Lewis and Clark Inspire Interest, Imagination

More than 200 years after their great expedition through the Pacific Northwest, the experiences and discoveries of Lewis and Clark continue to inspire interest and imagination among students and adults in America and beyond—including Ms. Kuehnle’s 6-8 team social studies students.

Preparing for the Expedition: When Thomas Jefferson was elected president, Americans had little idea what existed west of the Mississippi River. Jefferson believed explorers would find woolly mammoths and lava-spewing volcanoes. He also expected them to find a waterway that would allow American to travel easily to the Pacific Ocean and, from there, to the Orient. At Jefferson’s request, Congress approved $2,500 to fund an expedition to map a “northwest passage” to the Pacific Ocean.

Consider: you are being asked to travel someplace you know nothing about—are you excited? scared? You are expected to map the area you travel—how will you do that? You have a limited amount of money—what supplies will you take with you?

Hardships and Discoveries: The Lewis and Clark Expedition lasted more than two years. During that time, they confronted harsh weather, treacherous waters, injuries, starvation, disease, and depression. They traveled more than 8,000 miles, produced invaluable maps and geographical information, identified at least 120 animal specimens and 200 botanical samples and initiated peaceful relations with dozens of Native American tribes.

Consider: How would you have responded to the hardships experienced by Lewis and Clark? Was the information gained worth their effort? Given the opportunity to meet people in an unknown land, how would you approach them?

Among the native Americans met by Lewis and Clark was Sacagawea. Sacagawea joined the expedition as an interpreter, but she proved to be a significant asset in numerous ways: searching for edible plants, making moccasins and clothing, as well as allaying suspicions of approaching Indian tribes through her presence. At one point, a boat in which Sacagawea was riding nearly capsized. Remaining calm, she retrieved important papers, instruments, books, medicine, and other indispensable valuables that otherwise would have been lost

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