Lewis Clark Patrick Gass the Problem Interpretation Communication Encountered Explorers Indians Expedition Essay

  • Length: 15 pages
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  • Subject: Native Americans
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #51749873

Excerpt from Essay :

Lewis Clark, Patrick Gass the problem interpretation (communication) encountered explorers ( Indians) expedition.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote Meriwether Louis on June 30, 1803 to instruct upon some of the conditions that the pending expedition imposed, he made several relevant considerations. The president emphasized that it was an important objective of the mission that knowledge should be acquired in regards to the people who inhabited the target regions of the expedition. He encouraged Meriwether to acquaint himself with the tribes and their religion, wealth, productions, arts, and language, among others. He also advised Meriwether that his behavior toward the inhabitants should be ?in the most friendly and conciliatory manner? (Jefferson 1803) insofar as he would be demonstrated similar conduct. Before going into any other details, it should be mentioned that the referenced expedition is of course the Lewis and Clark Expedition commissioned by Thomas Jefferson and commanded by the two aforementioned. Meriwether and William's assignment was to evaluate and map out the west territory, beyond the Mississippi River, a mission that would eventually serve to shape the United States. Additionally, as substantiated by the Indian removal which took place in the nineteenth century, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was thought not as merely exploratory strategy for commercial inauguration but indeed pursued for territorial expansion.

Given that one of the main objectives of the mission was gathering of information of the native tribes, some form of communication deemed thus imperious for the mission to succeed. This is why members of the Corps, such as George Droulliard, Pierre Cruzatte, Francois Labiche, who were part American Indian, were relied on as interpreters, given their knowledge of Indian language. Further, Droulliard was familiarized with sign language which, although rudimentary, served the mission's purpose. Moreover, Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone born Indian woman accompanied Lewis and Clark for much of their journey to the Pacific Ocean until 1806. However, challenges did exist due to the fact that, as many as dozens of tribes inhabited the region and lots were culturally and linguistically different from one another. This indeed would be acknowledged by Co-captain William Clark in one of his notes regarding the Sioux tribes: This Nation is Divided into 20 tribes, possessing seperate interests. Collectively they are noumerous say from 2 to 3000 men, their interests are so unconnected that Some bands are at war with some Nations [with] which other bands are on the most friendly terms. (132) What's more, William noted on how peculiar it had been for him to come across a nation of Indians he had never met before: Those who become Members of this Society must be brave active young men who take a Vow never give back let the danger be what it may, in War Parties they always go forward without screening themselves behind trees or anything else to this vow they Strictly adhier during their lives. (130) It is understood then that the Corps of Discovery had to implement different communicating techniques in accordance with the variety of Indian nations. Because some of the tribes were not merely reluctant but indeed hostile do develop relationships with strangers, interrelations were further challenged. Added to that was the problem of interpreting that depended much on the proficiency of the interpreter to accurately reproduce Indian statements while subsequently relaying messages to the natives.

Having said these, what will be addressed in this essay are some of the problems that Meriwether and William, along with the rest of the members of the Corps, encountered in establishing communication with the native tribes who inhabited the course of the Mississippi river during the years of the expedition. In this respect, the commanders' personal observations will be considered, as well as any relevant information regarding the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the native tribes. It should be mentioned that the editing version of the commanders' journals that has been made reference to in this paper is the 1904 two parts volume that reveals the manuscripts exactly as written by Meriwether and William. Thus, where information has been cited, the subsequent grammatical errors appear uncorrected since this how they were added in the edited version.

Thomas Jefferson himself was not oblivious to Indian culture and was cognizant of the importance of linguistic researching. He would eventually relish on the disappearance of many of the Indian tribes' languages. Jefferson wrote in Notes of the State of Virginia that ?it is to be lamented then, very much lamented, that we have suffered so many of the Indian tribes already to extinguish, without our having previously collected and deposited in the records of literature, the general rudiments at least of the languages they spoke. (qtd. In Cutright 7) He had general ethnological interests but was also involved with ?procuring Indian vocabularies, ? (qtd. In Cutright 7), an enterprise that no doubt enforced the initiative for an expedition.

Knowledge of the Indians on a more general basis had started to be collected since the time France, Britain, or Spain first established connections with native tribes. It was known thus that Indians practiced trade among themselves and gift giving as diplomatic affairs. To ensure similar negotiation tactics in the manner that Indians understood diplomacy, Lewis was instructed by Benjamin Rush, a renowned physician at the time and personality, and other members of the intellectual elite to negotiate effectively. Although, writing to Benjamin Rush, President Jefferson acknowledged that ?Capt. Lewis is brave, prudent, habituated to the woods & familiar with Indian manners and character, (qtd. In Jackson 18) he nevertheless sent Meriwether to Philadelphia to receive training on health issues as well as diplomacy with Indians. This was a way to secure safe passage as much as it represented a tactic for opening up and broadening diplomatic relations. Ceremonial gifts were part of an entire arsenal of ancient diplomatic protocols that the Indian tribes assimilated which made it imperative for Lewis, as commander of the Corps, to become acquainted with such processes.

Peace medals were specifically designed by the U.S. As well as Britain, France, and Spain as symbols of covenant between nations. Peace and Friendship? had been inscribed on the reverse of the medals along with clasped hands so as to imply the bond claimed by the European -- Americans, the fraternity and the equality between the latter and the Indian nations of the West. These medals were graded differently and were given to Indians according to their rank. Presents for chiefs and Indian people were thus considered intermediary methods of communication that would at least determine the Corps' presence to be deemed with less hostility. And Lewis himself was aware of the importance to facilitate their being on Indian lands with gift giving. In fact, Lewis's initial estimation of expenses attached to the expedition summed up the total amount of 2.500 dollars, of which the biggest sum of 696 dollars was to be spent on acquiring presents for the Indian tribes (Jackson 9). However, it was often that Meriwether and the natives misunderstood each other based on what each of the group perceived of the trade and gift giving. The two commanders believed they could appoint chiefs by their own understanding of the European -- American system. In regards to the interaction with the Otoe and the Missouri Indians, William wrote in his journal that ?the names of the chiefs made [we acknowledged] this day are as follows…, ? (98), a note which does not only imply that the commanders believed it was within their rights to acknowledge Indian authorities but clearly indicates their confidence in naming chiefs. What they failed to understand was that Indians followed completely different norms and they little but resented Meriwether and William's non-Indian concepts. Furthermore, William's observations that the Indian chiefs ?wer happy to find that they had fathers which might be depended on, (98) serve to demonstrate that the commanders believed that chiefs would comply and agree on authoritarian dependence. In fact, their hope for having a ?great white father? [Thomas Jefferson] to depend upon was merely viewed as beneficial in terms of commercial bonds. Meriwether and William had also been granted printed certificates prior to their departure on which they were instructed to write names of the chiefs as were acknowledged. They were convinced that this would further substantiate legal authority. However, it was noted in William's journal that Indians did not know what to make of such documents and were indeed reluctant to receive them:

one of those Indians after receiving his Certificate deliv. It again to me the Big Blue Eyes the chief petitioned for the Ctft. again, we would not give the Certf., but rebuked them very roughly for haveing in object goods and not peace with their neighbors. this language they did not like at first, but at length all petitioned for us to give back the Certificate to the Big Blue Eyes he came forward and made a plausible excuse, I then gave the Certificate [to] the Great Chief to bestow it to the most worthy, they gave…

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