Hate Speech, Horses, and Hostages: Lewis & Clark in Teton Territory

16 Dec 2021

The Oglala Sioux Tribe Clinical Laboratory invited the CAIRNS director to present on what might have really happened in 1804 when the Corps of Discovery navigated its three vessels up the Missouri River through Teton Territory. The mainstream narrative for the past 200 years is based on the following beliefs: 1) The expedition knew about Tetons before leaving Camp Dubois, 2) Tetons were treacherous, powerful and war-like, 3) There were dangerous confrontations initiated by Tetons that threatened the expedition, and 4) Lewis and Clark acted valiantly and heroically in response to the threats. Based on documentary evidence, which includes the journal entries of William Clark, Patrick Gas, John Ordway, and Joseph Whitehouse during the eight days the expedition traversed Teton Territory, the presentation posits that the  mainstream beliefs are not only inaccurate, but continue to be perpetuated by professional historians. For example, the image above is of the 1795 Soulard Map that Lewis and Clark would have studied prior to departing Camp Dubois in 1804. Circled on it are where “Sioux Indians” are indicated as living. The map does not contain the word “Teton” at all, nor does it locate any “Siouxs” along the Missouri River. Instead, Siouxs are located in the Rocky Mountains and north of the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Nevertheless, historian James Ronda, in his book, Lewis and Clark among the Indians, states that "Soulard’s map demonstratred with remarkable accuracy the locations of western Indians at the end of thee eighteenth century…Indians that Lewis and Clark had heard about from St. Louis traders were on the map and in the expected places.”