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Monday, November 26, 2012

Prairie Wind

Flint Hills, Kansas (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I grew up in Kansas. I consider myself a Kansas girl even though I've not lived there for nearly 30 years.  

If you've never lived near the open prairies, you can't begin to understand the winds of them. 

With no trees to break it, the wind buffets you everywhere you go. 

My high school was made up of many different buildings--one per subject. We left each building after class to walk to another building. To this day I shudder with the winter memory of walking to class in the biting cold Kansas wind. Sometimes the walk took up to seven or more minutes. (Now that school has enclosed all the walking areas!)

What about you? Have you ever experienced a prairie wind? How would you describe it? 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Charbonneau couldn't swim!

Tiller of a sailboat
When Charbonneau, husband of Sacagawea, was at the tiller of the boat during the Lewis and Clark expedition, a strong wind tipped the boat and Charbonneau panicked. He didn't know how to swim! The fiddle player, Pierre Cruzatte (also known as Peter), who was one of the best boatmen of the expedition, had to threaten to shoot Charbonneau to get him to grab the tiller!

Man steering boat using the tiller

As you can see by the above diagram, the tiller controls the rudder which steers the boat.

Lewis and Clark Artifacts: Writing Desk

Lewis and Clark Artifacts by Chuck_893
Lewis and Clark Artifacts, a photo by Chuck_893 on Flickr.

Mandan Pots
These pots are unusual for their unique two-rim openings and the beautiful details. Click on the picture for more information. It's a .pdf file and may take awhile to load but it's worth it if you're curious about this exquisite art form.

Sending home the artifacts
When Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery left Fort Mandan, they didn't take everything with them. In fact, they loaded the keelboat with artifacts to be sent back to St. Louis and shipped to Thomas Jefferson. Included in the artifacts was a painted buffalo robe (above) depicting a battle between the Sioux and Arikaras against the Mandans. This robe currently resides at Harvard University. 

Here is a list of things that went aboard the keelboat with Corporal Warfington and his crew back down the Mississippi:

  • Lewis's dried plant specimens 
  • Lewis's "Summary View of Rivers and Creeks"
  • Lewis's "Summary Statement of Rivers, Creeks and Most Remarkable Places"
  • Maps
  • William Clark's journal
  • Seargean Charles Floyd's journal
  • Mineral specimens
  • Astronomical and weather data
  • Muster rolls
  • Accounting records 
  • Skins, bones, antlers, stuffed animals
  • Four live magpies
  • One live sharp-tailed grouse
  • One live prairie dog
  • Clark's description of tribes east of the Rocky Mountains they had met
  • Four boxes and three turnks of Indian artifacts that included a painted buffalo robe, bows and arrows, and a cooking pot.
At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson displayed some of the artifacts in a wing of his home he called "Indian Hall."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Western Prairie Rattle Snake (Crotalus viridis viridis)

Western Prairie Rattle Snake (Crotalus viridis viridis) by flyingdoginc

Feb. 11, 1805 - Fort Mandan, North Dakota - Sacagawea gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in Fort Mandan, as Lewis recorded: "about five Oclock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn, and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had frequently administered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth perhaps this remedy may by worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I want faith as to its efficacy." 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good Trade

When Lewis and Clark set out on their journey west, they took with them gifts for the native peoples they would meet on their way to the Pacific Ocean.

Among these were American flags:

 Peace medals:

Indian artist Paha Ska, of Keystone, S.D., an Elder of the Oglala Sioux tribe from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, holds an authentic Presidental Peace & Friendship Medalion from President Thomas Jefferson, Monday, Dec. 17, 2001, during a visit at St. Mary School in Elyria, Ohio, that was given to Indian leaders by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803. Paha Ska, who is about 80 years old, talked about and answered questions about Native Indians. (Photo/Paul M. Walsh)

And brass pots.

Other trinkets they brought with them to trade included:
  • 12 dozen pocket mirrors
  • 4600 sewing needles
  • 144 small sewing scissors
  • 10 pounds of sewing thread
  • Silk ribbons
  • Ivory Combs
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Yards of bright colored cloth
  • Handkerchiefs
  • 130 rolls of tabacco
  • Tomahawks 
  • 288 knives
  • 8 brass kettles
  • Vermillion face paint
  • 20 pounds of assorted beads (mostly blue)
  • 288 brass thimbles
  • Armbands
  • Ear trinkets
What would you take with you to trade?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seaman: A Newfoundland Dog on the Lewis and Clark Trail

One of my favorite parts of the Lewis and Clark story is Clark's dog, Seaman. I had read every book I knew of about Seaman long before I became the author of Sacagawea's story.

Newfoundlands are one of my favorite breeds. But the Newfoundland we think of may be very different from the Newfoundland that Clark owned. Newfoundlands used to be black and white like the picture below. (Clicking on the picture will take you to a book by Alexander Anderson published in 1790.)

The Newfoundland Dog
According to Wikipedia: 
The Newfoundland is a Working dog. Newfoundlands can be black, brown, gray, or black and white (Landseer). They were originally bred and used as a working dog for fishermen in the Dominion of Newfoundland, now part of Canada.[1][2] They are known for their giant size, tremendous strength, calm dispositions, and loyalty. Newfoundland dogs excel at water rescue/lifesaving because of their muscular build, thick double coat, webbed feet, and innate swimming abilities.[3]
One of the reasons the Newfoundland is such a great swimmer is its webbed feet. I can't confirm whether or not the following picture is a Newfoundland's paw, but it gives you an idea of what a web paw looks like. (The paw below appears to be a lot smaller than a Newfoundland paw.)

I am a dog lover, and I've always wanted a Newfoundland dog. However, after seeing this picture of how much undercoat these dogs have, maybe I'm blessed to have two dogs that don't shed!

Here's a Newfoundland with black and white markings. Isn't he gorgeous?

Another black and white Newfie loving the water as he's made to do.

The following picture made me smile because in my research I read that when some of the natives first saw Seaman they thought he might be a baby buffalo. You can really see why in this picture! Even the tail looks like a buffalo's!

Here are links to my two most favorite books about Seama:

Can you think of some other famous Newfoundland dogs? I know of at least five. I'll give you a hint. One of them belonged to a French ruler.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Welsh Indians?

During the 17th and 18th century, it was believed that the Mandan Indians were part Welsh. They were considered “white Indians.” Thomas Jefferson had read about these Indians and wanted Lewis and Clark to find them.

In a PBS Interview, historian Dayton Duncan said this about the legends of the western United States:

“Well, it's odd. I mean, here's Jefferson, one of the smartest men of any age. He had, his library had more books about the West than any library in the world. And yet, what did those books tell him? They told him that there might be wooly mammoths wandering in the West. That there were mountains made out of salt. The volcanoes erupting. That there were Indians who had blue eyes and spoke a Welsh language. I mean, the West was a rumor, it wasn't a fact in Jefferson's mind, or in the mind of Europeans at that time.”

Why did some explorers think the Mandan were descendants of the Welsh? Besides the legend of Prince Madoc coming to the United States and intermarrying with the Indians, the boats the Mandans/Hidatsas and Arikaras built and used were very similar to the Welsh coracle

But the boats weren’t the only thing similar. Some of these Indians had bluish-grey eyes and were taller than other tribes. Also, these natives were the only ones to build permanent dwellings that resembled those of Iron Age Wales:

But to jump to the conclusion that a people are blood relatives because their customs are similar is faulty logic. Roundhouse construction is found all over the world. And skin boat construction is also common in many different cultures. The coracle, umiak, canoe, and kayak are four other types of skin boats that were used by ancient humans to navigate waters and there are probably more we don't know about because skin boats disintegrated with time.

In 1796, the theory of the Mandans being Welsh was dispelled by Welsh explorer John Evans who wrote: “Thus having explored and charted the Missurie for 1,800 miles and by my Communications with the Indians this side of the Pacific Ocean from 35 to 49 degrees of Latitude, I am able to inform you that there is no such People as the Welsh Indians.”

We don't know if Jefferson had read this report or not. We do know he wanted Lewis and Clark to find them and report back about them if they discovered them. 

What about those blue eyes? Isn’t it possible that the Vikings had met and intermarried with the Mandan? Our history books aren’t all-knowing. We weren’t there and without written records, what happened prior to the 1600s in North America is speculative or based upon archaeological discoveries. But I do admit that the Mandan lodges remind me a great deal of the Viking dwellings at L'anse Aux Meadows that I researched for my book, O Canada! Her Story.

Catlin, an artist who painted many portraits of the Mandan, believed they were the “Welsh Indians” of folklore, descended from Prince Madoc and his followers who supposedly sailed to America from Wales in about 1170. This view was popular until the 1800s, and was revived again in the 1900s. In fact, the Daughters of the American Revolution believed the legend to such a degree that they erected a plaque on the shores of Alabama where Madoc was believed to have landed. 

The plaque is no longer there (due to lack of evidence to support its claim) but the last report I discovered about it was that it is being restored by the Daughters of the American Revolution to be put on display in one of their museums.
We may never know how much European blood was mixed with Native Mandan blood at the time of Sacagawea’s journey. While it’s fun to speculate and think about, the thing I hope all students will remember is that no matter our heritage or ethnicity, it doesn’t change the fact that we all come from God, and that there are no such things as "pure races." Between wars and exploration, slave trades and arranged marriages, no one has only one blood line. Simply put, we are all one race. 

The human race. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Map of Tribes

The above map contains educated guesses as to where the different Mandan and Hidatsa villages were located when Lewis and Clark visited them for the first time. As you can see, Sacagawea's village was on the Knife River, a tributary of the Missouri River. Also, notice the different spelling of her name: Sakakawea. There are three spellings recognized as correct: (1) Sacajawea (2) Sacagawea and (3) Sakakawea. All are acceptable. I will post more about this later.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Milky Way

The Shoshone tribe has a story about the Milky Way. Read my book Sacagawea to found out what it is!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Society of the Black Mouths

Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the Mandan/Hidatsa/Minataree culture, there were men's societies similar to today's clubs or civic organizations. One of these societies was the Society of the Black Mouths. Members of this society were men who painted the bottom half of their mouth black, much like the above painting of a Minatare chief.

The societies each had their own dances, rattles, weapons, articles of clothing, body painting and hair style.

Societies were segregated by age. The Black Mouths were men in their 40s. When they became older they sold their membership and bought a membership in a higher society.

Two officers in this society carried "raven lances" into battle. If he was chased by the enemy he was to plant his lance in the ground and remain beside it to fight until killed or until a fellow tribesman pulled it out.

In the book, Waheenee, An Indian Girl's Story, a Hidatsa girl describes the Black Mouths as being bossy men who told the women when to clean up the village yard and inspected lodges to see how clean they were. Most of the women feared them and were submissive to them. The children feared them because of their bossy ways. If their orders were disobeyed, they punished the offenders by beating them or firing guns at their feet.

I thought this was an interesting detail of daily Hidatsa life and included it in my book about Sacagawea.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Hidatsa Wedding

When Sacagawea married Charbonneau, she probably didn't have the type of ceremony a young Hidatsa woman would typically have had because she was a slave marrying a French fur trader.

When writing the book, Sacagawea, I had no way of knowing what her ceremony was like because it wasn't recorded. However, I do know that the caliber of the wedding in Hidatsa tradition depended on the status of the bride and her family. Much like it is in many cultures today. The more wealthy a family is, the more elaborate the wedding can be.

Betrothal happened sometimes in childhood, but it wasn't unusual for a young man to approach the father of the girl he admired and ask if he could marry her. The girl usually had no choice in the matter. She was brought up to trust her father's judgement and abide by his wishes.

For six days the mothers of the girl (Hidatsa men had more than one wife and the wives of the lodge were the mothers of the children) prepared feast foods for the wedding. On the sixth day the girl's family carried gifts and the feast foods to the groom's lodge.  The food may have been made of boiled dried green corn and ripe corn pounded to meal and boiled with beans.

Lewis and Clark Trail Blog
Inside the groom's lodge he sat on his bed that served as a couch during the day. The Hidatsa built beds off the floor on the outside walls of their lodge, very similar to how the Vikings fashioned their lodges.

The food was set near the fire. Gifts were exchanged. The groom may give horses to the bride's father and the bride's family may gift the groom with furs and horses. Generosity was a matter of pride. The Hidatsas wanted to give more valuable gifts than they received.

The women sat on the floor with their ankles to the right, the proper way for a Hidatsa woman to sit. The groom's mother might fill a wooden bowl with dried buffalo meat, pound it to a powder and mix it with marrow fat and offer it to the bride to eat. If the bride couldn't eat it all, she would fold it up in her robe and take it home. Hidatsa's always took any food they couldn't eat home with them. To not do so was an insult to the cook.

The groom's family would pack up the gifts given to the bride and take them to the bride's family lodge and present them to the bride's mother.

For the next two days the bride would busy herself decorating a couch/bed appointed as the marriage bed for the new couple in her father's lodge.

At the end of the second day, the bride's mother would tell her to go and call her husband, and to tell him that she wanted him to come to her father's lodge. The groom would go to the bride's father's lodge a few minutes after her request because young men didn't walk through the village with the woman they loved in the daytime as it was considered foolish.

After the groom spent the wedding night in the bride's father's lodge, he became a member of the bride's family, and the marriage ceremony was complete.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Idaho's Ant Hills

Sacagawea started her childhood as a Shoshone native in Idaho where busy ants make hills out of pine needles:

Look at the size of that ant hill! You know little ants had to stay pretty busy and work very hard to build that! They didn't do it alone. They worked together. Like a family. Like a team.

Whenever I'm tired and not feeling like sticking to a project, I think of the ants. I learned to do that because of what it says in the Bible, God's Word:

 "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:  Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest" --Proverbs 6:6-8.

Grizzly Bears and Sacagawea

Grizzlies foraging; Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Shoshone Indians tell a story about a fight between a grey grizzly bear and a black bear. Some people think that there used to be polar bears in Idaho because Lewis and Clark reported seeing them.

In April 1805, Captain Lewis wrote in his journal:

"We...found many tracks of the white bear of enormous size, along the river shore and about the carcasses of the buffalo, on which I presume they feed. We have not as yet seen one of these animals, though their tracks are so abundant and recent...The Indians give a very formidable account of the strength and ferocity of this animal, which they never dare to attack but in parties of six, eight, or ten persons, and are even then requently defeated with the loss of one or more of their party" (Animals on the trail with Lewis and Clark by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.)

Did grizzlies interbreed with polar bears as far south as Idaho?

Not necessarily. As you can see by this picture, the way the light shines on the bears' coats makes it look like a shade of grey.

Another example of a "grey grizzly" here:

Source: Wikimedia Commons
This fellow's coat reminds me of a "silver back" gorilla's. 

What do you think Lewis and Clark really saw?