Friday, June 24, 2022
Temperature 81 Degrees, Thunderstorms then clearing late in the day
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Washburn, ND
This is a post regarding a museum we went to while in Bismarck, ND.
Our introduction to Lewis and Clark was at the Missouri River Basin in Nebraska City while we were staying at Victorian Acres RV Park.
Thus, one of the places we wanted to visit while in Bismarck was the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. We wanted to learn more about their expedition and where they spent their first winter.
Before you even enter the Center, you encounter this impressive statue of Captain Lewis and Clark, and Chief Sheheke. This is the Mandan chief the Captains met when they stopped for the winter, the same chief who declared that If we eat you shall eat, if we starve, you must starve also. With these words Lewis and Clark found hope that they and the men with them would be sustained through a long, cold winter yet to come.
You’ll remember that the expedition was commissioned by President Jefferson who had
a clear and immediate need to send an expedition out to explore the uncharted wilderness of the west.
Thus, in 1804 a team of men led by Captain Lewis and Clark set off from the St. Charles, Missouri area on a voyage into the unknown. Their journey west – up the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean – made them the first Americans to document overland travel to the Pacific.
I found this very interesting. Especially the last sentence of the last picture. I wonder if the Native American Indians who accepted them would agree. Or if they even knew what their acceptance of the medals meant.
Another interesting fact that I uncovered. One of the myths that was popularized over the years was that Lewis and Clark were always clad in buckskin garments. The truth, however, is that this was first and foremost a military operation from start to finish. Jefferson believed that only soldiers possessed the teamwork, discipline and training appropriate for such a difficult mission. And since it was a military expedition, the soldiers were expected to wear military uniforms at all times.
And so the journey began.
Soon winter set in and they needed to stop. And needed to find a suitable location to do so. Did you catch that last little bit about the winter temperature? Goodness, I wonder how many blankets one would need for that low a temperature.
On this map you can see the believed site of Fort Mandan and the location of the various Native American villages.
This is what we learned abut the two tribes that The Corps of Discovery spent the winter with.
A bit of history about their fort, why its location was chosen and the advantages of its location to Lewis and Clark.
Though the winter was long and cold, there were important developments made during this winter lay-over.
During their time at the fort, they also prepared a mid-journey shipment to President Jefferson containing word of their progress, first journals, and notes about plant, animal and mineral specimens.
In April of 1805 ten of the original members of the expedition left Fort Mandan in the keel boat to take the Fort Mandan Miscellany back to St. Louis and then on to President Jefferson.
While at Fort Mandan Sacagawea first comes into the picture. Her life is shrouded in uncertainty; she was only briefly mentioned in the journals. Here is what we do know about her:
She was an American Indian mother who accompanied Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean and then back to the Knife River Villages.
She was at times an interpreter but never a guide
She worked to assure other Indians that they met that the expedition came in peace.
Contrary to popular myth she and William Clark never had a love affair
Time, now, to head west again.
There were formidable challenges and daunting obstacles along the way.
Finally, they met the Shoshone who alone could provide them with the horses that they needed to go further. Had they not met them in all likelihood they would have never been able to complete their journey.
The Pacific Ocean! Or was it. It turned out to be only the estuary of the Columbia River – they still had 20 miles to go.
Their next winter was spent on the Pacific coast. There on a slight rise along the bank of a small river they cleared land and build their next fort which they called Fort Clatsop, named after the local Clatsop Indians.
Rain, rain go away. Oh, after today I can well understand how they must have felt with so much rain.
Finally, the time had come to turn around and head back home.
Once again on the journey home they had to face formidable challenges and daunting obstacles along the way. More, many more than I have the time and space to share.
Given up for dead, they surprised everyone when they finally made it back home.
This, I believe says it all.
Now, what I’ve been able to share in this blog is but a part of what was on exhibit at the Center. It was one of the best museums that we’ve been to so far. All exhibits were first class with a clear explanation for everything. A big round of applause for the curator of this museum who obviously knows their stuff. Want to know more about Lewis and Clark? If you are in this region of the country make sure you stop here. You will not regret it.
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.