“America has had two great ages of exploration. The one that every schoolchild learns about began in 1804, when Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their epic journey across North America. The other one is just beginning.”
A new book sheds light on the time Lewis and Clark spent with the Nez Perce and how the tribe saved the expedition numerous times.
Histories about the Lewis and Clark expedition written from a Native perspective are very rare. This is the first book to dwell exclusively on one tribe, and I’m glad to see it is the Nez Perce. Considering it was co-authored by a Nez Perce tribal historian and a professional historian connected to the tribe through marriage, I hope that this will be an insightful book adapted from the tribe’s internal oral traditions, and will be recognized as a legitimate history by mainstream historians. Historically, tribal histories of the expedition have been skeptically received. This is due mostly to the pointless discrepancy over Sacajawea’s death, an ill-founded debate started by the unsolicited imposition of a meddling, white historian.
Hopefully Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce will start a new trend in Lewis and Clark literature, and encourage more tribes to publish their traditional accounts of the expedition. Of all the gaps in the current literature, this is by far the largest. Next, I’d like to see the Lemhi Shoshone contribute to the conversation, partially because their connection to Sacajawea has been a foundation for their argument for federal recognition for many years. Their story, past and present, is one more people need to be aware of. We put their ancestor on the American gold dollar, yet we will not reinstate their status as a federal tribe, only because this would require the establishment of a reservation. God forbid Americans in the twenty-first century be forced to give up their claim to these people’s traditional homelands! But that’s a whole other topic…