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Lewis and Clark




United States buys Louisiana



August 21
Corps enters South Dakota
August 30
Explorers meet Yanktons
September 25
Explorers meet Tetons
October 8
Explorers meet Arikaras
October 24
Explorers meet Mandans
Corps reaches Pacific Ocean
August 21-September 4

Corps revisits South Dakota

September 23

Journey ends in Saint Louis

Lesson 2
Meeting the Tribes 

    Lewis and Clark were not the first white people to visit the future state of South Dakota. Fur traders like Pierre Dorion and Toussaint Charbonneau did, too. Lewis and Clark’s trip was the first official expedition.

    The Corps of Discovery reached the mouth of the Big Sioux River in August 1804. They hiked six miles to Spirit Mound. The Indians thought little devils lived on this hill. The explorers did not see spirits. They only saw "a most beautiful landscape," Clark wrote.

    Lewis and Clark next met with a group of Sioux (Dakota, Lakota, Nakota) Indians. The explorers had been waiting to meet the Sioux. They were a large and powerful nation. These Indians controlled the upper Missouri River. Their strength was famous as far away as Saint Louis. The corps met the Yanktons, or Nakotas, at Calumet Bluff. They were near today’s Gavins Point Dam. It was late August.

     Pierre Dorion acted as interpreter. He was a French-Canadian fur trader. He lived with the Yanktons. Lewis and Clark met Dorion coming down the river in June. Dorion was going to Saint Louis to sell furs. Lewis and Clark hired him to go back up the river with them. He would talk to the Indians for them.

     Lewis and Clark told the Yanktons that Louisiana was now part of the United States. They asked them to trade with American fur traders. The explorers asked the tribe to send chiefs to meet the president.

    The Yanktons wanted to trade for guns. Lewis and Clark could not. They needed their weapons for the trip. They gave the Indians small flags and clothing instead. Pierre Dorion told the Indians why. He said that the Americans were explorers, not traders. He helped the Yanktons understand why Lewis and Clark did not trade with them.

    The Yanktons agreed to do what the corps asked them. They warned the explorers about the Tetons, or Lakota Sioux. They might not be so friendly. The explorers went on up the river. Dorion stayed behind. He would take the Yankton chiefs to Washington, D.C.

Yankton Chief

South Dakota Map South Dakota Map

     Next the Corps of Discovery met the Tetons. They were near what is now Fort Pierre. It was the end of September. The Tetons were strong. They were well known for making others pay to use the river. Lewis and Clark needed a good interpreter. They had left Dorion with the Yanktons. The explorers used sign language and a little Lakota. They asked the Tetons to accept Thomas Jefferson as their leader. They also asked them to trade with the United States. The Tetons did not like these ideas. They had a monopoly on trade on the upper Missouri River. They did not want competition.


     A fight between two Teton chiefs made matters worse. Lewis and Clark treated Black Buffalo as the head chief. They made Partisan and his men angry. These Indians grabbed a canoe. They told the explorers it was payment for using the river. Clark drew his sword, and the Tetons strung their bows. Black Buffalo calmed them all down. The two groups parted peacefully.

    There were more Tetons than explorers. If they had fought, many people from both sides would have died. American history might have been different. Instead, Lewis and Clark finished the trip. When they got back, Americans thought they could settle the West without problems with the Indians.

   Next, Lewis and Clark met the Arikaras. The Arikaras were farmers. They lived near present-day Mobridge. The Tetons forced the Arikaras to trade with them. The Arikaras had to give them their crops at low prices. The Arikaras were not allowed to hunt for themselves. They had to trade with the Tetons for everything they needed.

Winter Count   Winter Count

    The Arikaras were happy to meet Lewis and Clark, who might bring new chances for trade. They agreed to send a chief to meet the president.

competition (n.), a struggle with others to control something or to be the best

interpreter (n.), a person who tells people who do not speak each other's language what is being said

monopoly (n.), total control of buying and selling goods

official (adj.), approved by people in charge.