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A View of How The Native Americans Made The Lewis and Clark Expedition Successful

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The Lewis and Clark Expedition took place August 31, 1803, and was lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. This expedition was issued by Thomas Jefferson after he purchased the land for 15 Million dollars. In a letter to congress, Jefferson wrote: The appropriation of two thousand five hundred dollars, “for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States,”(Jefferson 2). The $2,500 was for the expedition, so for Jefferson, this new land was more then to just double the land of the United States but to make more money for the United States by making allies with the Native Americans. These Native Americans proved to be more helpful than just for commerce, they kept the Lewis and Clark Expedition from being a complete failure. If it weren’t for the Native American’s help, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would not of been a success. Examples of the Natives helping the expedition would be: the tribe’s knowledge of the land, Native American tribes helped guide the expedition and help them find food. Another example would be: trading of food and supplies between the expedition and the Native Americans. Lastly would be: Sacagawea helping Lewis and Clark by being a member of the expedition, guiding, and keeping peace with tribes they come upon. Tribes knowledge of the land gave Lewis and Clark direction on their expedition and kept them alive. The land was all unexplored so they had no idea what do expect and they had to relay on the Native Americans for help. An example of the Native Americans help would be that the Shoshones tell Lewis and Clark that there is no all-water route to the pacific, they explain the only way is to cross the Bitterroot (Rockie) Mountains ( Shoshone Indians). Another example would be that the local Indians at Fort Clatsop (Pacific Coast) told the expedition of a whale that had beached, the expedition could get blubber and oil to survive on ( Sacagawea). So the Shoshones telling Lewis and Clark of no all-water route shows that the Indians knowledge of the land did help the expedition (they could of wandered for months finding a water source to the Pacific). Also local Indians telling the expedition of a whale does show that the Indians cared about them, so they didn’t starve when winter hit.

The trading of food and supplies between the expedition and the Native Americans kept the expedition going. Again because the land was all unexplored the expedition didn’t know where to hunt or when a winter storm would end, so they would have to go to the Indians for help. During the winter with the Mandans, the Mandans agreed to be a supplier of goods for the expedition throughout the harsh winter (Ambros [Voyage of Discovery] 75). In order for the expedition to get over the Bitterroot Mountains, they traded with the Shoshones for horses ( Shoshones). The expedition traded gifts with the Natives they met as peace offerings, such as beads, brass buttons, axes, vermillion, scissors, mirrors, whisky and many other things (Ambrose [Undaunted Courage] 155). When the expedition came upon a group of Shoshone women, the women were fearful at first but the expedition gave the women gifts and painted their faces with vermilion, which was a sign of peace for the women ( Sacagawea). Also making peace with Chiefs from the area of the Mandans and the Mandan Chief by giving them handkerchiefs, arm bands, and paint, this made the chiefs very pleased and like the white people (Captain Clark, 28 November 1804). So if it weren’t for the Native American’s help with the trading of supplies and food, the expedition would have been a failure due to starvation or lack of supplies to continue on.

Sacagawea helping Lewis and Clark by being a member of the expedition, guiding, and keeping peace with tribes they come upon kept the expedition moving on. If Sacagawea wasn’t with the expedition a conflict would of arose and the expedition would have been a failure. When other tribes saw Sacagawea, especially ones who wanted to defend their lands, with the expedition they were more friendly towards the whites. From an Indians stand point: women never traveled with war parties, so the expedition seemed to be friendly ( Sacagawea). Also Sacagawea taught the men on the expedition that red paint on their cheeks meant peace to some of the tribes they would meet (Lesson plan: Sacagawea By: Melissa Horrocks ). When Sacagawea met her brother (who she got separated from earlier in life), Chief Cameahwait of the Shoshones, she was able to get horses for the expedition so they could cross the Bitterroot Mountains ( Sacagawea). Lastly, when the boat Sacagawea was riding in was hit by a high wind and almost capsized, she was able to rescue many important documents and supplies which the trip was just about based on (maps, plant specimens, tribal gifts, ect.), and would be lost otherwise ( Sacagawea). If it weren’t for Sacagawea, many tribes would of attacked or just ignored the party and Lewis and Clark would of probably gotten lost going through the uncharted territory.

In conclusion, if it weren’t for the Native American’s help the Lewis and Clark Expedition wouldn’t have been a success. This is because this territory was all unexplored and the expedition had no idea what to expect. The expedition relayed on Native Americans dozens and dozens of times. Feeding them during the winter, guiding them for the route ahead, and not killing them but making peace with them. No one could ever deny this fact: the Lewis and Clark Expedition relayed heavily on the Native American’s help.

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A View of How the Native Americans Made the Lewis and Clark Expedition Successful. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“A View of How the Native Americans Made the Lewis and Clark Expedition Successful.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
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