This time in American History delves into the lives of the Red Indians who were the original inhabitants of America long before the British sailed to the New World and established residence. Here, we focus on the time the United States Government was formed. In 1804 AD, the US sent official representatives to meet with the Sioux people, one of several native Red Indian tribes.
Their names – made infamous down the decades – were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. They weren’t soft-handed politicians but soldiers who’d fought and killed many a Native American—as Red Indians are also referred to—belonging to the Shawnee tribe. This happened when Americans were battling to claim Shawnee land in the Appalachians.
Obviously, word spread about the ‘white men’ in general and their greed, making the Sioux dislike Lewis and Clark, refusing them passage. Negotiations ensued and they were permitted to move through their territory. But these two explorers harbored a deceitful secret. They planned to give a specific portion of land the once over, checking this location bought by the US during the Louisiana Purchase time.
Lewis and Clark were exploring it to confirm methods and plans to wrest the land from the very Sioux, all for the glory of the United States. This was their first reason. Their second was a search for a river route which enabled boat travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, thereby making away with the long-winded travel around the South American continent. They were to be disappointed in this second regard.
Their third reason for exploring Sioux territory relied closely on their second. They wanted to claim and own the Pacific Northwest, again for the glory of the US. The land was already visited by other Europeans, but Lewis and Clark were the first American representatives to achieve the same.
Seen as trading partners rather than conquerors, the Mandan—modern North Dakota—where they headed to was friendly to them. They built themselves a fort there. Needing help with the land, they hired a Shoshone girl of fifteen called Sacagawea—another now-famous name—who agreed to help despite being pregnant. She had a French husband, Toussaint Charboneau, who joined them.
With Sacagawea’s help, Lewis and Clark found their relationship with the Shoshone people brightening. The group entered Oregon across the Rocky Mountains and on to the Pacific Northwest where they faced the Nez Perce people. Sacagawea had birthed a baby boy, Jean Baptiste, and the two of them soothed the suspicions of the Nez Perce who distrusted the two white men. Their friendliness was also to encourage Lewis and Clark to deal with them. They desired to trade in guns.
They got their wish, bought guns from Lewis and Clark in exchange for horses and canoes. A canoe ride down the Columbia River got them into Chinook territory. Like the European sea traders who preceded them, Lewis and Clark were treated well.
None of these tribes were aware of America’s hidden plan to conquer them. Two tribes, the Blackfeet and Crow, weren’t so open-minded and got into a clash with the two white explorers. Lewis and Clark lost their horses and also killed a couple Blackfeet Indians. Soon Lewis and Clark’s Fort Mandan was razed to the ground ‘accidentally’.
It became apparent that the US was under suspicion by some Red Indian tribes. Lewis and Clark returned safely to America’s bosom in September 1806, taking back maps from their trip which fueled US desires to conquer all native peoples from the Atlantic coast to that of the Pacific. America ended up achieving this very plan to the detriment of the Red Indians.