Document A: Jefferson’s Letter to Meriwether Lewis (Modified)
The passage below is from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to
Meriwether Lewis on June 20, 1803.
Considering the interest which every nation has in extending and
strengthening the authority of reason and justice among the people around
them, it will be useful to acquire what knowledge you can of the state of
morality, religion, and information among them; as it may better enable
those who may endeavor to civilize and instruct them. . . .
In all your interactions with the natives, treat them in the most friendly and
conciliatory manner. . . . Assure them that the purpose of your journey is
innocent. Make them acquainted with . . . our wish to be neighborly,
friendly, and useful to them, and to trade with them. Find out what articles
would be most desirable for both of us to trade.
If a few of their influential chiefs . . . wish to visit us, arrange such a visit for
them. . . . If any of them wish to have some of their young people raised by
us and taught things that may be useful to them, we will receive, instruct
and take care of them. Such a mission, whether of influential chiefs or of
young people, would give some security to your own party.
Carry with you some smallpox medicine . . . and instruct and encourage
them to use it. This may be done wherever you spend the winter.
Source: Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803.
endeavor: to try hard to do something
conciliatory: trying to avoid conflict
Document B: Diary Entry of Meriwether Lewis (Modified)
This morning at daylight the Indians got up and crowded around the fire. J.
Fields, who was on post, had carelessly laid his gun down behind him. . . .
One of the Indians, the fellow to whom I had given the medal last evening,
slipped behind J. Fields and took his gun and his brother’s gun. At the
same instant, two other Indians advanced and seized the guns of Drewyer
and myself. J. Fields seeing this turned about to look for his gun and saw
the fellow just running off with it and his brother’s. He called to his brother,
who instantly jumped up and pursued the Indian with him. They overtook
him. . . . R. Fields, as he seized his gun, stabbed the Indian to the heart
with his knife. The fellow ran about 15 steps and fell dead.
Drewyer, who was awake, saw the Indian take hold of his gun and instantly
jumped up and seized it. . . . His jumping up and crying “Damn you, let go
of my gun” awakened me. . . . I saw Drewyer in a scuffle with the Indian for
his gun. . . . Drewyer asked me if he might not kill the fellow, which I also
forbid as the Indian did not appear to wish to kill us. As soon as they found
us all in possession of our arms, the Indians ran. . . .
We left one of our horses and took four of the best of those of the Indians.
While the men were preparing the horses, I put four shields and two bows
and quivers of arrows which had been left [by the Indians] on the fire. . . . I
also retook the flag but left the medal about the neck of the dead man that
they might be informed who we were.
Source: Diary of Meriwether Lewis, July 27, 1806
quiver: a case for holding arrows
Document C: Time Magazine Article (Modified)
For more than a century, the history of Lewis and Clark’s encounters with
the 58 tribes along the trail has been defined by the white men’s journals. .
. .
Today Indians are looking to their own oral histories, as well as reading
between the lines of the journals, to re-interpret what happened.
Says Ben Sherman, president of the Western American Indian Chamber in
Denver: The upcoming events [for the Lewis and Clark Expedition
bicentennial] portray Clark as the benevolent protector of Indians that's
propagandist baloney.The tragic aftermath: as Governor of the Missouri
Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Clark presided over
President Thomas Jefferson's land-grab policy, which some historians
characterize as a direct cause of cultural genocideand ethnic
In his journal, Lewis called the Blackfeet a vicious, lawless and rather an
abandoned set of wretches.. . .
Whites brought diseases that killed as many as 90% of some tribes’
members. Most of the tribes Lewis and Clark encountered were forced off
the rivers that sustained their commerce and culture and herded onto
reservations with poor soil.
Source: Margot Roosevelt, “Tribal Culture Clash,” Time Magazine, July 8,
benevolent: well-meaning
propagandist: promoting misleading
information for a political cause
cultural genocide: the deliberate
destruction of a group of people’s
way of life
ethnic cleansing: the killing of
members of a specific ethnic group
Document D: Diary Entries of William Clark (Modified)
Many people have heard the name of Sacagawea, the Native American
woman who with her husband Shabono and newborn baby accompanied
Lewis and Clark on their journey and served as an interpreter. Below are
Clark’s diary entries about Sacagawea and Shabono.
May 11, 1806
We were crowded in the lodge with Indians who in great numbers were
around us. The one-eyed chief Yoom-park-kar-tim arrived, and we gave
him a medal of the small size and spoke to the Indians through a Shoshone
boy Shabono and his wife. We informed them who we were, where we
came from, and our intentions towards them, which pleased them very
August 17, 1806
We . . . took our leave of Shabono, his Shoshone wife and their . . . child,
who had accompanied us on our route to the Pacific Ocean in the capacity
of interpreter. . . . We offered to convey him down to the Illinois if he chose
to go. He declined proceeding . . . observing that he had no acquaintance
or prospects of making a living below, and must continue to live in the way
that he had done. I offered to take his little son, a beautiful promising child,
who is 19 months old, to which they both, himself and wife, were willing,
provided his the child had been weaned. They observed that in one year
the boy would be sufficiently old to leave his mother and he would then
take him to me if I would be so friendly as to raise the child for him in such
a manner as I thought proper, to which I agreed etc.
Source: Diary of William Clark, 1806.
convey: take to a place
proceeding: moving forward
weaned: made used to eating solid food
Document E: Meriwether Lewis’s Speech to the Otoe
Captain Meriwether Lewis gave the following speech to a band of Otoe
during the council of Camp Calumet Bluff on August 4, 1804.
Children . . . we have come to inform you, as we go also to inform all the
nations of red men who inhabit the borders of the Missouri, that a great
council was held between this great chief of the Seventeen great nations of
America [the United States], and your old fathers the French and
Spaniards; and that in this great council it was agreed that all the white
men of Louisiana . . . should obey the commands of this great chief. . . .
Children . . . you are to live in peace with all the white men, for they are [the
great chief’s] children; neither wage war against the red men your
neighbors, for they are equally his children and he is bound to protect them.
. . .
Children. Do these things which your great father advises and be happy . . .
lest by one false step you should bring upon your nation the displeasure of
your great father, the great chief of the seventeen great nations of America,
who could consume you as the fire consumes the grass of the plains . . .
The mouths of all the rivers through which the traders bring goods to you
are in his possession, and if you displease him he could at pleasure shut
them up and prevent his traders from coming among you; but it is not the
wish of your great father to injure you. On the contrary, he is now pursuing
the measures best calculated to insure your happiness. . . .
Children. We hope that the Great Spirit will open your ears to our councils,
and dispose your minds to their observance. Follow these councils and you
will have nothing to fear, because the Great Spirit will smile upon your
nation, and in future ages will make you outnumber the trees of the forest.
Source: Lewis and Clark to the Otoe Indians, August 4, 1804.
Guiding Questions Name_____________
Document A
1. According to Thomas Jefferson, how were Lewis and Clark supposed to treat the
Native Americans they met?
Document B
2. According to the diary entry, why did one of Lewis and Clark’s men kill a Native
3. Why do you think Lewis left the medal around the dead Native American’s neck?
Document C
4. According to this article, why has the history of Lewis and Clark been one-sided?
5. According to this article, what were some of the long-term outcomes of Lewis and
Clark’s journey on Native Americans?
Document D
6. Based on these two passages, how would you describe the relationship between
Sacagawea’s family and Lewis and Clark?
Document E
7. What term did Lewis use to address the Otoe? What does that suggest about how
he viewed them?
8. In the speech, Lewis referred to a “great father” and “great chief.” Who was this?
Why do you think Lewis used these terms?
9. What did Lewis say would happen if the Otoe disobeyed the “great father”?
Why do you think Lewis said this?
Structured Academic Controversy:
Lewis and Clark
During the SAC, you and your group will try to answer the following question:
Were Lewis and Clark respectful towards the Native Americans
they met on the journey?
Team A will argue: YES, Lewis and Clark were respectful to the Native
Team B will argue: NO, Lewis and Clark were not respectful to the Native
30 minutes With your teammate, read the document. Find three pieces of
evidence that support your side.
10 minutes Team A presents. BOTH PARTNERS MUST PRESENT.
Team B writes down Team A’s arguments and then repeats them
back to Team A.
10 minutes Team B presents. BOTH PARTNERS MUST PRESENT.
Team A down arguments of Team B and then repeats them back to
Team B.
10 minutes Everyone CAN ABANDON their positions. Group of four attempt to
develop a consensus.
Use this space to write your main points and the main points made by the other side.
Lewis and Clark were respectful: List the 3 main points/evidence that support
this side.
1) From Document _______:
2) From Document _______:
3) From Document _______:
Lewis and Clark were NOT respectful: List the 3 main points/evidence that
support this side.
1) From Document _______:
2) From Document _______:
3) From Document _______:
Coming to Consensus
Starting now, you may abandon your assigned position and argue for either
side. Use the space below to outline your group’s agreement. Your
agreement should address evidence and arguments from both sides.