one of the Indians, in particular, although his dress was very thin, was known to have passed the night on the snow, without a fire; and yet he did not suffer the slightest inconvenience.
After having spent nearly five months in this dreary abode, the ice broke up, the boats were repaired and once more got into the river; and other preparations were made for the voyagers to pursue their course towards the sources of the Missouri.
In the afternoon of Sunday, the 7th of April, the arrangements being all completed, the party, consisting of thirty-two persons, once more embarked. They now occupied six small canoes and two large pirogues. The barge was sent down the river, to the United States, with presents of natural curiosities, which had been collected, and with dispatches to the president.
At some distance from Fort Mandan, the land, on each side of the Missouri, after ascending the hills near the water, exhibits the appearance of one fertile and unbroken plain, which extends as far as the eye can reach, without a solitary tree or shrub, except in moist situations, or in the steep declivities of hills. In some parts the plains were on fire; for, every spring, as soon as the ice breaks up in the river, these plains are set on fire by the Indians, for the purpose of driving out and attacking the buffaloes, and other wild animals which inhabit them. Beavers were here very abundant. A herd of antelopes, and the track of a large white bear, were seen in the plain: geese and swans were observed, in great numbers. The musquitoes now began to be very troublesome.
Before the middle of April, the weather became so warm, that, in the day-time, the men worked with no clothes on, except round their waist. On the twelfth, the voyagers reached the mouth of the Little Missouri, where they remained during the day, for the purpose of making celestial observations. This river falls into the Missouri, on its south side, and at the distance of sixteen hundred and ninety-three miles above its confluence with the Mississippi. Its current is strong, and its width a hundred and thirty-four yards; but its greatest depth is only two feet and half. The adjacent country is hilly and irregular; and the soil is, for the most part, a rich dark-coloured loam, intermixed with a small proportion of sand.
On the thirteenth, the voyagers passed the remains of forty-three temporary lodges, which were supposed to have belonged to the Assiniboin Indians. The waters of many of the creeks were found to be so strongly impregnated with mineral salts, that they were not fit to be drunk. On each bank of the Missouri the country presented the appearance of low plains and meadows; bounded, at the distance of a few miles, by broken hills, which end in high, level, and fertile lands: the quantity of timber was increasing. In the timbered-grounds, higher up the river, the voyagers observed a great quantity of old hornets' nests. Many of the hills exhibited a volcanic appearance, furnishing great quantities of lava and pumice stone: of the latter, several pieces were observed floating down the river. In all the copses there were remains of Assiniboin encampments.
On the twentieth, near an Indian camp, the voyagers observed a scaffold, about seven feet high, on which were two sleds, with their harness; and under the scaffold was the body of a female, carefully wrapped in several dressed buffalo-skins. Near it lay a bag, made of buffalo-skin, and containing some articles of apparel, scrapers for dressing hides, some dried roots, plats of sweet grass, and a small quantity of tobacco. These, as well as the body, had probably fallen down by accident, as it is customary to place the dead bodies on scaffolds. At a little distance was the body of a dog, not yet decayed: he had, no doubt, been employed in dragging, in the sled, the body of his mistress, and, according to the Indian usage, had been sacrificed to her.
From the sand-bars in the river, the wind sometimes blew such vast quantities of sand into the air, as to appear like clouds, and even to conceal the opposite bank from view. These clouds of sand floated, like columns of thick smoke, to the distance of many miles; and the particles were so penetrating, that nothing could be kept free from them.
Near the junction of Yellow-stone river with the Missouri, the country was much more woody than it had been in any other part, since the voyagers had passed the Chayenne; and the trees were chiefly of cotton-wood, elm, ash, box, and alder. In the low grounds were rose-bushes, the red-berry, service-berry, red-wood, and other shrubs; and among the bushes on the higher plains, were observed willows, gooseberry-trees, purple currant-trees, and honeysuckles. The sources of Yellow-stone river are said to be in the Rocky Mountains, near those of the Missouri and the Platte; and this river is navigable, in canoes, almost to its head.
Near the junction of the Yellow-stone and Missouri rivers, there is a high plain, which extends three miles in width, and seven or eight miles in length; and which Captain Lewis says might be rendered a very advantageous station for a trading establishment.
Beyond this place, the hills were rough and high, and almost overhung the river. As the voyagers advanced, the low grounds were fertile and extensive, with but little timber, and that cotton-wood. On the 3d of May, they reached the mouth of a river, which; from the unusual number of porcupines that were seen near it, they called Porcupine river. For several days after this, they continued their progress without much interruption. In many places the river was, at least, half a mile wide. During their excursions on the shore, in pursuit of food, they encountered many perils in shooting at bears. Some of these were of vast size and strength: one of them weighed nearly six hundred pounds, and measured eight feet seven inches and a half, from the nose to the extremity of the hind feet.
Beyond the Muscle-shell river, which the voyagers reached on the 21st, the shores of the Missouri were abrupt and bold, and composed of a black and yellow clay.
After a navigation of two months, and a progress of more than a thousand miles from their winter camp, the party became considerably embarrassed, at the conflux of two rivers, which were, apparently, of equal magnitude. It was important for them to decide which of the streams in question was the true Missouri; because the river, which it was their object to ascend, was described to be at no great distance from the head waters, running, from the opposite side of the Rocky Mountains, towards the Pacific ocean. Two canoes, with three men, were consequently dispatched, to survey each of these doubtful streams; and parties were sent out by land, to discover, if possible, from the rising grounds, the distant bearings of the lofty ranges of mountains, which were conspicuous in the west; and some of which, though it was now the month of June, were covered with snow. Hence, there was no doubt of their vicinity to the great central ridge of American mountains; but the direction of the rivers just mentioned, could not be distinguished to any considerable distance. Of the two, the one coming from the north, had the brown colour and thick appearance of the Missouri; while the southern river had a rapid current, a pebbly bed, and transparent water, as if it issued from a mountainous country. The resemblance of the former to the river already navigated, led nearly all the privates of the party to consider it as the Missouri; but the clearness of the other stream induced the two captains to the conclusion that it proceeded from those central mountains, which were the grand objects of their search. After a further investigation, they resolved to pursue the course of the latter.
It was, however, requisite to make a deposit of all the heavy baggage, that could possibly be spared, as the increasing shallowness of the water would soon render the navigation much more laborious than it had hitherto been. They accordingly adopted a plan, common among traders who bring merchandise into the country of Indians of doubtful integrity, that of digging a hole in the ground, small at the top, but widened in the descent, somewhat like the shape of a kettle. Choice was made of a dry situation; and the sod, being carefully removed, the excavation was completed, a flooring of wood and hides was laid at the bottom, and the goods were covered with skins: the earth was then thrown into the river, and the sod laid on again with so much care, that not the slightest appearance remained of the surface having been disturbed.
These arrangements being completed, Captain Clarke took charge of the canoes; while Captain Lewis, with four men, proceeded by land, in hopes of soon putting it beyond a doubt that the river which they were now ascending was the Missouri. The decisive proof was to be sought in its falls, which the Indians had described as not remote from the Rocky Mountains, and as of remarkable grandeur. Captain Lewis passed along the direction of the river, during two days, and, on the next day, found himself in a position which overlooked a most beautiful plain.
Finding that the river here bore considerably to the south; and fearful of passing the falls before he reached the Rocky Mountains, he now changed, his course towards the south, and, leaving these hills to the right, proceeded across the plain. In this direction he had gone about two miles, when his ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water; and, as he advanced, a spray, which seemed to be driven by the high south-west wind, arose above the plain, like a column of smoke, and vanished in an instant. Towards this point he directed his steps; and the noise, increasing as he approached, soon became too tremendous to be mistaken for any thing but the Great Falls of the Missouri. Having travelled seven miles after he first heard the sound, he at length reached the falls.
The hills became difficult of access, and were two hundred feet high. Down these he hurried with impatience; and, seating himself on some rocks under the centre of the falls, he enjoyed the sublime spectacle of this stupendous object; which, since the creation of the world, had been lavishing its magnificence on the desert, unknown to civilization. For ninety or a hundred yards from the left cliff, the water falls in one smooth, even sheet, over a precipice of at least eighty feet. The remaining part of the river precipitates itself with a more rapid current; but, being received, as it falls, by the irregular and somewhat projecting rocks below, it forms a splendid prospect of perfectly white foam, two hundred yards in length, and eighty yards in perpendicular elevation. This spray is dissipated into a thousand shapes, sometimes flying up in columns fifteen or twenty feet high; and then being oppressed by larger masses of white foam, which exhibit all the brilliant colours of the rainbow.
On the 14th of June, one of the men was sent to Captain Clarke, with an account of the discovery of the falls; and Captain Lewis proceeded to examine the rapids above. From the falls, he directed his course, south-west, up the river. After passing one continued rapid, and three small cascades, each three or four feet high, he reached, at the distance of five miles, a second fall. Above this, the river bends suddenly towards the north. Here captain Lewis heard a loud roar above him; and, crossing the point of a hill, for a few hundred yards, he saw one of the most beautiful objects in nature: the whole Missouri is suddenly stopped by one shelving rock, which, without a single niche, and with an edge as straight and regular as if formed by art, stretches from one side of the river to the other, for at least a quarter of a mile. Over this, the water precipitates itself, in an even, uninterrupted sheet, to the perpendicular depth of fifty feet; whence, dashing against the rocky bottom, it rushes rapidly down, leaving behind it a spray of the purest foam.
The scene here presented was indeed singularly beautiful; since, without any of the wild, irregular, sublimity of the lower falls, it combined all the regular elegancies which the fancy of a painter would select to form a beautiful cataract. Captain Lewis now ascended the hill which was behind him, and saw, from its top, a delightful plain, extending from the river to the base of the Snowy Mountains. Along this wide, level country, the Missouri pursued its winding course, filled with water, to its even and grassy banks; while, about four miles above, it was joined by a large river, flowing from the north-west, through a valley three miles in width, and distinguished by the timber which adorned its shores: the Missouri itself stretched to the south, in one unruffled stream of water; and bearing on its bosom, vast flocks of geese, while numerous herds of buffaloes were feeding on the plains which surround it.
Captain Lewis then descended the hills, and directed his course towards the river. Here he met a herd of at least a thousand buffaloes; and, being desirous of providing for his supper, he shot one of them. The animal immediately began to bleed; and the captain, having forgot to reload his rifle, was intently watching to see him fall, when he beheld a large brown bear, cautiously approaching him, and already within twenty yards. In the first moment of surprise, he lifted his rifle; but, recollecting that it was not charged, and that he had no time to reload, he felt that there was no safety but in flight. He was in an open, level plain; not a bush nor a tree was within three hundred yards of him; and the bank of the river was sloping, and not more than three feet high, so that there was no possible mode of concealment. Captain Lewis therefore thought of retreating, in a quick walk. He did so, but the bear approached, open mouth and at full speed, upon him. He ran about eighty yards; but finding that the animal gained on him fast, he plunged into the river, about waist deep, and, then facing about, presented the point of an espontoon or kind of spear, which he had carried in his hand. The bear arrived at the water's edge, within twenty feet of him; but, as soon as the captain put himself in this posture of defence, the animal seemed frightened, and, wheeling about, retreated with as much precipitation as he had pursued.
With respect to Captain Clarke, he and his canoes advanced up the river, but they proceeded very slowly; for the rapidity of the current, the number of large stones, and the numerous shoals and islands, greatly impeded their progress. After they had passed a stream, to which he gave the name of Maria's river, they redoubled their exertions. It, however, soon became necessary for them once more to lighten the canoes. They did so, and filled another hole, with a portion of their provisions and ammunition.
On the 29th of June, Captain Clarke left the canoes, and went on to the falls, accompanied by a black servant, named York, an Indian and his wife, with her young child. On arriving there, they observed a very dark cloud rising in the west, which threatened rain. They therefore looked around for shelter, but could find no place where they would be secure from being blown into the river, if the wind should prove as violent as it sometimes does in the plains. At length, about a quarter of a mile above the falls, they found a deep ravine, where there were some shelving rocks; and under these they took refuge. Being now perfectly safe from the rain, they laid down their guns and compass, and the other articles which they had brought with them. The shower was, at first, moderate; but it increased to a heavy rain, the effects of which they did not feel: soon afterwards, a torrent of intermingled hail and rain was poured from the clouds: the rain seemed to fall in a solid mass; and, collecting in the ravine, it came rolling down, like a cataract, carrying along with it mud and rocks, and every thing that opposed it. Captain Clarke saw the torrent a moment before it reached them; and, springing up, with his gun and shot-pouch in his left hand, he, with his right, clambered up the steep cliff, pushing on before him the Indian woman, with her child in her arms. Her husband, too, had seized her hand, and was dragging her up the hill; but he was so terrified at the danger, that, but for Captain Clarke, himself and his wife and child would have been lost. So instantaneous was the rise of the water, that before Captain Clarke had reached his gun, and had begun to ascend the bank, the water was up to his waist; and he could scarcely get up faster than it rose, till it reached the height of fifteen feet. Had they waited a moment longer, it would have swept them all into the river, just above the great cataract, down which they must inevitably have been precipitated. They had been obliged to escape so rapidly, that Captain Clarke lost his compass and umbrella: the Indian left his gun, shot-pouch, and tomahawk; and the Indian woman had just time to grasp her child, before the net, in which it had lain at her feet, was carried down the current.
After the storm was over, they proceeded to a fountain, perhaps the largest in America. It is situated in a pleasant, level plain, and about twenty-five yards from the river, into which it falls over some steep, irregular rocks.
In this part of the country a remarkable phenomenon was noticed. A loud report, precisely resembling the sound of a cannon, was repeatedly heard from the mountains, at different times, both of the day and night; sometimes in one stroke; at others, in five or six successive discharges. This report was occasionally heard when the air was perfectly still and without a cloud; and it was supposed to be occasioned by the bursting of rocks.
The party, continuing indefatigable in their exertions, dragged the canoes, or pushed them along with poles, up the current of the Missouri. This they did, day after day, until the 27th of June, when they arrived at the Three forks of the river; that is, at the point at which three rivers, each of considerable size, flow together, and form the great stream. As it was difficult to determine the largest of the three, Captains Lewis and Clarke decided on discontinuing here the appellation of Missouri; and named the streams, respectively, Jefferson's, Madison's, and Gallatin's river. As the first of these flowed from the west, they ascended it in preference to the others; but they continued to experience great difficulty with the canoes, in consequence of the rapidity of the current.
They were now approaching the termination of the first great division of their journey. The river continued to lessen as they proceeded: its width, in the part at which they arrived on the 8th of July, was not more than forty yards; and, on the 11th, it was diminished to twelve, so as to admit of being waded over without hazard. They had now proceeded, by computation, three thousand miles from the mouth of the Missouri; and they, not long afterwards, reached its extreme navigable point, in latitude 43 degrees 30 minutes, and nearly in longitude 112 degrees west from Greenwich.
Here they laid up their canoes, until they should return from the Pacific ocean; and, proceeding by land, had the gratification of tracing the current to its fountain head, in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.
Seventeenth Day's Instruction.
WESTERN TERRITORY CONTINUED.
Narrative of LEWIS and CLARKE'S Travels from the Source of the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean.
From the source of the Missouri, we will now accompany these gentlemen in their journey across the Rocky Mountains, and in their subsequent navigation of the Oregan or Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
They had reached the highest ground in the Rocky Mountains, or that elevated part of the continent which constitutes the boundary between the streams flowing to the Atlantic on the one side, and the Pacific on the other. Their next object was to prosecute their journey westward, through this cold and barren track, until they should come to a navigable stream flowing into the Columbia, the great channel of access to the western ocean.
They had been told, by Indians in the Mandan country, that, immediately on crossing the central ridge, they would discover copious rivers running in a direction towards the Columbia. Captain Lewis accordingly found a clear stream forty yards wide, and three feet deep, which ran towards the west. It was bounded on each side by a range of high mountains, and was so closely confined between them, as not only to be unnavigable, but to be impassable along its banks. A still more discouraging circumstance was the total want, in this wintry region, of timber fit for building canoes.
An old Indian, being consulted respecting these mountains, stated them to be so inaccessible, that neither he nor any of his nation had ever attempted to cross them; and another Indian, a native of the south-west mountains, described them in terms scarcely less terrific. The course to the Pacific lay, he said, along rocky steeps, inhabited by savages, who lived in holes, like bears, and fed on roots and on horse-flesh. On descending from the mountainous ridge, he stated that the traveller would find himself in a parched desert of sand, where no animals, of a nature to afford subsistence, could be discovered; and, although this plain was crossed by a large river running towards the Columbia, its banks had no timber for the construction of canoes.
After all these mortifying communications, there appeared to be left, to the present travellers, only one route, that by which some individuals of the Chopunnish Indians, living to the west of the mountains, find means to make their way to this elevated region; and the accounts that had been given of this road, were very discouraging; the Indians being obliged to subsist for many days on berries, and suffering greatly from hunger. The commanders of the expedition were not, however, disheartened; for they were convinced that their men could accomplish a passage without enduring so much hardship as Indians, who are generally accompanied by women and children.
Having ascertained that the accounts of the impractibility of navigating the river were well founded, it became indispensable to take measures for proceeding on horseback. The men had already begun to suffer from want of food, for the country afforded very little except berries, and a few river-fish.
Captain Lewis describes the ravenous propensities of the Indians who reside in this part of America, to be very extraordinary. While some of them were with the travellers, a deer was killed. They all hastened to the spot, like so many beasts of prey, and actually tumbled over each other, to reach the intestines which had been thrown aside. Each tore away whatever part he could seize, and instantly began to devour it. Some had the liver, some the kidneys; in short, no part was left, on which we are accustomed to look with disgust. One of them, who had seized about nine feet of the entrails, was chewing, at one end, while, with his hand, he was diligently clearing his way by discharging the contents at the other. Yet, though suffering from excessive hunger, they did not attempt, as they might have done, to take by force the whole deer, but contented themselves with what had been thrown away by the hunters. After this, Captain Lewis gave one quarter of the body of the deer to the Indians; and they immediately devoured it raw. A second deer was killed, and nearly the whole of it was given to the Indians. This they also devoured, even to the soft parts of the hoofs; and they shortly afterwards ate nearly three quarters of a third.
It happened fortunately for the travellers, in the prosecution of their journey by land, that the horses of the country were good, and that there was no difficulty in purchasing as many as were necessary, for the conveyance of themselves and their baggage. They were thus enabled to set out about the end of August, under the guidance of an old man, who, notwithstanding the dissuasion of his countrymen, undertook to conduct them to the Indians who live westward of the mountains.
Arriving, soon afterwards, in a district where no tract could be discovered, they were obliged to cut their way through thickets of trees and brushwood, along the sides of hills. Here their horses suffered great fatigue; and the season was still so little advanced, that the ground was covered with snow. On the 9th of September they reached the road or path commonly taken by the Indians in crossing from the Columbia to the Missouri; and here they learned that they might have lessened the hardships of the mountain journey, had they laid up their canoes and struck off to the west, before they navigated the latter river to its furthest-point. A small creek at this station received the name of Traveller's Rest-creek.
From this spot the party proceeded nearly due west, along the Indian path; but they still experienced considerable inconvenience, from a deficiency of provisions. On some days they killed only a few birds; and, being obliged to turn their horses loose at night to feed, the morning hours were frequently passed in finding and catching them. On the 15th of August, they reached the upper parts of the river Koos-koos-kee, which affords one of the most direct channels of communication with the Columbia; but there is no timber, in its neighbourhood, of size large enough for canoes; nor did its channel promise an easy navigation. The travellers were consequently obliged to continue their journey by land; and on the 19th they were cheered with the prospect, towards the south-west, of an extensive plain, which, though still distant, assured them of an outlet from the barren region which they were traversing. By this time they had suffered so much from hunger, that horse-flesh was deemed a luxury.
At last, on the 22d, having reached the plain, they found themselves once more in an inhabited country. They explained their pacific intentions to the people, who were Indians of a tribe called Chopunnish. The removal, however, from a cold to a warm district, and, still more, the sudden change from scarcity to an abundance of food, proved very detrimental to the health of the men; and it was fortunate that the most laborious part of their task was now, for a time at least, at an end.
The river Koos-koos-kee being navigable in the place which the party had now reached, it remained only to build the requisite canoes. The wood was soon obtained; and such of the men as had sufficient strength for the undertaking, worked at the canoes, during the intervals of cool weather, and were not very long in completing them. In this part of the country the weather was cool during an easterly wind; exactly as, on the opposite side of the mountains, it had been in a westerly one. Their horses, to the number of thirty-eight, they consigned to the care of three Indian chiefs, to be kept till their return; and the saddles, with a small supply of ammunition, they buried in a hole, dug for the purpose, near the river.
On the 8th of October, the travellers once more proceeded by water; and they now occupied five canoes. Exertion was still requisite, in the shoals and other difficult places; but the change was, on the whole, extremely favourable to them, and their progress down the current was proportionally rapid.
This part of the country is inhabited by the Shoshonees, a tribe of Snake Indians, which, at present, consists of about a hundred warriors, and thrice as many women and children. Within their own recollection these Indians had lived in the plains; but they had been driven thence by the Pawkees and other powerful tribes, and they now live a wandering and precarious life. From the middle of May till the beginning of September they reside on the western waters; but, when the salmon, on which they chiefly subsist there, disappear, they cross the ridge and descend, slowly and cautiously, till they are joined, near the Three Forks, by other bands, either of their own nation, or of the Flat-heads, who make common cause with them. They then venture to hunt buffaloes in the plains eastward; but such is their dread of the Pawkees, that, so long as they can obtain the scantiest subsistence, they do not leave the interior of the mountains; and, as soon as they collect a large stock of dried meat, they again retreat: thus they alternately obtain food at the hazard of their lives, and hide themselves to consume it. Two-thirds of the year they are forced to live in the mountains, passing whole weeks with no other subsistence than a few fish and roots. The salmon were, at this time, fast retiring; roots were becoming scarce, they had not yet attained strength to hazard a meeting with their enemies, and nothing could be imagined more wretched than their condition.
Notwithstanding their miseries they were cheerful, and, in many important points of character, were superior to any other tribes whom the travellers had seen. They never begged: they were not tempted to a single act of dishonesty by the sight of the treasures which their visitors displayed; and they were ready to share with their guests, the little which they themselves possessed. They were also a high-spirited people. The Spaniards, the only white men with whom they had hitherto had any intercourse, would not supply them with fire-arms, alleging that, if they were possessed of such weapons, they would only be the more induced to kill one another. The Shoshonees, perhaps, do not perceive that policy is the real motive of the Spaniards; but they clearly see that the plea of humanity is fallacious, and they complain that they are thus left to the mercy of their enemies the Minnetarees, who, having fire-arms, plunder them of their horses, and slay them at pleasure.
Though many of their stock had lately been stolen, the Shoshonees possessed, at this time, not fewer than seven hundred horses, of good size, vigorous, and patient of fatigue, as well as of hunger. They had also a few mules, which had been purchased or stolen from the Spaniards, by the frontier Indians. These were the finest animals of the kind, that Captain Clarke had ever seen; even the worst of them was considered worth the price of two horses.
The horse is a favourite animal with this people. His main and tail, which are never mutilated, they decorate with feathers, and his ears they cut into various patterns. A favourite horse, also, is sometimes painted; and a warrior will suspend, at the breast of his horse, the finest ornaments which he possesses.
The Shoshonees always fight on horseback. They have a few bad guns among them, which are reserved, exclusively, for war; but their common weapons are bows and arrows. The bows that are chiefly prized, are made of the argali's horn, flat pieces of which are cemented together with glue. They have also lances, and a formidable sort of club, consisting of a round stone, about two pounds in weight, fastened, by a short thong, to a wooden handle. Their defensive armour is a shield of buffalo's hide, manufactured with equal ingenuity and superstition. The skin must be the whole hide of a male buffalo, two years old, and never suffered to dry, since it was flayed off. A feast is held, to which all the warriors, old men, and jugglers, are invited. After the repast, a hole is dug in the ground, about eighteen inches deep, and of the same diameter as the intended shield. Red hot stones are thrown into this hole; and water is poured upon them, to produce a strong steam. Over this, the skin is laid, with the fleshy side to the ground; and stretched, in every direction, by as many persons as can take hold of it. As it becomes heated, the hair separates, and is taken off; and the skin is, at last, contracted into the compass designed for the shield. It is then removed, placed on a dry hide; and, during the remainder of the festival, is pounded by the bare heels of the guests. This operation sometimes continues for several days. The shield is then actually proof against any arrow; and, if the old men and the jugglers have been satisfied with the feast, they pronounce it impenetrable by bullets also, which many of the warriors believe. It is ornamented with feathers, with a fringe of dressed leather, and with paintings of strange figures. This people have also a sort of arrow-proof mail, with which they cover themselves and their horses. It is made of dressed antelope-skins, in many folds, united by a mixture of glue and sand.
The Shoshonees are a diminutive and ill-formed race; with flat feet, thick ancles, and crooked legs. The hair of both sexes is usually worn loose over the face and shoulders; some of the men, however, divide it, by leather thongs, into two equal queues, which they allow to hang over the ears. Their tippet, or rheno, as it is called, is described to have been the most elegant article of Indian dress, that the travellers had ever seen. It is of otter-skin, tasselled with ermine; and not fewer than an hundred ermine-skins are required for each.
The inhabitants of the plains, to the west of the Rocky Mountains, appear to differ considerably from their neighbours on the higher grounds. The Chopunnish or Pierced Nose nation, who reside on the Kooskooskee, and the river now called Lewis's river, are, in person, stout, portly, and, good-looking men. The women are small, with regular features; and are generally handsome, though dark. Their chief ornaments are a buffalo or elk-skin robe, decorated with beads; and sea-shells, or mother-of-pearl, attached to an otter-skin collar, and hung in the hair, which falls in front in two queues. They likewise ornament themselves with feathers and paints of different kinds; principally white, green, and light blue, all of which they find in their own country. In winter, they wear a shirt of dressed skins, long painted leggings and moccasins, and a plat of twisted grass round the neck.
The dress of the women is more simple: it consists of a long shirt of argali-skin, which reaches down to the ankles, and is without a girdle: to this are tied shells, little pieces of brass, and other small articles; but their head is not at all ornamented.
The Chopunnish Indians have very few ornaments; for their life is painful and laborious; and all their exertions are necessary to earn their subsistence. During the summer and autumn they are busily occupied in fishing for salmon, and collecting their winter store of roots. In the winter, with snow-shoes on their feet, they hunt deer over the plains; and, towards the spring, they cross the mountains to the Missouri, for the purpose of trafficking for buffalo-robes.
In descending the Kooskooskee, the travellers had many opportunities of observing the arrangements of the Indians for preserving fish, particularly salmon, which are here very abundant. In some places, especially in the Columbia, the water was so clear, that these fish were seen at the depth of fifteen or twenty feet. During the autumn, they float down the stream in such numbers, that the Indians have only to collect, split, and dry them. Scaffolds and wooden houses, piled up against each other, for the purpose of fishing, were frequently observed. Indeed fish are here so abundant, that, in a scarcity of wood, dried salmon are often used as fuel.
A considerable trade is carried on in dried fish, which is thus prepared. The salmon, having been opened, and exposed some time to the sun, is pounded between two stones; then packed in baskets, neatly made of grass and rushes, which are lined and covered with salmon-skins, stretched and dried for that purpose. In these baskets, the pounded salmon is pressed down as hard as possible. Each basket contains from ninety to one hundred pounds; seven baskets are placed side by side, and five on the top. They are then covered with mats, and corded; and then again matted, thus forming a stack. In this manner the fish is kept sweet and sound for many years.
The Koo-koos-kee is greatly augmented by the junction of Lewis's river from the south; and the united streams, after flowing a considerable distance, fall into the still larger flood of the Columbia. At their junction, the width of the Columbia is nine hundred and sixty yards.
The Indians, in this part of America, are called Solkuks; and seem to be of a mild and peaceable disposition, and to live in a state of comparative happiness. Each man is contented with a single wife, with whom he shares the labours of procuring subsistence, much more than is usual among savages. What may be considered as an unequivocal proof of their good disposition, is the great respect which is shown to old age. Among other instances of it, the travellers observed, in one of the houses, an old woman perfectly blind; and who, as they were informed, had lived more than a hundred winters. In this state of decrepitude she occupied the best position in the house, seemed to be treated with great kindness, and whatever was said by her, was listened to with much attention.
The fisheries supply the Solkuks with a competent, if not an abundant subsistence. Fish is, indeed, their chief food; except roots, and the casual supplies of the antelope, which, to those who have only bows and arrows, must be very scanty. Most of the Solkuks have sore eyes, and many of them are blind of one or both eyes; and decayed teeth are very common among them.
The party proceeded down the Columbia. Fish was here so abundant, that in one day's voyage, they counted no fewer than twenty stacks of dried salmon.
They passed the falls of this river. These are not great; but, at a little distance below them, a very remarkable scene is presented to the view. At a place where the river is about four hundred yards wide, and where the stream flows with a current more rapid than usual, it widens into a large bend or basin, at the extremity of which a black rock, rising perpendicularly from the right shore, seems to run wholly across. So completely did it appear to block up the passage, that the travellers could not, as they approached, see where the water escaped; except that the current appeared to be drawn with peculiar velocity towards the left of the rock, where there was a great roaring. On landing, to survey it, they found that, for about half a mile, the river was confined within a channel only forty-five yards wide, whirling, swelling, and boiling, the whole way, with the wildest agitation imaginable. Tremendous as the pass was, they attempted it; and, to the astonishment of the Indians, they accomplished it in safety.
In the vicinity of this place, a tribe of Indians, called Echeloots, were settled. Here the travellers, for the first time, since they had left the Illinois country, observed wooden buildings. The floors were sunk about six feet in the ground, a custom implying at the same time a cold and dry climate.
Proceeding on their way, they saw an Indian, dressed in a round hat and a sailor's jacket, with his hair tied. Jackets, brass kettles, and other European or American articles, were observed to be common. These Indians are fond of ornamenting their boats and houses with rude sculptures and paintings. One of the chiefs exhibited, from what was called his great medicine-bag, fourteen fore-fingers, the trophies taken from as many enemies, whom he had killed in war. This was the first time that the travellers had known any other trophy preserved than the scalp. The great medicine-bag, among these Indians, is an useful invention; for, as it is deemed sacrilegious for any person, except the owner, to touch it, this bag serves the purpose of a strong-box, in which the most valuable articles may safely be deposited.
The Echeloots in their mode of sepulture, differ much from the generality of North American Indians. They have common cemeteries, where the dead, carefully wrapt in skins, are laid on mats, in a direction east and west. The vaults, or rather chambers, in which the bodies are deposited, are about eighty feet square, and six in height. The whole of the sides are covered with strange figures, cut and painted; and wooden images are placed against them. At the top of these sepulchral chambers, and on poles attached to them, brass-kettles are hung, old frying-pans, shells, skins, and baskets, pieces of cloth, hair, and other similar offerings. Among some of the tribes, the body is laid in one canoe and covered with another. Every where the dead are carefully deposited, and with like marks of respect. Captain Clarke says it is obvious, from the different articles which are placed by the dead, that these people believe in a future state of existence.
On the 2d of November, the travellers perceived the first tide-water; four days afterwards, they had the pleasure of hearing a few words of English, spoken by an Indian, who talked of a Mr. Haley, as the principal trader on the coast; and, on the 7th, a fog clearing off, gave them a sight of the Pacific Ocean.
They suffered great hardships near the mouth of the river. At one place, where they were detained two nights by the violence of the wind, the waves broke over them, and large trees, which the stream had carried along with it, were drifted upon them, so that, with their utmost vigilance, they could scarcely save the canoes from being dashed to pieces. Their next haven was still more perilous: the hills rose steep over their heads, to the height of five hundred feet; and, as the rain fell in torrents, the stones, upon their crumbling sides, loosened, and came rolling down upon them. The canoes, in one place, were at the mercy of the waves; the baggage was in another place; and the men were scattered upon floating logs, or were sheltering themselves in the crevices of the rocks.
The travellers, having now reached the farthest limits of their journey, once more began to look out for winter-quarters. But it was not till after a long search, that they discovered, at some distance from the shore, and near the banks of the Columbia, a situation in all respects convenient. But so incessant was the rain, that they were unable to complete their arrangements, till about the middle of December. Here, in latitude 46 degrees, 19 minutes, they passed three months, without experiencing any thing like the cold of the interior; but they were, in other respects, exposed to numerous inconveniences. The supply of food was precarious; being confined to the fish caught along the sea-coasts, and to a few elks and other animals, which were killed in the adjacent country.
The Indians, in this part of America, had been accustomed to traffic, along the shore, with European vessels, and had learned to ask exorbitant prices for their commodities. Their circulating money consisted of blue beads; but with these, as well as with other merchandise, their visitors were, at this time, very scantily supplied. These Indians were unacquainted with the use of ardent spirits, but they were no strangers to the vice of gaming.
During the winter, Captains Lewis and Clarke occupied much of their time in acquiring information concerning the country; and obtained some account of the number of tribes, languages, and population of the inhabitants, for about three hundred and sixty miles southward, along the coast; but of those in an opposite direction, they were unable to learn any thing more than their names.
The people of the four nations with whom they had the most intercourse; the Killamucks, Clatsops, Chinnoocks, and Cathlamahs, were diminutive and ill-made. Their complexions were somewhat lighter than those of the other North American Indians: their mouths were wide, their lips thick, and their noses broad, and generally flat between the eyes.
All the tribes who were seen west of the Rocky Mountain, have their foreheads flattened. The child, in order to be thus beautified, has its head placed in a kind of machine, where it is kept for ten or twelve months; the females longer than the males. The operation is gradual, and seems to give but little pain; but if it produces headache, the poor infant has no means of making its sufferings known. The head, when released from its bandage, Captain Clarke says, is not more than two inches thick, about the upper part of the forehead; and still thinner above. Nothing can appear more wonderful, than that the brain should have its shape thus altered, without any apparent injury to its functions.
There is an extensive trade carried on upon the Columbia, which must have existed before the coast was frequented by foreign traders; but to which the foreign trade has given a new impulse. The great emporium of this trade is at the falls, the Shilloots being the carriers between the inhabitants above and below. The Indians of the Rocky Mountains bring down bear's-grease, horses, and a few skins, which they exchange for beads, pounded fish, and the roots of a kind of water-plant, which are produced, in great abundance, in a tract of land between the Multomah and a branch of the Columbia. The mode of obtaining these roots is curious. A woman carries a canoe, large enough to contain herself, and several bushels of them, to one of the ponds where the plants grow; she goes into the water breast high, feels out the roots with her feet, and separates the bulbs from them with her toes. These, on being freed from the mud, float. The women often continue in the water at this employment for many successive hours, even in the depth of winter. The bulbs are about the size of a small potato, and, when roasted in wood ashes, constitute a palatable food.
These Indians are a very ingenious race. Even with their own imperfect tools, they make, in a few weeks, a canoe, which, with such implements, might be thought the work of years. A canoe, however, is very highly prized: it is considered of equal value with a wife, and is what the lover generally gives a father in exchange for his daughter. The bow and stern are ornamented with a sort of comb, and with grotesque figures of men or animals, sometimes five feet high, composed of small pieces of wood, skilfully inlaid and morticed, without a spike of any kind. Their bowls or troughs are scooped out of a block of wood; in these they boil their food. Their best manufacture is a sort of basket, of straw-work or cedar bark, and bear-grass, so closely interwoven as to be water-tight. Further south the natives roast their corn and pulse over a slow charcoal-fire, in baskets of this description, moving the basket about in such manner that it is not injured, though every grain within it is completely browned.
Among these Indians the women are well treated, and enjoy an extraordinary degree of influence. On many subjects their opinions are consulted: in matters of trade, their advice is generally asked and pursued. Sometimes they even take upon themselves a tone of authority; and the labours of the family are almost equally divided. No account is given by Captain Lewis of the superstitions of these people; and no inquiry seems to have been made concerning their religious belief.
Narrative of the return of Captains LEWIS and CLARKE, from the Pacific Ocean to St. Louis.
The commanders of the expedition were desirous of remaining on the coast of the Pacific till the arrival of the annual trading ships, hoping from them to be able to recruit their almost exhausted stores of merchandise; but, though these were expected in April, it was found impossible to wait. The elks, on which they chiefly depended for subsistence, had retreated to the mountains; and, if the Indians could have sold them food, they were too poor to purchase it. The whole stock of goods, on which they had to depend, for the purchase of horses and food, during a journey homeward, of nearly four thousand miles, was so much diminished, that it might all have been tied in two pocket-handkerchiefs. Their muskets, however, were in excellent order, and they had plenty of powder and shot.
On the 23d of March, 1806, the canoes were loaded, and they took a final leave of their encampment. Previously to their departure, they deposited, in the hands of the Indian chiefs, some papers specifying the dates of the arrival and departure of the expedition. This was done in a hope that at least some one of them might find its way into a civilized country. The course homeward was, during the first month, by water; the canoes being dragged, or carried overland, in places where the current of the Columbia was too strong to be navigated. On these occasions, the travellers were exposed to much annoyance from the pilfering habits of the Indians; and their provisions were so scanty that they were obliged to subsist on dog's-flesh: a diet which, at first, was extremely loathsome to them, but to which they in time became reconciled.