Friday, July 25, 2014

Zombies and Indians

I have two rituals when I am writing the kind of academic essays that require a greater level of concentration than I am usually willing to give to the duties of my life.  You can read into the latter part of that sentence all that you want regarding my attitude toward family and work.  Let’s focus on the first half of the sentence.  I really like writing academic essays of some length, say, 20 pages or more, based upon primary and secondary sources and all that.  I mean, I just like reading books, thinking about them, attempting to synthesize the material into something I think makes sense.   Writing is the best way that I know of to force oneself to think about a subject deeper than the level of truisms and received knowledge.  And I just like the challenge.
Which Way Did We Go?
            On the July 23rd, I completed the last paper for the class I have been taking as part of my commitment for the sabbatical.   The class concerned “The Enlightenment.”  I thought the readings in the class were a somewhat surprising, and probably we did not read as much as we should have.  But generally the class was fine, and did cover this vast subject with a broad stroke:  No Kant, Hume, Locke, Voltaire, but the Russian Dashkova, the French Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the British Jane Austen, The Americans Tom Paine and Lewis and Clark.  Writing assignments included an essay on each book, and then a larger essay related to one or more of the readings.  Since I had previously read Rousseau in the other class I completed while the Caravan rolled around the nation, I thought I would write my major paper for this class about him.  I am fascinated by Rousseau, I think because I dislike and disagree with him, while probably at the same time recognizing that much of my view of life and the world grows from his influence. 
More or less at the last moment, I decided to recognize that the itinerary of the Caravan and the syllabus of the class supported each other.  There we were reading Lewis and Clark’s Journals as we made our way east from Astoria, Oregon, into Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas.  After writing a shortish essay on discipline and reason during the expedition, I just said, “Hell, let’s stick with Lewis and Clark.”
Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Oregon
            This reasonable acceptance of reality also, incidentally, forced me, almost demanded, that I purchase a few more books in National Park gift shops and cute local bookshops like Vargo’s Jazz City and Books in Bozeman, Montana.   It took me a week of general reading, then a few days of fairly concentrated writing.  The writing interfered with my touring Fort Lincoln, the Custer House, and the earth lodges at On-a-Slant Village, there at the state park outside Mandan, North Dakota where we bivouacked last week.  Because of length, I broke the essay into three blogs:  here, here, and here.
            So my routines.  The first is that I have to wear a bandana when I write.  It’s a must with serious writing.  Am I wearing one now?  No.  This blog resembles journal entries more that serious writing.  Here, as you know, I let my mind wonder.  Here, I am experimenting with ideas and their connections, not asserting that I have found some kind of truth.  Closer to my Confessions, maybe?  With wondering, there is no need for some cloth accoutrement to prevent brain wattage from leaking.   
            The second ritual is to obsess over some small stupidity that has nothing to do with the essay that I am writing.  During a previous sabbatical, ten years ago, when I returned to Texas A and M to complete the classes toward a Ph.D., each evening between12:00 and 1:00 I would play solitaire on the computer, Vegas rules.  Many nights I went to bed owing a thousand dollars only to awaken debt free.  This week, I have been watching The Walking Dead on Netflix.  On a trip such as this, when television and wifi connections are sporadic at best, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are welcome technologies, and you take advantage of them when you can.  My routine for a few days at Lincoln State Park was to sit myself down in the coffee shop of the Commissary during the day and write.  I would use their internet to double check facts and to locate scholarly articles in JSTOR and other services and download them.  Later, I read those articles and other sources, then planned for the next day, organized notes, marked up texts, and other such pre-writing activities.  Then at 10:00 at night, once the sun had gone down here in the North Country, Captain Crunch and I would hop in the truck and drive up to the Commissary again.  The Commissary closed at 5:00, so we parked in a no-parking zone, a few yards from the building, connected to the internet, with our respective devices.  I watched The Walking Dead while he indulged in Mindcraft videos produced by a family acquaintance, a kid a couple years older than the Captain.
Fort Mandan, near Bismarck, North Dakota
            If you haven’t watched The Walking Dead and think at some point you might want to, here is the Spoiler Alert Warning.  Join us again at the beginning of the next paragraph.  I am going to discuss a scene from the second season, beginning now.    If you have seen the show, you will remember that as we follow our group of survivors, they find temporary relief from running from Zombies while staying at Hershel Greene’s idyllic farm—that is until they discover that Hershel is keeping Zombies in the barn.  Hershel is a good Christian man who believes, essentially, that the Zombies are still living beings and merely have a disease that will prove curable at some future time.  Shane, the testosterone driven bundle of freaked out emotions, eventually breaks open the barn door and slowly the Zombies, which include members of Hershel’s family, emerge from darkness to light, from dormant mumbling to murderous hunger.  Many of the members of our group stand in front of the barn and, as each Zombie exits, blasts it in the head.  It is a massacre, a dozen or more Zombies fall to ground.  It is also great television.  The audience is both horrified and compelled to watch.  Hershel collapses in grief.  Rick, the troubled leader, stands helpless as his authority is challenged.  The youngster Carl peeks through his mother’s arms, as he yearns for warrior status.  Our moral conscience, Dale, mourns his friends’ dissent into chaos and cold-blooded murder.  In the context of the show, having witnessed unnumbered Zombie attacks and mourned the loss of favored characters, we understand the impetus, the urge, to rid the earth of Zombies.  Still this act makes some of us uneasy.  The scene has one additional surprise, but in case you haven’t watched the program and are reading this anyway, I will save you one shocker.
            So the gist is that in The Walking Dead, good, ole Americans kill perfectly sincere Zombies, just living out their Zombie lives (or death, depending on your values).  And there are several characters, who from the very first episode, help us feel a little kinship and sympathy for the walking dead.  All well and good.  “It’s a tv show,” you will say and slap my forehead as if I forgot something important.
            However, we English teacher types know that these media productions just aren’t simple entertainment.   Entertainments grow from our cultural pleasures and pains, our hopes and our fears.  It has been that way since the Popol Voh, Genesis, and Gilgamesh, and the Bhagavad Gita.   I have not studied up on Zombies and their supposed importance to the popular imagination, but The Walking Dead and World War Z give us a pretty clear idea.  As a culture, we are afraid of contagions that will off us all in a quick pandemic.  Influenza, Ebola, Hantavirus, Rabies, Small Pox, E. Coli, STDs of various kinds, Tuburculosis, and more seem to be awaiting on every doorknob and in the spray of every uncovered sneeze.  Today, we feel that “Other People” are dangerous and capable of making us sick as dogs.  Only by arming ourselves with masks and latex gloves and by slathering sanitizing lotions can we survive. 
            Simple enough, we feel vulnerable, and we express that vulnerability in our art forms.  We deal with our fear by telling stories that scare us.  We humans are complicated creatures, but we aren’t that complicated.  The only question is how frightened will we become and how far will be go to protect ourselves.  Will we all retreat into our own protective bubble?  The Boy in the Bubble as a symbol for Everyman?  Will all of us pure, clean people quarantine ourselves?  Will all of us vulnerable people kill every metaphorical bee, or ban every metonymic peanut from public life? 
            So these are the thoughts I entertain myself with at night, as I think about Lewis and Clark and their journey across the western half of the U.S.  Some days, I read and write, and some days I visit historical sites, and some nights I watch The Walking Dead, and it all starts to jumble around in the head.
            For instance, in a biography of William Clark by Landon Y. Jones—William Clark and the Shaping of the American West—I read about a couple of massacres.   In 1791, in the Ohio Territory, American General Arthur S. Clair and his troops—“615 regulars, 1,675 levies, and 470 militiamen—march through Ohio building roads and forts.  Then on November 4, Little Turtle of the Miamis and Blue Jacket of the Shawnees organize their 1000 warriors and attack.  One soldier reported hearing a sound, “not terrible, as has been represented, but more resembling an infinitude of horse-bells suddenly opening to you than any other sound I could compare it to.”  Jones writes that accounts of the battle differ according to witnesses, but they all agree “on two points:  the battle lasted about three hours, and it was a scene of indescribable horror.”  About 630 of the 1400 men under arms were killed, scalped, sometimes dismembered.  “The mouths of the dead were filled with dirt, mocking the American’s land-hunger.”
Sacagawea Monument
Near Mobridge, South Dakota
            And Landon Jones tells another story, that of American militia commander, David Williamson.  In 1792, he found a group of Native Americans of the Delaware tribe, who had been converted to Christianity.  Without many questions, he ordered them to Fort Pitt “for their protection.”  But when he discovered that they used tea kettles and tea cups and such utensils, he ordered them into two houses.  He and his men, all good Americans systematically murdered 42 men, 20 women, and 34 children.
            I was researching and found both of these stories. Some day soon after that, the Caravan rolled through western Montana and spent a couple of days exploring the bloodied land around Little Big Horn, where Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull showed the Seventh Calvary a thing or two.   The Caravan moved on, and we drove through the Badlands in South Dakota, visiting the Wounded Knee Massacre Museum.  At the Battle of the Little Big Horn, 268 soldiers dead and 55 wounded.   At Wounded Knee, over 150 men, women, and children were killed, and 51 wounded.  Some estimates go higher. 
            Then, all of a sudden, I began to look at The Walking Dead in a different way.  A 1831 quotation from Tocqueville began to haunt me:  "In the midst of this American society, so well policed, so sententious, so charitable, a cold selfishness and complete insensibility prevails when it is a question of the natives of the country," he writes.  Voicing the American attitude, he continues, “This world here belongs to us, they tell themselves every day: the Indian race is destined for final destruction which one cannot prevent and which is not desirable to delay.  Heaven has not made them to become civilized; it is necessary that they die.”  Where have I seen this sentiment before?  In The Walking Dead, this stupid television show?
Sitting Bull
at Sitting Bull Grave Site
            The Walking Dead, then, is just another retelling of the Cowboy/Calvary and Indian tales that I grew up with.  Kill or be killed.  Us versus Them.  The only good Indian is a dead Indian.  And so this is where things get even more dicey.  What is all this fear and hated and violence about? Please notice I am not proclaiming anyone innocent here, because I am not buying the Us versus Them narrative.  Everybody is guilty somehow.  I don't think I am being PC.  What I am interested in is this narrative that we repeat over and over to ourselves:  There is a group of people who will infect me, turn me into one of them.  This narrative is saying, therefore, that who I am is fragile.  It is a phobic narrative.  Remember John Wayne in The Searchers.  He was going to kill the young white woman who was kidnapped by the Indians, because she had lived with them, and who knows? 
            For White America, the antagonists of this narrative seem to shift through the years.  At one time, it was Native Americans.  At another time, it was African Americans.  Recently, hasn’t it been Hispanic Americans?  Straight America fears and retaliates against Gay Americans.  I think of the misogynist films, literature, and music of the sixties and seventies, when Male America feared Female America.  We can’t let women make us soft, now can we, men?
            Of course, this fear of being infected, of being changed, isn’t just our narrative.  We see it in the Balkans, in Russia, in Israel, among the Sunnis and Shiites.  I see it on MSNBC as well as on Fox News.
Native American Memorial
The Battle of the Little Bighorn

            What is this fragility that we all feel so deeply in our souls that we have to murder, or merely demean, anyone who makes us feel it?  Why aren’t we immune?  I realize I am simplifying the conflict.  I know there are histories.  And I know there just are some Sons of Bitches that you just have to stop with a bullet, if necessary.  I know that I am writing from a position of privilege--I am, after all, a white middle class, educated male.  Life has been relatively easy for me.  I have the luxury of traveling the US for a year and thinking these thoughts, by god.  But I also suspect that someday we will have to tell ourselves new stories besides the ones in which we are potential victims, stories in which we are the good and the living, and those other people are the evil and the dead.  If we don’t, I fear we will all be the dead.
           As I continue to watch The Walking Dead, now that the academic essay has been turned in (I don't think it is completed, just abandoned for a while), I have another realization.  As I observe our little band of heroes, scraping a life together, back on the road, mobil, nomad; and as I observe the Zombies who just keep coming, more and more of them, more and more of them, in larger and hungrier groups, I realize I have something wrong.  We good Americans, in the audience watching this story unfold, should not identify with the band of heroes, running, frightened.  No, we are the Zombies.  We are the never ending hordes claiming territory from the nomadic clan.  In America: The Movie, Dinesh D'Souza says that more Native Americans died of diseases carried by the "settlers" than by warfare.   Maybe in The Walking Dead, we don't have a narrative to calm our fears.  We have a narrative to assuage our guilt.  Please, we don't want to be Zombies any longer.  We don't want to die with our mouths full of dirt.

Soundtrack.  The Guess Who:  "Share the Land."
The Guess Who:  "American Woman"  14 minutes of it!
[Yes, I know, this is a Canadian band, but . . . .]

          

Caught in the Currents, Parts 7-8

[This is the third installment of an academic paper I wrote for a class.  You can see that I got tired and just tried to wrap things up at this point.  Maybe some day I will return to the essay to finish it up properly.]

Parts 1-3 are here.
Parts 4-6 are here.

VII.               William Clark and Indian Removal
The tragic life of Meriwether Lewis following his return to St. Louis is well documented and deeply felt.  Most scholars agree that he committed suicide in a wayside tavern along the Natchez Trace.   It was October 11, 1809, only three years after the expedition ended.  By all evidence, he had completed very little work, if any, preparing his and Clark’s journals for publication.  Jefferson, his sponsor, was then out of office; Lewis appeared to be hounded by debts, and he was drinking to excess.
William Clark’s life followed a different pattern.  He remained in the armed services, fought in the War of 1812, was named Governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813, and when Missouri became a state in 1820, he was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs, a position he held until his death in 1838.  By the time he had died, the United States was composed of 24 states.  Every territory east of the Mississippi River, except for Florida and Wisconsin had been admitted into the Union.  People continued to move west.
One of Clark’s duties was to help supervise the removal of Native Americans from the states east of the Mississippi and relocate them west of the Mississippi.  Among them were the Five Civilized Tribes who were being removed to Oklahoma.  “[T]he first stage alone of the Choctaw removal would uproot five thousand people—and because gold had been discovered on Cherokee land in 1829” (Jones 304).  With tribes also being removed from the Northwest Territories of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, the situation in the west was going worse.  One agent wrote, “[T]he Osages appear to be a very unhappy people, and I think it is altogether attributable to the emigration of so many Red People to the West.  The game is entirely destroyed and they see that they must now cultivated the soil for a subsistence” (Jones 305-6).
At this point, there was no stopping the western migration of Americans looking for land, work, and commerce.  It is estimated that between 1846 and 1869 over 400,000 individuals migrated on the Oregon Trail. 

VIII.             Conclusion
The goal of this essay has been demonstrate that while the Lewis and Clark Expedition was in many ways an amazing accomplishment for its time and place, it was also part of a pattern.   I believe that one can argue that it was simply one of many events that opened the western half of the North American continent to people of European and American origins.  While there was some acclaim at its inception and completion, as time progressed, other explorations, other commercial ventures, and public policies captured the public’s attention. 
One example is that it was not until a hundred years following the expedition that a reliable version of the journals was published.  “With only 1417 copies known to have been disseminated, it was a relatively rare book and had to suffice as the only source of information” (Silliman xiii).  Wide-scale acknowledgement of Lewis and Clark’s Expedition did not begin until the centennial of the journey, with the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland.  The recent bi-centennial has expanded our knowledge and admiration of Lewis and Clark.  Many sites now available for history buffs to visit have been opened only recently.  The site of Fort Clatsop was not identified until 1899, with another fifty years passing before a replica of the fort was built.  The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation was not created until 1991. Pompey’s Pillar did not become a Historical Landmark until 1995.   It was not until 2002 that archeologists established the real location of Traveler’s Rest, at Traveler’s Rest State Park in Montana.
It is inspiring for some to read Stephen Ambrose’s stirring prose and his assertion that the most important act that Jefferson committed was the purchase of the Louisiana Purchase and its exploration by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.   I find it interesting to note that in two recent histories of Western Humanities that Lewis and Clark do not receive mention.  Both Jacob Bronowski’s The Western Intellectual Tradition and Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence devote considerable space to Thomas Jefferson.  However, like Jefferson himself, who for his gravestone listed his greatest accomplishments as “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, & Father of the University of Virginia,”   Bronowski and Barzun place his importance elsewhere. 
I am not attempting to diminish the accomplishments and skills of the men and woman in the Corps of Discovery.  I am attempting to see it in context, not as a unique exceptional act.  Some say the art of leadership is recognizing where people are going and to get in front.  In a very real way, this was Jefferson’s, Lewis’s, and Clark’s genius.  They participated in a widespread migration that eventually led to the Pacific Transcontinental Railroad, the Massacre at Wounded Knee, and the final removal of the Sioux to reservations.  Today, Thomas Jefferson stares down from Mount Rushmore on land that once belonged to the Sioux, and Crazy Horse glares back.  Sometimes our desire to write and interpret history creates a “reality” different from the historical reality.


Works Referred To
Allen, John, L.  “An Analysis of the Exploratory Process:  The Lewis and Clark
             Expedition of 1804-1806.”  Geographical Review 62:1 (Jan. 1972).  13-39.
              JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stagle/214058  Accessed 04/07/2014.
Ambrose, Stephen E.  Undaunted Courage:  Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson,
            and the Opening of the American West.  New York:  Simon and Schuster.
1996.
Barzun, Jacques.  From Dawn to Decadence:  1500 to the Present.  New York:
             HarperCollins.  200.
Bronowski, Jacob and Bruce Mazlish.  The Western Intellectual Tradition:  From
             Leonardo to Hegel.  New York:  Harper.  1960.
Christian, Shirley.  Before Lewis and Clark:  The Story of the Chouteaus, The
French Dynasty that Ruled America’s Frontier.  New York:  Farrar, Straus
and Giroux.
Delorian, Vine, Jr.  “Frenchmen, Bears, and Sandbars.”  Lewis and Clark Through
             Indian Eyes.  ed. Alvin. M. Josephy, Jr.  New York:  Vintage Books.  2006
Harris, Burton.  John Colter:  His Years in the Rockies.  Lincoln:  U of Nebraska P.
             1993.
Jackson, Donald.  “The Race to Publish Lewis and Clark.” Pennsulvania Magazine
of History and Biography  85:2 (1961): 163–77.
Jefferson, Thomas.  “Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, 1801.”  A
             Documentary History of the United States.  Ed. Richard D. Heffner.  New
York:  Signet.  2002.  79-83.
Jones, Landon Y.  William Clark and the Shaping of the West.  Lincoln:  U Nebraska P.
              2004.
Lavender, David.  The Way to the Western Sea: Lewis and Clark across the Continent."
            Lincoln:  U of Nebraska Press.  1998. Online.  The Journals of Lewis and
Clark. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln. <http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/read/?_xmlsrc=lc.lavender.01.01.xml&_xslsrc=LCstyles.xsl>  Accessed. 14/7/2014.
Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark.  The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  Ed.  John
             Bakeless.  New York:  Signet. 1964
Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark.  The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  Ed.
Anthony Brandt.  Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, 2002.
Meinig Donald W. “Continental America, 1800-1915: The View of an Historical
            Geographer.”  The History Teacher, 22: 2 (Feb., 1989). 189-203.  JSTOR:
.Accessed: 16/07/2014
Ronda. James P.  “Dreams and Discoveries:  Exploring the American West, 1760-1815.”
             The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 46:1 (Jan 1889) 145-162.  JSTOR
            http://www.sstor.org/stable/1922412  Accessed 04/07/2014.
----------.  “St. Louis Welcomes Lewis and Clark.”  Voyages of Discovery:  Essays on
the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Ed. James P. Rhoda.  Helena: Montana
 Historical Association P.  1998.  203-205.
Silliman, Eugene Lee.  “Introduction.”  Floating on the Missouri:  100 Years after
Lewis and Clark. Shultz, James Willard  Helena:  Riverbend Publishing.  2003.
Utley, Robert M.   After Lewis and Clark:  Mountain Men and the Paths to the
Pacific.  Lincoln:  U Nebraska P.  1997.
Vevier Charles. “American Continentalism: An Idea of Expansion, 1845-1910.”
The American Historical Review 65: 2 (Jan., 1960).  323-335.  JSTOR.
  Accessed: 16/07/2014.
White, Richard.  “The Winning of the West:  The Expansion of the Western Sioux
in the Eighteen and Nineteenth Centuries.”  The Journal of American History
65:2 (Sept 1978):  319-343.  JSTOR  http://www.jstor.ore/stable/1894083
Accessed 04/07/2014.





Caught in the Currents. Parts 4-6

[This is the second installment of a somewhat lengthy academic type essay.]
You can begin at Introduction and Parts 1-3 here.


IV.               The Sioux
One of the most famous passages in the Journals of Lewis and Clark is their meeting the Teton Sioux in late September, 1804.  Stephen Ambrose devotes a full chapter to this one month.   The Corps of Discovery had been traveling the Missouri River upstream for five month and were near entering the territory that would become known as South Dakota.  Sioux is the European name for the Lakota or Dakota tribes.  On September 24, expedition member John Colter was out hunting when five Sioux warriors  stole his horse, the only horse the expedition owned at the time.    Clark met the warriors and arranged to meet with their chiefs. 
After decades of meeting with Native American tribes, Europeans and Americans understood the habitual rituals and protocols.  Gifts were exchanged, the peace pipe was smoked and passed around, speeches were made.  In the journals, Clark and Lewis are pretty clear that they regarded such rituals as essential, yet empty exercises.  They felt that the gifts they offered were, in many cases, valueless trinkets.  In some cases, the chiefs they met with, perhaps, felt the same.  On September 25, without an adequate interpreter, Lewis was unable to make his usual speech, and afterward, the three visiting chiefs appeared to desire something more from the meeting.  Clark invited the men onto one of the boats and shared whiskey with them.  When the chiefs demanded more, Clark eventually had to forcefully begin to escort the chiefs off the boat.  The warriors on shore then took hold of the boats. Clark drew his sword.  Lewis manned a gun and the rest of the crew raised theirs.  The Sioux warriors pulled their bows..  It was a dangerous stand-off.  Eventually, Clark was able to reason with the head chief and violence was averted. As Clark writes, “I felt myself warm and spoke in positive terms” (Lewis and Clark 71).  
Relations with the Sioux continued to be strained.  Many meetings were held, speeches made, gift exchanged.  Native American wives danced, brandishing scalps, in celebration of their husbands’ bravery.  Wives were offered for the night, but Lewis and Clark refused the gesture.  After about a week, the expedition continued on, again not without an incident in which the Captains had to entreat the chiefs to exert some influence over their warriors.  Clark, this time, was ready to fire, but Lewis offered more tobacco as gifts, and the Sioux relented.  Ambrose concludes, “Given the hot tempers on both sides, it was just as well.  No matter how long Lewis and Clark stayed with the Sioux, they were not going to make them into friends except by giving more than they could afford” (175).  Lewis and Clark had avoided gunfire and had gotten past the Sioux encampment, but the Sioux were not friends and were “capable of blocking any later expeditions and in a rage at the Americans” (175).  Clark is clear in his assessment.  In his report on the Native American tribes, which he sent to Jefferson the following spring, he writes that the Sioux are “the vilest miscreants of the savage race, and must ever remain the pirates of the Missouri, until such measures are pursued, by our government, as will make them feel a dependence on its will for their supply of merchandise” (qtd in Jones 134).
            Lewis and Clark’s week of danger among the Sioux re-enforce, therefore, certain fears and expectations that Americans had and have about Native Americans.  Emerging from the Ohio River Valley with the prejudices and memory of the conflicts developed there, men such as Clark were more often surprised when relationships with Native Americans went peacefully. 
However, it is important to note that the Sioux were unusual among the Northern Plains Indians.  Many tribes co-operated peacefully with the advancing White settlers, but history, which, to be written for fun and profit, needs heroes and villains.  Richard White points out that “The exaggerated focus on the heroic resistance of certain plains tribes to white incursions” obscures the fact that “Indians on the plains had fought each other long before Whites came and that intertribal warfare remained very significant until late in the nineteenth century” (320).  White even postulates that for northern and central plains Indians the invasion of the Sioux tribes was a more important development than the migration of Whites from the east (320).
With guns and horses, the nomadic Sioux became the dominant hunting force from the Rockies, eastward.  In the eighteenth century. When the French and Spanish traders moved in, they attempted to replace the Sioux as intermediaries in the economic chain.  “For the French and the Spanish, therefore, successful commerce on the Missouri necessarily meant the destruction of the old Sioux trading patterns (324).  They tried but never succeeded.  More important, it turns out, was the fact that the Sioux, because they were migratory, and did not establish permanent settlements like the Mandans, experienced the devastation of epidemic diseases to lesser degrees.  By the mid-nineteen century, there simply were more Sioux than members of other tribes.  In this way, they were able to dominate other tribes and to resist the American army for a longer period. 
William Clark’s repugnance toward the Sioux is not simply, then, a reaction to what he considered rude behaviors.  The Sioux were not the typical Native American tribe with a history of sustaining relationships with Europeans.  They were, instead, the dominate tribe in the region.  Their power was at the time increasing.  There was no need for peace with the thirty-plus Americans and Frenchmen who were traveling up the Missouri.  That Clark and Lewis escaped with their lives may be accounted for by luck as much as by show of strength or diplomatic skills. 

V.             Lewis and Clark and the Failure to Find a Northwest Passage
The story of the Lewis and Clark expedition following their brief time with the Sioux is well known and well documented.  In the fall, they made their way to the Village of the Mandans in what is today southern North Dakota.  The Mandans had been trading with Europeans for decades, and welcomed the Americans.  Lewis and Clark and their men spent the winter with them, employed Toussaint Charbonneau as guide and he insisted that his pregnant wife Sacagawea come along.  Sacagawea turned out to be instrumental to the completion of the expedition as she was able to guide the expedition to the land of her people, the Shoshone in the Rocky Mountains (she having been captured and taken from her people as a very young girl).  With the help of the Shoshone, the expedition traversed the Rocky Mountains, spent a little time in a place named Traveler’s Rest, near present day Missoula, made it to the Columbia River, and then to the Pacific Ocean, where they met other friendly tribes, the Clatsops and the Chinooks.  There, they weathered another winter near present-day Astoria, Oregon, at a place they named Fort Clatsop.  Returning, they met with the Nez Perce, stayed with them until they could cross the Western Rockies, rested again at Traveler’s Rest.  Then Lewis and Clark split their men, and traveled separately, Lewis to the north and Clark to the south to present day Yellowstone River.  Lewis ran into trouble with the Crow, while Clark traveled the Yellowstone River, rested at a place now called Pompey’s Pillar, and finally met up with a wounded (accidentally by his own man)  Lewis. I mention all these place names because today each of them have become tourist destinations along a well advertised Lewis and Clark Trail sponsored by the National Park Association and other state local park organizations.  Lewis and Clark are heralded all across the west from St. Louis, Missouri, to Astoria, Oregon. 
The irony, of course, is that they failed to accomplish Thomas Jefferson’s primary charge:  to find a water route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.  Certainly, there was none to be found. Still, they were glad to be back.  The day they arrived, after storing their belongings, Lewis and Clark stayed at Pierre Chouteau’s home.  That evening they dined with Auguste Chouteau, and the following night with Pierre (Christian 147).  Two days after the expedition returned to St. Louis on September 23, 1806, over two years after it had departed, the city leaders held a celebration dinner.  However, because St. Louis did not have a newspaper, news of event did not spread quickly.  In fact, only one newspaper even reported the celebration, that of The Western World in Frankfort, Kentucky, on October 11, 1806 (Rhoda 203).
So locally, the return of the expedition was important commercial news.  While much of the territory that Lewis and Clark had traveled was known and well documented by the French, “they had not yet tried to establish permanent sites north of the Platte” (Christian 148).  In addition, the Chouteaus had a new competitor, Manuel Lisa, who was beginning to plan an expedition of his own, intent on building forts up the Missouri to the Yellowstone River.  Among the toasts that The Western World reported were those to “The Missouri Expedition—May the knowledge of the newly explored regions of the West, be the least benefit that we may derive from this painful and perilous expedition,” “The Commerce of the United States—The basis for the political elevation of America,” and “Agriculture and Industry—The famer is the best support of government” (Rhoda, “St. Louis,” (205).  In St. Louis, at least, all eyes were on the future and the future lay west.
In her article, “The Press Response to the Corps of Discovery: The Making of Heroes in an Egalitarian Age,” Betty Houchin Winfield examines the various reports in the nation’s newspapers of the expedition’s completion.  Winfield’s primary goal is to examine how heroes are created and described in a society:  “[T]his study examines the print media coverage for descriptions of the Corps members and in particular seeks the references to these generally agreed-upon heroic attributes.”  At the time, news was difficult to come by.  Newspapers were relatively expensive and scarce, there being about 250 papers in the nation and the vast majority of those were weeklies.  The reportage concerning the expedition was based partially upon the letter that Lewis wrote President Jefferson in which he acknowledged that no water passage to the Pacific existed but also envisioned, with government assistance, great fur trade and established routes of travel (Ambrose 410-11).  Mostly newspaper reports grew from a letter that Clark sent his brother George Rogers Clark.  Because Lewis was the better writer and because they knew that this letter would receive wide distribution, Lewis composed the letter, which Clark rewrote and signed.  Winfield points out that while they did not use the term “hero” in the letter for themselves or for their crew, they did describe their adventure in such language and detail that heroic qualities were often emphasized.  Describing Clark’s letter as a prototypical press release, Winfield describes how the original framing was repeated in subsequent reports:  “These repeated news accounts also republished the Palladium's introduction, emphasizing the Corps attributes: ‘we are persuaded all think and feel alike, on the courage, perseverance and prudent deportment displayed by this adventurous party.’” 
Ambrose’s evaluation of the letter and its content is political and practical.  Comparing Clark’s public letter to Lewis’ official report to Jefferson, Ambrose notes the addition of “considerable details on some of the difficulties and risk involved” (412).  Clark’s letter includes “tremendous mountains and terrible portages and turbulent rapids and near-starvation and various Indian encounters” (412).  These would capture the public’s imagination and thirst for more information—Lewis and Clark already planned to publish their journals.  The details would also yank on Congress’s purse strings—they needed to repay themselves and their crew for their time and efforts. 
They were soon successful in the second goal.  Success in the first goal of publishing their journals was, perhaps, never achieved.  Lewis, whose job it was to prepare their journals for the publisher, apparently never did much work toward that goal and this failure may have figured into his suicide.  With Clark’s supervision, an abridged version of the journals were eventually published in 1814, in a relatively small printing of under 1500 copies, edited by Nicholas Biddle.   According to Donald Jackson, “The so-called Biddle narrative was considered by Jefferson to be only a stopgap publication.”  Eventually, the journals were published but not until 1904, as Jackson points out, “exactly a century after the exploring party pushed westward from St. Louis toward the Pacific.”

VI.           Colter, Drouillard, and the Fur Trade
Not all the members of the Corps of Discovery made the journey to the Pacific Ocean and back to St. Louis.  One member, Charles Floyd died, probably from appendicitis, in the third month out, August, 1804.  Two members were tried in courts martial and sent back after the winter with the Mandans, in April, 1805, along with a corporal, several privates, and French boatmen, who were in charge of returning reports, maps, and specimens of flora and fauna that Lewis and Clark had prepared.  On the return trip, in 1806, Toussaint Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and their son Jean Baptist remained at their home with the Mandans.  In addition, John Colter, one of the Corps most trusted men, joined two trappers, with special permission from his Captains, to return to the mountains and begin a career as a trapper.
On the journey from Fort Clatsop to St. Louis, the expedition halted for a few days near Missoula, at a location they called “Traveler’s Rest.”  Then on July 3, 1806, Lewis and Clark separated and divided their company.  Clark and several men traveled south toward what is now Yellowstone National Park, found the Yellowstone River and explored along it.  Lewis, John Colter, and others went north.  On August 11, 1806, one of his men while hunting accidentally shot Lewis, but at this point, he continued hurrying down the Yellowstone searching for Clark.  On the morning of the twelfth, Lewis found the camp of two men, Joseph Dixon and Forest Hancock, who told him that they had met Clark only the day before, also traveling downstream.  Dixon and Hancock told Lewis “they had left the Illinois in the summer of 1804, since which time they had been ascending the Missouri, hunting and trapping, that they had been robbed by the Indians” (Lewis and Clark, Bakeless, 356).  The previous year, Dixon had been wounded by a Sioux warrior, but had recovered well. 
This meeting is important for two reasons.  First, the timelines indicate that Dixon and Hancock, as two individual trappers, had followed along in the tracks of Lewis and Clark for almost their entire journey. Lewis and Clark may have traveled across the Rockies, but independent trappers were on their heels east of the Rockies.  Second, John Colter met these men, there with Lewis, and saw his future.  Dixon and Hancock traveled with the expedition to the Mandan village, resupplied, and when the Corps of Discovery departed to St, Louis on August 17, they and John Colter headed back up the Missouri and then up the Yellowstone.  John Coulter’s biographer, Burton Harris, weighs various accounts of his subject and discounts Nicholas Biddle’s portrayal of him as a man “weaned from the habits of civilized life” (Biddle, qtd in Harris 36).  In addition, that did not appear to be Lewis and Clark’s assessment, who arranged for Coulter’s discharge date to be the same as all their men’s.  They wished Colter success, and most likely viewed Coulter’s choice to leave the expedition at that time as an attempt to apply his hard-earned expertise in an intriguing business opportunity.  
Apparently, not all proceeded as hoped.  The following year after a winter in the Rockies, Colter separated from Dixon and Hancock.  On his return trip down the Platt River, where it joined the Missouri, he found three of his former Corps colleagues, including George Drouillard.  It was 1807, and already new expeditions were heading into the Rockies hunting for furs, especially beaver.   Manuel Lisa from St. Louis funded this expedition.  Colter joined the Lisa group and worked from Fort Raymond, one of a series of Forts that Lisa planned to build to support his business operations. 
Lisa assigned Droulliard and Colter the job of venturing deeper into Native American lands to inform the tribes that Lisa’s operation was now functioning and that he wished to form business partnerships with them.  Both Coulter’s and Droulliard’s travels have become the stuff of myth, as much as has the travels of Lewis and Clark.  Since Colter made three trips, and Droulliard one (he traveled with Lisa to St. Louis during Coulter’s latter two trips), we will focus on Colter.  His first exploration took him 500 miles on foot to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, Jackson Lake, Yellowstone Lake, and other parts of current Yellowstone National Park, including the thermal called “Coulter’s Hell.” On the second venture, he traveled the Yellowstone and Gallatin Rivers, joined a tribe of Flathead Indians and was wounded in a fight pitting Flatheads and Crow against the Blackfeet.   Next, on a beaver hunt, he and another Lewis and Clark veteran, John Potts had a gun fight with the Blackfeet, Potts was killed and slaughtered, and Colter was forced to run for his life.  Naked and afraid, he killed one pursuing Blackfoot, hid from the others, and then walked, barefoot, 200 miles in eleven days back to Fort Raymond (Utley 15-17).
Hostilities with the Blackfeet continued. Fort Raymond was abandoned and closed, then reopened.  A new fort was built at Three Forks.  Hunting there was good and safe for a time.  Eventually, however, Droulliard was killed and mutilated.  That was enough for Colter.  He traveled back to St. Louis with a letter from the commander of Three Forks for Pierre Chouteau stating that this area of the country was rich in beaver, but that the Blackfeet had to be subdued in some manner for the venture to be successful (Utley 18-19).  It was 1810, only four years after Lewis and Clark’s expedition had returned to St. Louis. Everyone knew that riches were waiting for the right people.

One of those people was John Jacob Astor.  Unlike Lisa Manuel and the Chouteaus, Astor was not focusing on the local.  Like Jefferson, Astor had his sights on the Pacific Ocean and a fur trading empire that stretched the continent and served both Europe and China.  Like Jefferson, Astor had been watching the Canadian explorations of Alexander Mackenzie, who had traveled the breadth of continent north of the 49th Parallel, and he observed the success of Hudson Bay Company.  In 1808 he was ready to compete with his Pacific Fur Company, and by 1811, his men would undertake the second expedition across the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean.  Within a couple of years, the town of Astoria, Oregon, would be founded at the mouth of the Columbia, within miles of Fort Clatsop, and the famous South Pass of the Oregon Trail would be “discovered.”  The West was open.

Go to Part VII