Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to see much of what would
become the western United States, those same lands had long been
occupied by native peoples.
Natives the Corps Encountered -- Click to see more on each tribe
Some tribes the Corps encountered -- Click tribe to learn more
the course of the expedition, the Corps of Discovery would come into
contact with nearly 50 Native American tribes. Quickly, the captains
learned how many different definitions there really were for the word
“Indian.” The Mandans lived in earth lodges, farmed corn and were
amenable to trade with America. The Teton Sioux slept in tepees, hunted
buffalo and guarded their territory fiercely against anyone who passed
through, whether foreign or Indian. Some tribes had never seen a white
or black man before Lewis and Clark. Others spoke bits of English and
wore hats and coats they received from European sea captains.
The Meeting Ceremony
the course of the expedition, Lewis and Clark developed a ritual that
they used when meeting a tribe for the first time. The captains would
explain to the tribal leaders that the their land now belonged to the
United States, and that a man far in the east – President Thomas
Jefferson – was their new “great father.” They would also give the
Indians a peace medal with Jefferson on one side and two hands clasping
on the other, as well as some form of presents (often trade goods).
Moreover, the Corps members would perform a kind of parade, marching in
uniform and shooting their guns.
A Selection of Tribes
tribes listed in Native Americans represent the Indians who had the
most significant interactions about Lewis and Clark. Each short article
provides basic, introductory information about each tribe, and touches
on the tribe’s relationship to the expedition. For more information
about the Native American tribes listed here, please try some of the
references listed in Online Resources section of the Archive.