The Journals of Lewis & Clark: August 26, 1805

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
August 25, 1805
August 27, 1805

August 26, 1805

Monday August 26th 1805.

This morning was excessively cold; there was ice on the vessels of water which stood exposed to the air nearly a quarter of an inch thick. we collected our horses and set out at sunrise. we soon arrived at the extreem source of the Missouri; here I halted a few minutes, the men drank of the water and consoled themselves with the idea of having at length arrived at this long wished for point. from hence we proceeded to a fine spring on the side of the mountain where I had lain the evening before I first arrived at the Shoshone Camp. here I halted to dine and graize our horses, there being fine green grass on that part of the hillside which was moistened by the water of the spring while the grass on the other parts was perfectly dry and parched with the sun. I directed a pint of corn to be given each Indian who was engaged in transporting our baggage and about the same quantity to each of the men which they parched pounded and made into supe. one of the women who had been assisting in the transportation of the baggage halted at a little run about a mile behind us, and sent on the two pack horses which she had been conducting by one of her female friends. I enquired of Cameahwait the cause of her detention, and was informed by him in an unconcerned manner that she had halted to bring fourth a child and would soon overtake us; in about an hour the woman arrived with her newborn babe and passed us on her way to the camp apparently as well as she ever was. It appears to me that the facility and ease with which the women of the aborigines of North America bring fourth their children is reather a gift of nature than depending as some have supposed on the habitude of carrying heavy burthens on their backs while in a state of pregnancy. if a pure and dry air, an elivated and cold country is unfavourable to childbirth, we might expect every difficult incident to that operation of nature in this part of the continent; again as the snake Indians possess an abundance of horses, their women are seldom compelled like those in other parts of the continent to carry burthens on their backs, yet they have their children with equal convenience, and it is a rare occurrence for any of them to experience difficulty in childbirth. I have been several times informed by those who were conversent with the fact, that the indian women who are pregnant by whitemen experience more difficulty in childbirth than when pregnant by an Indian. if this be true it would go far in suport of the opinion I have advanced.

the tops of the high and irregular mountains which present themselves to our view on the opposite side of this branch of the Columbia are yet perfectly covered with snow; the air which proceeds from those mountains has an agreeable coolness and renders these parched and South hillsides much more supportable at this time of the day it being now about noon. I observe the indian women collecting the root of a speceis of fennel which grows in the moist grounds and feeding their poor starved children; it is really distressing to witness the situation of those poor wretches. the radix of this plant is of the knob kind, of a long ovate form terminating in a single radicle, the whole bing about 3 or four inches in length and the thickest part about the size of a man's little finger. it is white firm and crisp in it's present state, when dryed and pounded it makes a fine white meal; the flavor of this root is not unlike that of annisseed but not so pungent; the stem rises to the hight of 3 or four feet is jointed smooth and cilindric; from r to 4 of those knobed roots are attatched to the base of this stem. the leaf is sheathing sessile, & pultipartite, the divisions long and narrow; the whole is of a deep green. it is now in blame; the flowers are numerous, small, petals white, and are of the umbellaferous kind. several small peduncles put forth from the main stock one at each joint above the sheathing leaf. it has no root leaves. the root of the present year declines when the seeds have been matured and the succeeding spring other roots of a similar kind put fourth from the little knot which unites the roots and stem and grow and decline with the stem as before mentioned. The sunflower is very abundant near the watercourses the seeds of this plant are now rip and the natives collect them in considerable quantities and reduce them to meal by pounding and rubing them between smooth stones. this meal is a favorite food their manner of using it has been beforementiond. after dinner we continued our rout towards the village. on our near approach we were met by a number of young men on horseback. Cameahwait requested that we would discharge our guns when we arrived in sight of the Village, accordingly when I arrived on an eminence above the village in the plain I drew up the party at open order in a single rank and gave them a runing fire discharging two rounds. they appeared much gratifyed with this exhibition. we then proceeded to the village or encampment of brush lodges 32 in number. we were conducted to a large lodge which had been prepared for me in the center of their encampmerit which was situated in a beautifull level smooth and extensive bottom near the river about 3 miles above the place I had first found them encamped. here we arrived at 6 in the evening arranged our baggage near my tent and placed those of the men on either side of the baggage facing outwards. I found Colter here who had just arrived with a letter from Capt. Clark in which Capt. C. had given me an account of his peregrination and the description of the river and country as before detailed from this view of the subject I found it a folly to think of attemping to decend this river in canoes and therefore to commence the purchase of horses in the morning from the indians in order to carry into execution the design we had formed of passing the rocky Mountains. I now informed Cameahwait of my intended expedition overland to the great river which lay in the plains beyond the mountains and told him that I wished to purchase 20 horses of himself and his people to convey our baggage. he observed that the Minnetares had stolen a great number of their horses this spring but hoped his people would spear me the number I wished. I also asked a guide, he observed that he had no doubt but the old man who was with Capt. C. would accompany us if we wished him and that he was better informed of the country than any of them. matters being thus far arranged I directed the fiddle to be played and the party danced very merily much to the amusement and gratification of the natives, though I must confess that the state of my own mind at this moment did not well accord with the prevailing mirth as I somewhat feared that the caprice of the indians might suddenly induce them to withhold their horses from us without which my hopes of prosicuting my voyage to advantage was lost; however I determined to keep the indians in a good humour if possible, and to loose no time in obtaining the necessary number of horses. I directed the hunters to turn out early in the morning and indeavor to obtain some meat. I had nothing but a little parched corn to eat this evening.

This morning Capt. C. and party

August 26th Monday 1805

a fine morning Despatched three men a head to hunt, our horses missing Sent out my guide and four men to hunt them, which detained me untill 9 oClock a.m. at which time I Set out and proceeded on by the way of the forks to the Indian Camps at the first were not one mouthfull to eate untill night as our hunters could kill nothing and I could See & catch no fish except a few Small ones. The Indians gave us 2 Sammon boiled which I gave to the men, one of my men Shot a Sammon in the river about Sunset those fish gave us a Supper. all the Camp flocked about me untill I went to Sleep- and I beleve if they had a Sufficency to eate themselves and any to Spare they would be liberal of it I derected the men to mend their Mockessons to night and turn out in the morning early to hunt Deer fish birds &c. &c. Saw great numbers of the large Black grass hopper. Some bars which were verry wild, but few Birds. a number of ground Lizards; Some fiew Pigions