How Lewis & Clark Left Their Mark
After 200 years it would be nearly impossible for the Lewis and Clark expedition not to be dramatically romanticized. After all, the original purpose of the journey was to discover a waterway that traversed the entire continent, and they never did discover this elusive Northwest Passage. So why are names like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Sacagawea, York, and even a Newfoundland dog named Seaman still so alive in our historical accounts and minds today?
Much of history consists of fables and tall tales. Is true that ancient stories in combination with preserved documents and historical artifacts reflect the foundation of entire cultures alive today. The history of the world is fraught with many glorified stories. They live in our minds and pass from one generation to the next because of specific identifications we make with the players. Lewis, Clark, and all who went with them are important historical players in American mythology. Their mission had nothing to do with greed, money, and murder (considering their very existence at times depended on the help they received from a young Native American mother), but had everything to do with the creation of a tight-knit family in order to survive. This is a very familiar tale in American history. Yet this historical expedition is still powerful enough to create an ongoing debate over its actual significance today.
We know exactly what occurred on this perilous quest due to the excellent recordings and journals left behind by the group. The Corps of Discovery was not the first group to see the land they were traveling. Trappers, traders, and Native Americans were the first. The expedition didn't have any part in the American claim to the Pacific Northwest. Lewis and Clark didn't even use a route others would follow. They took the high road up north to reach the ocean instead of the later more widely traversed southern routes. Let us not forget that to the American Indians, this would be the beginning of the end. The peaceful dealings with Lewis and Clark are in stark contrast to the great changes in the Native American society after westward expansion.
Perhaps we should simply recognize the Lewis and Clark expedition for what it was; a unified group of diverse people on a road trip of survival and discovery. Metaphorically we can all relate with our own coming of age stories. We should take the positive aspects to heart instead of using the journey as an excuse to pit cowboy against Indian.
We are making history ourselves with every word we write and every story we pass on. During the paltry 226 years the United States has been in existence, we have told many larger-than-life stories of our important historical figures. George Washington didn't chop down a cherry tree. The first Thanksgiving feast was about surviving starvation. Most of our current holidays are pagan traditions put through a time warp and fashioned to be acceptable in today's society, but it doesn't matter. By preserving our existence and history through stories, we reflect the idea of unity in our society. One group with one common goal still accurately reflects the ideology of the true American today.
Suggested Films on Lewis & Clark
These excellent DVDs allow you to follow the trail of the Corps of Discovery and see what tools helped make their 8,000-mile odyssey possible, and re-live extensive accounts from journals that bring the epic quest to explore a vast continent to life.