read-ing [from ME reden, to explain, hence to read] — vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to; study.
Louis Owens, a cherished member of our editorial board, died under tragic circumstances in the summer of this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We will deeply miss his energy and spirit and his scholarship and friendship, and we share our unspeakable loss with Louis' family.
Louis' association with Weber Studies began in the 1997 when—as an American Indian novelist of Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry—he began work on a special issue on Native American Literature guest-edited by him. With remarkable dedication and delight, he saw the issue to its publication in 1999 (including a wonderful essay memoir on growing up with his brother Gene), and since that time he has served as a member of our editorial board frequently called upon for his professional opinion.
Louis' editorial work for our journal grew out of his international reputation and expertise as both a scholar, creative writer, and teacher in the areas of American Literature and Native American Literature. With rare synergy, he combined skill in literary scholarship, narrative fiction, and the teacher of both to emerge as a frontline voice of Native American literature and culture. Gerald Vizenor, professor of American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and himself a international figure in Native American literature, observed that Louis was "the most original scholar in critical theory" for Native American literature, noting further that Louis was "an inspired, original literary artist, a masterful storier, and … an exceptional teacher." Indeed, during Louis' tenure at various universities, he received numerous teaching awards. Most recently, he served as Professor of Native American Literature and American Literature at the University of California, Davis, from where he also received his Ph.D. in 1981.
Louis' extraordinary range of publications, including several books on John Steinbeck, a series of novels on Native American issues, and his scholarly study Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel (which has become required reading in many college literature classes) speaks for itself and has earned him numerous both national and international awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Other Destines (1992) and his novel The Sharpest Sight (1992) were both awarded the PEN-Josephine Miles Award; his novel Bone Game (1992) won the 1994 Julian J. Rothbaum Prize, followed in 1995 by the French Roman Noir prize for the outstanding mystery novel published in French (The Sharpest Sight); Nightland (1996) received the National Book Award for fiction in 1997.
More than these enormous professional achievements, however, we here at weber
studies have come to appreciate Louis as a generous and humorous being who
unselfishly gave of himself and his time in the service of our journal. Gifted
with wit and wisdom and a rare passion for spreading the word about Native
American myth and magic, he has helped us make Weber Studies what it is
today. For that Louis, and for your profound humanity, we thank you.
— Weber Studies Staff and Editorial Board
— Weber Studies Staff and Editorial Board
Lewis and Clark Historic Trail
The route traveled 1804-1806 by Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and thirty three additional people started near what is now known as Wood River, Illinois. They reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 and returned in 1806. The Lewis and Clark Historic Trail was designated 21 March 1978 and follows their route as closely as possible given the changes over the years. It is approximately 3,700 miles long. The National Park Service does not own any portion of the trail. Various organizations and individuals are responsible for trail stewardship with oversight provided by the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail office.
Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
On July 1, 2002, President Bush proclaimed 2003 through 2006 as the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. On July 3 he offered the following remarks as a press release.
… Nearly 200 years ago, President Jefferson sent an expedition to explore what was then the uncharted West. Jefferson was a curious man, as we've learned, and I bet you he wanted to lead the expedition himself. But he was occupied and so he chose a trusted aide and friend, Meriwether Lewis, to lead what was called the "Voyage of Discovery."
The Lewis and Clark expedition lasted just a couple of years, but it changed the face of our country forever. It opened up the American West for future development. It increased our knowledge of our natural resources. It helped us gain a better understanding of America's native cultures. Most importantly, the Lewis and Clark Expedition will stand forever as a monument to the American spirit, a spirit of optimism and courage and persistence in the face of adversity….
American history is filled with remarkable examples of heroism and adventure, and the voyage of Lewis and Clark is one of the most remarkable of them all. And that's why we're here in the White House today. Their expedition became an epic of endurance and discovery, and that epic became an American legend which all Americans should know about, and they should teach their children about it, as well.
The achievement would not have been possible without the tremendous contribution of a remarkable Shoshone Indian woman, Sacagawea, who helped the explorers on their long and perilous journey. And I say remarkable because she had a two-month-old baby when the trip began. And she was just as committed to discovery and success as Lewis and Clark and the other young members of the "Corps of Discovery."
Her courage and her strength reminds us that American Indians have played a central role in our history, and their unique culture must never be lost. Tribal colleges and universities help preserve irreplaceable languages and cultural traditions. At the same time, of course, they offer a high-quality college education to thousands of students, and provide much-needed job training and other means of economic development in Indian country.
I bring that up today because I had the honor of signing an executive order affirming the federal government's commitment to these unique institutions. Many of the board members that I named are here today, and they were in the Oval Office earlier, and I want to thank them for coming. All Americans—all Americans—deserve an excellent education, including those who attend Tribal colleges and universities. (Applause.)
I want to thank you all for coming today. I want to thank you for being here to honor the courage of great explorers. I want to thank you for being here to honor the richness of native cultures. And I want to thank you for being here to honor the grand history of the American West.
May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless America.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Lewis and Clark Projects in Montana
The newspaper published by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes/Flathead Indian Reservation reported in February that American Indian tribal groups were among the several organizations awarded funds by the Montana Lewis and Clark (L&C) Bicentennial Commission for 13 Lewis and Clark-related projects across the state. The projects include:
1. The People's Center and Salish Kootenai College in Pablo—a pilot, Indian-focused L&C guide training program….
2. The Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance—to assist tribes from each reservation with preparations for L&C Bicentennial activities to create traditional tepee encampments representative of each tribe.
3. Glasgow Valley County Pioneer Museum—to develop a painted mural exhibit that will serve as the backdrop for housing Assiniboine cultural materials and wildlife and plant life of the area noted in the L&C journals, and the tribe's unique culture….
4. Yellowstone/Big Horn Region of Southeastern Montana—The Crow Tribe—to prepare a cultural and audio-visual display and CD-ROM to present the Crow view of the L&C expedition in the region….
5. East of Helena — The L&C Trail Bicentennial
Commission of Lewis and Clark County—to expand the American Indian "Voice of Nations" encampment held last July at Devil's Elbow on the Missouri….
SOURCE: Char-Koosta News 2/21/2002, V.33, p. 1; available through Ethnic NewsWatch: http://enw.softlineweb.com
The Portland Skanner newspaper, published since 1978 to focus on issues concerning African Americans in the Northwest, reported in May that the Portland, Oregon, city commissioners voted to re-dedicate York Street as an official memorial to York, the only Black member of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Lewis & Clark 2005 Bicentennial Commemoration Project member Ted Kaye said it is unknown who York Street was originally named after….
Kaye said the dedication will make Northwest York Street the first street in the country named for York, who visited the future city's site in 1806….
York, William Clark's enslaved "manservant," played an important role in Portland's history. He journeyed with the Corps of Discovery across the continent and helped Clark explore the Willamette River as far as today's St. John's Bridge in April 1806.
York was the first Black explorer to visit the Portland area and the first Black man to cross the continent north of Mexico. He carried a gun and served as a key expedition member.
When Meriwether Lewis held a poll to choose the site of the Corps' 1805-06 winter encampment, York voted as an equal.
However, after the expedition, every other man received double pay and a grant of land. York's reward was a return to slavery.
In January 2001 President Clinton named York to the honorary rank of sergeant of the army. During the same ceremony he also promoted William Clark to captain, 197 years after Lewis had promised Clark that rank….
SOURCE: Portland Skanner, vol. 27, 22 May 2002 p. 9; available from Ethnic NewsWatch: http://enw.softlineweb.com/
Voyage of Recovery
The non-profit, conservation organization American Rivers launched the Voyage of Recovery initiative to restore enough of the Missouri River that the explorers would recognize it. The project now includes not only the Missouri, but also the Columbia, Snake, Yellowstone, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers.
…As the nation prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery, we have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revitalize the rivers they traveled—to, in essence, undertake a Voyage of Recovery. While we cannot return these rivers to their condition at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, we can restore critical river reaches that Lewis and Clark would recognize. If we focus our efforts on ecologically significant river reaches and habitats, the rivers can once again support healthy fish and wildlife populations, and we can establish national models for community-based river conservation….
Objectives and Strategies of the Voyage of Recovery:
1. Create a string of natural places that support river wildlife, attract recreation and tourism, and improve the quality of life in riverside communities.
2. Provide information, tools and technical assistance to local communities to revitalize river-based communities and economies.
3. Improve dam operations to support river wildlife and recreation….
Losses Along the Trail
In April the Sierra Club issued a press release noting that many of the plants and animals first reported by the Lewis and Clark expedition are on the decline. Of the 122 animals described by Lewis and Clark, at least 40 percent are under a designation warranting concern and protection. Associated Press reporter Nicholas K. Geranios described the announcement.
"There is no better way to commemorate the upcoming Lewis and Clark bicentennial than to protect and restore wild America," said Mary Kiesau of the environmental group. The report offered sweeping recommendations for preserving plants and animals, including greater use of federal designations to remove public lands from development, removal of Snake River dams, no oil or gas drilling in sensitive areas, bans on construction of logging roads and sharp restrictions on motorized vehicles.
The recommendations drew criticism from the
Independence Institute of Golden, Colo., which promotes more use of public lands.
"All they do is say `no,'" said Dave Kopel of the institute. "The Sierra Club can't ever come up with any examples of any drilling, exploration or resource extraction anywhere that it supports."
… Using the Lewis and Clark journals as a guide, the report tried to produce a snapshot of changes along the route covered by the corps from 1803-05…. Lewis and Clark described 178 plants and 122 animals new to science during their journey, and recorded valuable information about previously known species.
The journals provide the clearest record of the West's wildlands and wildlife before mass settlement, the report said, describing a time when massive bison herds shook the grasslands, salmon choked the Columbia River and wolves roamed from North Dakota to California.
Things are different now, the report said:
• Grizzly bears have been reduced to around 1,000 from a population that once topped 100,000.
• The 70 million bison have been reduced to about 20,000 in the wild.
• Cutthroat trout and prairie dogs are down to a tiny fraction of former levels. Black-footed ferrets, woodland caribou and whooping cranes are at the brink of extinction.
• The passenger pigeon, Audubon's bighorn sheep, the plains gray wolf and the Carolina parakeet are already extinct….
H.O.G. Lewis & Clark Expedition
More than 500 Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) members spent two weeks this summer riding the Lewis & Clark Trail from St. Charles, Missouri to Seaside, Oregon. The following is sample of the activities along the route:
• Lewis & Clark re-enactors and group photo along the banks of the Missouri River, 11a.m. to 3 p.m., July 25, Golden Rod Parking Lot, St. Charles, Mo.
• Harley-Davidson Kansas City plant tour, 8 a.m. to noon, July 27, Kansas City, Mo.
• Native American Pow Wow dancing exhibition, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., July 29,
Atka Lakota Museum,
• "Story of Sacagawea" by guest speaker Amy Mossett, 6 p.m., July 31, Bismarck, N.D.
• Group ride to the Montana State Fair, 4 p.m., Aug. 3, Great Falls, Mont.
• History in Harmony-Lewis & Clark era symphony music, Aug. 4, Civic Center Auditorium, Great Falls, Mont.
• Harley-Davidson dealers in overnight cities are hosting parties for members that are also open to the public.
• Top Harley-Davidson executives…on hand to discuss the Lewis & Clark expedition, the Harley experience and H.O.G. members' passion for riding.
Cooking with Lewis and Clark
In July Publisher's Weekly announced two cookbooks were being readied for the Bicentennial.
… Food journalist and historian Mary Gunderson brings her background in paleocuisineology to The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark: Recipes for an Expedition (History Cooks, Dec.), which has been designated the official cookbook for the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. "This is history brought alive and made interesting through a sensory experience," says Gunderson, who will be launching her book at Monticello in January. She drew from the journals of Lewis & Clark for her 75 dishes—everything from portable soup to hominy and sun nut fritters—recipes that present "a sweep of the continent from Virginia and Maryland all the way to Fort Clatsop and back."
For Celestial Arts, bicentennial numbers were also a big draw. "Some 25 million people are reportedly going to recreate the trail over a two-year period," says managing editor Veronica Randall. "That's a very seductive number." Randall calls author Leslie Mansfield's research for The Lewis & Clark Cookbook: Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery & Jefferson's America (Sept., $19.95) "meticulous and exhaustive. We didn't want just pemmican," she says. "The fact is that in 18th-century America food was astonishingly varied, largely due to Jefferson and his stint in France. He changed the way we cooked in America."
I am Sacagawea
Last summer Time magazine devoted a large part of an issue to the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Among the articles was one by Native American writer Sherman Alexie.
In the future, every U.S. citizen will get to be Sacagawea for 15 minutes. For the low price of admission, every American, regardless of race, religion, gender and age, will climb through the portal into Sacagawea's Shoshone Indian brain. In the multicultural theme park called Sacagawea Land, you will be kidnapped as a child by the Hidatsa tribe and sold to Toussaint Charbonneau, the French-Canadian trader who will take you as one of his wives and father two of your children. Your first child, Jean-Baptiste, will be only a few months old as you carry him during your long journey with Lewis and Clark. The two captains will lead the adventure, fighting rivers, animals, weather and diseases for thousands of miles, and you will march right beside them. But you, the aboriginal multitasker, will also breast-feed. And at the end of your Sacagawea journey, you will be shown the exit and given a souvenir T shirt that reads, IF THE U.S. IS EDEN, THEN SACAGAWEA IS EVE….
After all, Lewis and Clark's story has never been just the triumphant tale of two white men, no matter what the white historians might need to believe. Sacagawea was not the primary hero of this story either, no matter what the Native American historians and I might want to believe. The story of Lewis and Clark is also the story of the approximately 45 nameless and faceless first- and second-generation European Americans who joined the journey, then left or completed it, often without monetary or historical compensation. Considering the time and place, I imagine those 45 were illiterate, low-skilled laborers subject to managerial whims and 19th century downsizing.
And it is most certainly the story of the black slave York, who also cast votes during this allegedly democratic adventure. It's even the story of Seaman, the domesticated Newfoundland dog who must have been a welcome and friendly presence and who survived the risk of becoming supper during one lean time or another. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was exactly the kind of multicultural, trigenerational, bigendered, animal-friendly, government-supported, partly French-Canadian project that should rightly be celebrated by liberals and castigated by conservatives.
In the end, I wonder if colonization might somehow be magical. After all, Miles Davis is the direct descendant of slaves and slave owners. Hank Williams is the direct descendant of poor whites and poorer Indians. In 1876 Emily Dickinson was writing her poems in an Amherst attic while Crazy Horse was killing Custer on the banks of the Little Big Horn. I remain stunned by these contradictions, by the successive generations of social, political and artistic mutations that can be so beautiful and painful. How did we get from there to here? This country somehow gave life to Maria Tallchief and Ted Bundy, to Geronimo and Joe McCarthy, to Nathan Bedford Forrest and Toni Morrison, to the Declaration of Independence and Executive Order No. 1066, to Cesar Chavez and Richard Nixon, to theme parks and national parks, to smallpox and the vaccine for smallpox.
As a Native American, I want to hate this country and its contradictions. I want to believe that Sacagawea hated this country and its contradictions. But this country exists, in whole and in part, because Sacagawea helped Lewis and Clark. In the land that came to be called Idaho, she acted as diplomat between her long-lost brother and the Lewis and Clark party. Why wouldn’t she ask her brother and her tribe to take revenge against the men who had enslaved her? Sacagawea is a contradiction. Here in Seattle, I exist, in whole and in part, because a half-white man named James Cox fell in love with a Spokane Indian woman named Etta Adams and gave birth to my mother. I am a contradiction; I am Sacagawea.
In celebrating the Lewis and Clark expedition, you may want to order your own replicated keel boat. If so, L&C Replicas (a division of B&B Wooden Boats) builds authntic replicas of the watercraft used by the Lewis & Clark expedition. Here is the "real" deal:
Based on our extensive research of the journals of Lewis and Clark and of rivercraft design and construction techniques of the early 1800’s, we have created replicas of all three craft which left Wood River in May of 1804. We also have developed working drawings for the "Experiment." We are prepared to recreate any or all of these craft for you in the form of full-sized craft, models, or scaled down versions. Your choice will be built to fit your needs. For example, should you choose to acquire the full-sized version of these craft, you may want yours to be museum quality, for display purposes only, or fully functional for your re-enactors to demonstrate to the public. We are limited only by your imagination. Some possibilities to explore may include cut-aways, partial hull displays, scaled models to fit your diorama, or walk-in hull sections for the public to tour. The ideas are limitless. We are aware of the controversy surrounding the actual design and construction of these craft and several theories abound. We respect that and are prepared to build your craft to your specifications….
Stop Celebrating! They Don’t Matter
David Plotz, writing for the on-line magazine Slate offers an anecdote to the rising level of hoopla about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The American infatuation with Lewis and Clark grows more fervent with every passing year. The adventurers have become our Extreme Founding Fathers, as essential to American history as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson but a lot more fun….
Our Lewis and Clark have something for everyone, a catalog of 21st-century virtues. They’re multicultural: an Indian woman, French-Indians, French-Canadians, and a black slave all contributed to the expedition’s success. They’re environmental: Lewis and Clark kept prodigious records of plants and animals and were enthralled by the vast, mysterious landscape they traveled through. They’re tolerant: They didn’t kill Indians (much) but did negotiate with them. They’re patriotic: They discovered new land so the United States could grow into a great nation.
Lewis and Clark, it’s claimed, opened the West and launched the American empire.
Except they didn’t. "If Lewis and Clark had died on the trail, it wouldn’t have mattered a bit," says Notre Dame University historian Thomas Slaughter, author of the forthcoming Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness.
Like the moon landing, the Lewis and Clark expedition was inspiring, poetic, metaphorical, and ultimately insignificant. First of all, Lewis and Clark were not first of all. The members of the Corps of Discovery were not the first people to see the land they traveled. Indians had been everywhere, of course, but the corps members were not even the first whites. Trappers and traders had covered the land before them, and though Lewis and Clark may have been the first whites to cross the Rockies in the United States, explorer Alexander MacKenzie had traversed the Canadian Rockies a decade before them.
After the celebration of their safe return, Lewis and Clark quickly sank into obscurity, and for good reason. They failed at their primary mission. Jefferson had dispatched them to find a water route across the continent—the fabled Northwest Passage—but they discovered that water transport from coast to coast was impossible. Jefferson, chagrined, never bragged much about the expedition he had fathered.
Not discovering something that didn’t exist was hardly Lewis and Clark’s fault, but the expedition also failed in a much more important way. It produced nothing useful. Meriwether Lewis was supposed to distill his notes into a gripping narrative, but he had writer’s block and killed himself in 1809 without ever writing a word. The captains’ journals weren’t published until almost 10 years after the duo’s return; only 1,400 copies were printed, they appeared when the country was distracted by the War of 1812, and they had no impact. The narrative was well-told, but it ignored the most valuable information collected by Lewis and Clark, their mountains of scientific and anthropological data about the plants, animals, and Indians of the West. That material wasn’t published for a century, long after it could have helped pioneers.
Lewis and Clark didn’t matter for other reasons. At the time of the journey, the Corps of Discovery "leapfrogged Americans’ concerns," says American University historian Andrew Lewis (no relation to Meriwether). "They were exploring the far Missouri at a time when the frontier was the Ohio River. They were irrelevant."
When the country did start catching up, decades later, the Lewis and Clark route didn’t help. William Clark told President Jefferson that they had discovered the best route across the continent, but he could hardly have been more wrong. Lewis and Clark took the Missouri through Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Montana before crossing the Rockies in Northern Idaho. Their route was way too far north to be practical. No one could follow it. Other explorers located better, southerly shortcuts across the Continental Divide, and that’s where Western settlers went. Lewis and Clark aficionados delight today in the unspoiled scenery along the trail. The reason the trail remains scenic and unspoiled is that it was so useless.
In a few years, Lewis and Clark disappeared from the American imagination and the American project. Lewis was dead, and Clark spent the rest of his life on the frontier, supervising relations with Indians—an important job, but not one that gave him any say over government policy. Meanwhile, other daredevils captured the popular fancy, especially during the great wave of exploration in the mid-19th century. John C. Fremont enthralled the country with his bold Western trips. John Wesley Powell—the one-armed Civil War veteran—made his name by rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The mid-century explorers provided information that was vastly more productive than anything Lewis and Clark offered.
By the late 19th century, Lewis and Clark were negligible figures. They weren’t found in textbooks, according to the University of Tulsa’s James Ronda, a leading scholar of the expedition. Americans didn’t hearken back to the adventure. It was so unimportant that Henry Adams could dismiss it in no time flat in his history of the Jefferson administration as having "added little to the stock of science and wealth."
The first Lewis and Clark revival occurred at the turn of the 20th century, when the journals were published again after an 80-year hiatus. Americans were remembering the trip only after the West had been settled, the Indians had been wiped out, and the frontier closed. During the years that the empire was actually being built, at the time of settlement and conquest, Americans hadn’t cared at all about Lewis and Clark.
After World War I, says Ronda, the expedition was ignored again. University of Texas historian William Goetzmann says that when he was writing his Pulitzer-Prize-winning Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West in the mid-’60s, he wasn’t even going to include Lewis and Clark, but "my publisher talked me into it."
But by the late ’60s, Americans had rediscovered Lewis and Clark, and their fervor has not flagged since. The creation of the 3,700-mile Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in 1978 made the story accessible in a way that history rarely is. Millions of people have followed Lewis and Clark’s footsteps and oar-swings since the trail opened. Ambrose’s book attracted tens of thousands of new fans to the tale. The expedition’s various appeal—ecological, patriotic, diverse, literary, thrill-seeking—gives it traction. More and more Americans read directly from the captains’ journals, whose blunt, direct, and oddly beautiful language makes the story live. And the United States, as Ronda notes, is a country that loves road stories, and there is none more vivid or exciting than Lewis and Clark’s.
But our fascination with Lewis and Clark is much more about us than about them. The expedition is a useful American mythology: How a pair of hardy souls and their happy-go-lucky multicultural flotilla discovered Eden, befriended the Indian, and invented the American West. The myth of Lewis and Clark papers over the grittier story of how the United States conquered the land, tribe by slaughtered, betrayed tribe.
Lewis and Clark didn’t give Americans any of the tools they required to settle the continent—not new technology, not a popular narrative, not a good route, not arable land. It didn’t matter. Nineteenth-century pioneers were bound to take the great West, with or without Lewis and Clark. Their own greed, ambition, bravery, and desperation guaranteed it. They did not need Lewis and Clark to conquer and build the West. But we do need Lewis and Clark to justify having done it.
Relive the Adventure—buy stuff!
Unlike the actual expedition, the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial leaves nothing
to chance. The opportunity to buy a little piece of the adventure is firmly in
place. Perhaps discovery is not limited to the imagination after all. You can
buy any manner of merchandise from the Bicentennial store—baseball caps,
jewelry, mugs, firearm replicas, blankets, key chains, compasses, and holiday