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LEWIS & CLARK ENCOUNTER THE SHOSHONE


The Following is an excerpt from First Across the Continent: The Story of The Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-5-6 by Noah Brooks.  This text is in the public domain.

Arriving at the Shoshonee village on the Lemhi, Captain Lewis found a note from Captain Clark, sent back by a runner, informing him of the difficulty and impossibility of a water route to the Columbia. Cameahwait, being told that his white friends would now need twenty more horses, said that he would do what he could to help them. The journal here adds:--

"In order not to lose the present favorable moment, and to keep the Indians as cheerful as possible, the violins were brought out and our men danced, to the great diversion of the Indians. This mirth was the more welcome because our situation was not precisely that which would most dispose us to gayety; for we have only a little parched corn to eat, and our means of subsistence or of success depend on the wavering temper of the natives, who may change their minds to-morrow. . . .

"The Shoshonees are a small tribe of the nation called the Snake Indians, a vague appellation, which embraces at once the inhabitants of the southern parts of the Rocky Mountains and of the plains on either side. The Shoshonees with whom we now were amount to about one hundred warriors, and three times that number of women and children. Within their own recollection they formerly lived in the plains, but they have been driven into the mountains by the Pahkees, or the roving Indians of the Sascatchawan, and are now obliged to visit occasionally, and by stealth, the country of their ancestors. Their lives, indeed, are migratory.

From the middle of May to the beginning of September they reside on the headwaters of the Columbia, where they consider themselves perfectly secure from the Pahkees, who have never yet found their way to that retreat. During this time they subsist chiefly on salmon, and, as that fish disappears on the approach of autumn, they are driven to seek subsistence elsewhere. They then cross the ridge to the waters of the Missouri, down which they proceed slowly and cautiously, till they are joined near the Three Forks by other bands, either of their own nation or of the Flatheads, with whom they associate against the common enemy. Being now strong in numbers, they venture to hunt the buffalo in the plains eastward of the mountains, near which they spend the winter, till the return of the salmon invites them to the Columbia. But such is their terror of the Pahkees, that, so long as they can obtain the scantiest subsistence, they do not leave the interior of the mountains; and, as soon as they have collected a large stock of dried meat, they again retreat, thus alternately obtaining their food at the hazard of their lives, and hiding themselves to consume it.

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