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Provided below are a series of background readings that you can share with students to further enhance their study of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Each title links to a PDF document that may be downloaded and/or printed for classroom use.

The Great River of the West
By August of 1805 Meriwether Lewis was desperate to find the Shoshone Indians. Lewis had long deemed the Shoshones and their horses essential for an expected portage across the continental divide.

Vote at Station Camp 
(additional primary source materials include The Station Camp Vote and After The Station Camp Vote)
Different moments recorded in the journals of Lewis and Clark throughout their long and eventful Expedition may resonate with the historian, anthropologist, cartographer or biologist, but there is one event that seems to catch the attention of all who hear of it.

Tribal Cultures and Homelands
(additional primary source material include The Northwest Chiefs)
Village occupants along the Columbia River were participants in a grand and complex scheme of intertribal trade and intermarriage. As they hurried to the coast, the Lewis and Clark party couldn’t begin to understand the shifting relationships in these seasonally-occupied, multi-lingual villages. The Lewis and Clark journals are also an important source of biographical information about tribal leaders.  In some instances, these are the only written records about those individuals written by direct observers.

The Challenge to Communicate
(additional secondary source material include Sign Language Of The Plains Indians)
When Lewis and Clark embarked upon their epic journey in 1804, they had little knowledge of the people they would encounter along the Missouri. They virtually knew nothing about the tribes of the Columbia, let alone how or by what means those people would communicate.

In Their Own Words
Lewis and Clark reported on the daily events of their multi-year journey. These journal entries describe their daily observations. On occasion, they describe interactions among themselves or with one of their host groups, which reveal details about the participants and their character.

Each reading describes a different group that the Expedition encountered: