Lewis and Clark, "Discovery," and the Indian Nations

By Professor Robert J. Miller

Excerpt from the article:

“[T]he dispatch of the Lewis and Clark expedition was an act of imperial policy.” Bernard DeVoto**

The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of the great sagas of American history and much attention was given to the expedition during its two hundred year anniversary in 2004-2006. A complete and accurate history of the expedition, however, must include the primary role played by Indians and tribes in its objectives and successes, and the enduring legal effects Lewis and Clark, the expansion of the American empire, and the Doctrine of “Discovery” had on Indians and the Indian Nations in the Louisiana Territory and the Pacific Northwest.

Lewis and Clark and the Indian Nations

Indian and tribal affairs were the primary motivations for the expedition. Furthermore, establishing the United States™ political and economic relations with tribes was the primary objective of the Expedition. President Jefferson himself highlighted these motivations and objectives and the importance of tribes to the expedition in his January 1803 message to Congress seeking authorization for the voyage, and in his June 20, 1803 and January 22, 1804 letters of instruction to Meriwether Lewis.1

Download the entire article: Lewis and Clark, “Discovery” and the Indian Nations (pdf)

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