Meriwether Lewis (left) and also William Clark (right) painted through Charles Willson Peale in 1807.

Independence National historic Park

Interested in recognize a water path to the Pacific and affirming American sovereignty in the newly obtained Louisiana Purchase, President cutting board Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis to command an exploratory exploration up the Missouri River. Along with William Clark and also a crew the enlisted military and also hired boatmen, the Corps of exploration left St. Louis in might 1804.

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Meeting the Tribes

In October 1804, the westbound Lewis and also Clark exploration was making its method up the Missouri River as soon as it got to the 5 earthlodge towns of the Mandan and also Hidatsa tribes. Their hospitality allowed the Corps come construct fort Mandan as a winter refuge, the start of a lengthy relationship between the unified States and also the earthlodge peoples of the Knife and also Missouri Rivers.

Fort Mandan

Over the food of your winter stay at ft Mandan, the members that the expedition engaged in considerable trade and diplomacy with their Indian neighbors. Indian visitors involved Fort Mandan where they exchanged corn and also wild video game for trade goods. Lewis and Clark likewise traveled come the different villages, distributing gifts and peace medals to prominent chiefs in an effort to success their favor.


The Mandan and also Hidatsa also provided valuable information about the region ahead. As soon as Lewis and also Clark hired French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau together an interpreter, they allowed his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, to join the expedition because of her knowledge of she homeland to the west. In the end, she proved an useful as an interpreter and also ambassador among her very own people, every while caring for her infant child Jean Baptiste along the way.

Return to the Villages

On April 7, 1805 Lewis and Clark left the villages and continued west in six dugout canoes and two pirogues. After properly reaching the Pacific, they returned to the five villages on august 14, 1806, pass Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and also young Jean Baptiste home. Throughout this short reunion with the people who had provided them refuge in the winter the 1804-05, Lewis and Clark convinced Mandan chief Shekeke and also his family members to companion them east to accomplish President Jefferson. On august 17, 1806, the Corps of exploration left the Knife River towns for the critical time.

Had Lewis and also Clark not spent the winter that 1804-1805 amongst the Mandan and also Hidatsa, the outcome of the expedition might have been fairly different. The relationships forged in between these different cultures proved invaluable because that the success that the expedition, an expedition that marked a brand-new era of call and change at the Knife flow Villages.

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Today, two of the 5 earthlodge towns visited by Lewis and also Clark are located at Knife river Indian villages National historic Site: the Hidatsa (Big Hidatsa) and also Awatixa (Sakakawea) Villages. The Awatixa village is additionally known as Sakakawea town because Charbonneau and also Sacagawea resided there once they joined the expedition.