October 9th, 1806
Two weeks ago, I got the most recent glimpse into the future and got to meet with the two men responsible for the newest amazing journey and discovery of the West. Ever since Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark have been on a mission to explore and map out the newly bought territory (1). Their journey has been a long one, lasting about 3 years, but they have come back with a huge amount of new information to share with us all, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit with both of them to discuss what they have found.
Lewis and Clark left in May of 1804 with a group of just under 50 men. They all left in effort to navigate to the Pacific Ocean, gather geographical facts and evidence, and investigate the possibility of trade with the Indians. To initiate this journey, Jefferson called upon Meriwether Lewis to lead. I was lucky enough to read the confidential letter Jefferson sent to Lewis before the trek when I sat down with the two a while back. In the letter, Jefferson explained the goals and resources for this journey stating, “Instruments for ascertaining by celestial observations the geography of the country… have already been provided” (2). Lewis described to me the various tents arms, boats, and medicine on the journey that were provided after I asked him about all that was supplied before the journey.
Pointing to the letter, Lewis told me more about the goals of the journey and the extreme precision and accuracy expected of him and Clark, specifically with the bodies of water related to commerce (Missouri River and Pacific Ocean). Lewis described how he was to mark every crucial point in the river, whether rapids or islands, make tables, and calculate the longitude and latitude of every single point. But most importantly, they were to be made perfectly clear to any readers. They also had to take note of the soil, species, metals and nutrients, and climate of a lot of the areas to get an insight of the agricultural opportunity, which they have now shared is tremendous (3). As I looked into their journals, the pages were covered with not only huge amounts of numbers and words, but also with detailed drawings (4). Lewis and Clark both got quite invested in the last topic in the letter that we discussed: the Indian tribes. They were to be friendly to make “peaceable and commercial dispositions of the US, of our wish to be neighborly, friendly, and useful to them” (5). Lewis and Clark said this was no problem for them, since one of their biggest helps was Sacagawea herself, a guide and translator of a lot of Indian Territory. They got a lot of help from her, and took plenty of notes of the relations between tribes as well as the fishing, hunting, arts, food, clothing, war, and the diseases and remedies of the Indian People (3).
When talking with both Lewis and Clark, they described to me one of their typical days on the journey: “We rose early and usually sent some of our men down the river with some Indians. We used the old meat to make breakfast and sent my good friend ‘Sheilds’ down to hunt almost every day. We always tried to be proactive. Eating the leftovers, while simultaneously looking for food. We did the same with our journey. At about 7 in the morning, I left with the rest of the team and Clark. One of the days we left with Sacagawea and about a mile in there was a beautiful reunion with another woman, and some of her family. This one one of my favorite moments. Seeing the amount of joy in the tribes and within their families is incredible. We have found so much about the life of the Indians. To help on our journey we also traded with them for resources. Sometimes we would set nets to catch trout and make canoes. In the evenings after our mapping and trekking we spent days smoking and preparing for the next day. We sharpen our tools, collect plants, minerals, and medicines, as well as discover the plants, food, and life around us.” (6)
During days like this, Lewis and Clark have found things that nobody has seen before. They have come in contact with Indians, found new species of plants and animals, discovered paths of travel, and most of all they found the Pacific Ocean and endless information about the land in the United States. There is much more to this expedition than all of the wonderful experiences this group of people has gained. This journey of these two men provides all of us back east with a glimpse into the future. Much more can be seen now than ever before in the realm of westward expansion and the future of this country. Most of the land in the West is never before touched, free of factories, and full of nutrient rich soil. I’m ecstatic to get to report to you first about this amazing news. The West is a new place, full of new opportunities, some of which we have yet to discover. Personally, I love the thought of expanding our country to reach new experiences that even Lewis and Clark did not get to experience. There is so much farming opportunity and so much discovery in store in the West. But even greater, the West is a chance to take control over your own life and create something new. So much lies ahead of our country, especially after this discovery. The West is an opportunity for renewal and is so much more than new land, but is truly an idea of new life. So, reporting to you first, I encourage you to toy with idea of the West yourself and see what the West can have in store for your life. No matter if we stay East or head West, this insight and expansion will play a crucial part in all of our lives, no doubt.
1. “Lewis and Clark Expedition.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Nov. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_and_Clark_Expedition>.
2. “Jefferson’s Instructions to Meriwether Lewis.” Thomas Jeffersons Monticello Blog RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013. <http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/jeffersons-instructions-to-meriwether-lewis>.
3. Brinkley, Alan. The Unfinished Nation. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. Print.
4. “National Geographic: Lewis & ClarkDiscoveriesPlants.” National Geographic: Lewis & ClarkDiscoveriesPlants. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lewisandclark/resources_discoveries.html>.
5. Lewis, Meriwether, William Clark, and Bernard Augustine DeVoto. “Appendix I.” The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1953. 481. Print.
6. Marcus, Robert D., David Burner, and Anthony Marcus. “Crossing the Great Divide.” America Firsthand. 1st ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997. 160-167. Print.