Fort Clatsop National Memorial Collection FOCL 000104 Cat. No. 698
On 20 November 1805 William Clark wrote in his journal, “…one of the Indians had on a roab made of 2 Sea Otter Skins the fur of them were more butiful than any fur I had ever seen. Both Capt. Lewis and my Self endeavored to purchase the roab with different articles. At length we procured it for a belt of blue beads which [Sacagawea] wore around her waste.” The scene depicted above is from a painting by Newman Myrah entitled “Bartering Blue Beads for Otter Robe”.

Native History: Lewis and Clark Depart Fort Clatsop, Head Home

Jack McNeel

This Date in Native History: The Lewis and Clark expedition had reached the Pacific on November 15, 1805 and were to remain in their winter quarters through a long, wet winter until they began their eastward journey back to St. Louis on March 23, 1806.

They planned to begin that journey April 1, but weather conditions made the winter unpleasant despite the friendliness of the local Clatsop Tribe. All were eager to leave and departure was moved up to March 20, then delayed until March 23 due to bad weather. 

Even as they approached the coast in November, Captain Clark noted the weather conditions in his diary. “The rainey weather continued without a longer intermition than 2 hours at a time, from the 5th in the morng. until the 16th is eleven days rain, and the most disagreeable time I have experienced … where I can neither git out to hunt, return to a better situation, or proceed on.” [sic]

Day after day their diaries would begin, “a cool, wet, raney [sic] morning,” or “rained all the after part of last night, the rain continues this morning,” or “a cloudy foggy morning. Some rain.”

It was impossible to stay dry. Moccasins and clothing rotted and were infected with insects. Colds were a continual problem. It was a peaceful time and food was reasonably available, but it was also a miserable time.

Patrick Gass, a member of the expedition, also kept a journal and he commented, “From the 4th of November, 1805 to the 25th of March, 1806, there were not more than 12 days in which it did not rain, and of these but six were clear.”

They initially established camp on the north side of the Columbia River in what is now Washington, but soon disliked the location and voted whether to stay put or move across the river to what is now Oregon. This was a notable vote. Everybody was allowed to vote, including York, Captain Clark’s African American “manservant”, and Sacajawea, the Indian woman. It was the first election west of the Mississippi and it would be 60 years before the end of slavery and more than a century before women or Indians were allowed to vote. 


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hesutu's picture
Submitted by hesutu on
"It was the first election west of the Mississippi" This informal vote was the first election west of the Mississippi? Apparently our egalitarian and democratic nations don't count because we are not human beings, only the white man counts. Hate to see the white wash here on ICTMN.

editors's picture
Submitted by editors on
@hesutu: Writer Jack McNeel responds: "The point of the statement is that everyone was treated equally: whites, women, black 'slaves', Indians. I took the phrase about the first election west of the Mississippi from one of the references and I thought it was noteworthy."