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

Independence National historical Park

Interested in recognize a water path to the Pacific and also affirming American sovereignty in the newly got Louisiana Purchase, President cutting board Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis to lead an exploratory exploration up the Missouri River. Along with William Clark and also a crew that enlisted military and also hired boatmen, the Corps of exploration left St. Louis in may 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 when it got to the five earthlodge towns of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. Their hospitality allowed the Corps come construct ft Mandan together a winter refuge, the beginning of a lengthy relationship in between the unified States and also the earthlodge peoples of the Knife and also Missouri Rivers.

Fort Mandan

Over the food of your winter remain at fort Mandan, the members that the expedition involved in considerable trade and also diplomacy v their Indian neighbors. Indian visitors pertained to Fort Mandan wherein they exchanged corn and also wild video game for trade goods. Lewis and also Clark also traveled to the different villages, distributing gifts and also peace medals to significant chiefs in an attempt to win their favor.


The Mandan and also Hidatsa also listed valuable information about the region ahead. As soon as Lewis and also Clark rental French trapper Toussaint Charbonneau as an interpreter, they allowed his young Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, to join the expedition as result of her understanding of she homeland come the west. In the end, she proved beneficial as an interpreter and ambassador amongst her own people, every while caring for her infant boy Jean Baptiste along the way.

Return to the Villages

On April 7, 1805 Lewis and Clark left the villages and also continued west in six dugout canoes and two pirogues. After properly reaching the Pacific, they returned to the 5 villages on respectable 14, 1806, pass Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and also young Jean Baptiste home. During this short reunion v the people who had provided them refuge in the winter of 1804-05, Lewis and Clark persuaded Mandan chief Shekeke and also his family to accompany them eastern to meet President Jefferson. On respectable 17, 1806, the Corps of exploration left the Knife River towns for the critical time.

Had Lewis and Clark not invested the winter of 1804-1805 amongst the Mandan and Hidatsa, the result of the expedition might have been fairly different. The relationships forged between these different societies proved invaluable for the success that the expedition, an exploration that significant a brand-new era of contact and readjust at the Knife flow Villages.

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Today, 2 of the five earthlodge villages visited by Lewis and Clark are located at Knife flow Indian towns National historic Site: the Hidatsa (Big Hidatsa) and Awatixa (Sakakawea) Villages. The Awatixa village is additionally known as Sakakawea village because Charbonneau and also Sacagawea resided there once they join the expedition.