Thursday, September 06, 2007


It is easier to find a children's book that looks at the Lewis and Clark Expedition through the eyes of Seaman, the black lab who was on the expedition, than it is to find books about it from the perspective of Native peoples on whose lands Lewis and Clark journeyed.

Do you wonder if you read that paragraph right? Did you re-read it, just to make sure you understood it right?! Saying again, you'll more likely to find a book about Lewis and Clark--told from the perspective of a dog--than from a Native person.

Sadly, that is precisely the case.

There is, however, a terrific book for older kids. Edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., it is Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition.

Here's the description:

For the first time in the two hundred years since Lewis and Clark led their expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific, we hear the other side of the story—as we listen to nine descendants of the Indians whose homelands were traversed. 
Among those who speak: Newspaper editor Mark Trahant writes of his childhood belief that he was descended from Clark and what his own research uncovers. Award-winning essayist and fiction writer Debra Magpie Earling describes the tribal ways that helped her nineteenth-century Salish ancestors survive, and that still work their magic today. Montana political figure Bill Yellowtail tells of the efficiency of Indian trade networks, explaining how axes that the expedition traded for food in the Mandan and Hidatsa villages of Kansas had already arrived in Nez Perce country by the time Lewis and Clark got there a few months and 1,000 miles later. Umatilla tribal leader Roberta Conner compares Lewis and Clark’s journal entries about her people with what was actually going on, wittily questioning Clark’s notion that the natives believed the white men “came from the clouds”—in other words, they were gods. Writer and artist N. Scott Momaday ends the book with a moving tribute to the “most difficult of journeys,” calling it, in the truest sense, for both the men who entered the unknown and those who watched, “a vision quest,” with the “visions gained being of profound consequence.”
Some of the essays are based on family stories, some on tribal or American history, still others on the particular circumstances of a tribe today—but each reflects the expedition’s impact through the prism of the author’s own, or the tribe’s, point of view.
Thoughtful, moving, provocative, Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes is an exploration of history—and a study of survival—that expands our knowledge of our country’s first inhabitants. It also provides a fascinating and invaluable new perspective on the Lewis and Clark expedition itself and its place in the long history of our continent.

Published in 2006 by Vintage Books, the nine writers and their essays are:

Vine Deloria, Jr., "Frenchmen, Bears, and Sandbars"
Debra Magpie Earling, "What We See"
Mark Trahant, "Who's Your Daddy"
Bill Yellowtail, "Meriwether and Billy and the Indian Business"
Robert Conner, "Our People Have Always Been Here"
Gerard A. Baker, "Mandan and Hidatsa of the Upper Missouri"
Allen V. Pinkhorn, Sr., "We Ya Oo Yet Soyapo"
Robert and Richard Basch, "The Ceremony at Ne-ah-coxie"
N. Scott Momaday, "The Voices of Encounter"

I highly recommend it, for teachers at any grade level. It is available on Kindle.

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