and more hopelessly embarrassed, so that shortly, instead

 people involved | time:2023-12-06 06:31:17

The explorers were now at the entrance of the mighty Columbia,--"The Great River" of which they had heard so much from the Indians. We might suppose that when they actually embarked upon the waters of the famous stream, variously known as "The River of the North" and "The Oregon," the explorers would be touched with a little of the enthusiasm with which they straddled the headwaters of the Missouri and gazed upon the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains. But no such kindling of the imagination seems to have been noted in their journal. In this commonplace way, according to their own account, Captain Clark entered upon the mighty Columbia:--

and more hopelessly embarrassed, so that shortly, instead

"In the course of the day [October 17, 1805], Captain Clark, in a small canoe with two men, ascended the Columbia. At the distance of five miles he passed an island in the middle of the river, at the head of which was a small but not dangerous rapid. On the left bank, opposite to this island, was a fishing-place consisting of three mat houses. Here were great quantities of salmon drying on scaffolds; and, indeed, from the mouth of the river upward, he saw immense numbers of dead salmon strewed along the shore, or floating on the surface of the water, which is so clear that the fish may be seen swimming at the depth of fifteen or twenty feet. The Indians, who had collected on the banks to observe him, now joined him in eighteen canoes, and accompanied him up the river. A mile above the rapids he came to the lower point of an island, where the course of the stream, which had been from its mouth north eighty-three degrees west, now became due west. He proceeded in that direction, until, observing three house's of mats at a short distance, he landed to visit them. On entering one of these houses, he found it crowded with men, women, and children, who immediately provided a mat for him to sit on, and one of the party undertook to prepare something to eat. He began by bringing in a piece of pine wood that had drifted down the river, which he split into small pieces with a wedge made of elkhorn, by means of a mallet of stone curiously carved. The pieces of wood were then laid on the fire, and several round stones placed upon them. One of the squaws now brought a bucket of water, in which was a large salmon about half dried, and, as the stones became heated, they were put into the bucket till the salmon was sufficiently boiled for use. It was then taken out, put on a platter of rushes neatly made, and laid before Captain Clark, while another was boiled for each of his men. During these preparations he smoked with such about him as would accept of tobacco, but very few were desirous of smoking, a custom which is not general among them, and chiefly used as a matter of form in great ceremonies.

and more hopelessly embarrassed, so that shortly, instead

"After eating the fish, which was of an excellent flavor, Captain Clark set out and, at the distance of four miles from the last island, came to the lower point of another near the left shore, where he halted at two large mat-houses. Here, as at the three houses below, the inhabitants were occupied in splitting and drying salmon. The multitudes of this fish are almost inconceivable. The water is so clear that they can readily be seen at the depth of fifteen or twenty feet; but at this season they float in such quantities down the stream, and are drifted ashore, that the Indians have only to collect, split, and dry them on the scaffolds. Where they procure the timber of which these scaffolds are composed he could not learn; but as there is nothing but willow-bushes to be seen for a great distance from this place, it rendered very probable what the Indians assured him by signs, that they often used dried fish as fuel for the common occasions of cooking. From this island they showed him the entrance of the western branch of the Columbia, called the Tapteal, which, as far as could be seen, bears nearly west and empties about eight miles above into the Columbia, the general course of which is northwest."

and more hopelessly embarrassed, so that shortly, instead

The Tapteal, as the journal calls it, is now known as the Yakima, a stream which has its source in the Cascade range of mountains, Washington. The party tarried here long enough to secure from the Indians a tolerably correct description of the river upon which they were about to embark. One of the chiefs drew upon the skin-side of a buffalo robe a sketch of the Columbia. And this was transferred to paper and put into the journal. That volume adds here:--

"Having completed the purposes of our stay, we now began to lay in our stores. Fish being out of season, we purchased forty dogs, for which we gave small articles, such as bells, thimbles, knitting-needles, brass wire, and a few beads, an exchange with which they all seemed perfectly satisfied. These dogs, with six prairie-cocks killed this morning, formed a plentiful supply for the present. We here left our guide and the two young men who had accompanied him, two of the three being unwilling to go any further, and the third being of no use, as he was not acquainted with the river below. We therefore took no Indians but our two chiefs, and resumed our journey in the presence of many of the Sokulks, who came to witness our departure. The morning was cool and fair, and the wind from the southeast."

They now began again to meet Indians who had never before seen white men. On the nineteenth, says the journal:--

"The great chief, with two of his inferior chiefs and a third belonging to a band on the river below, made us a visit at a very early hour. The first of these was called Yelleppit,-- a handsome, well-proportioned man, about five feet eight inches high, and thirty-five years of age, with a bold and dignified countenance; the rest were not distinguished in their appearance. We smoked with them, and after making a speech, gave a medal, a handkerchief, and a string of wampum to Yelleppit, but a string of wampum only to the inferior chiefs. He requested us to remain till the middle of the day, in order that all his nation might come and see us; but we excused ourselves by telling him that on our return we would spend two or three days with him. This conference detained us till nine o'clock, by which time great numbers of the Indians had come down to visit us. On leaving them we went on for eight miles, when we came to an island near the left shore, which continued six miles in length. At its lower extremity is a small island on which are five houses, at present vacant, though the scaffolds of fish are as usual abundant. A short distance below are two more islands, one of them near the middle of the river. On this there were seven houses, but as soon as the Indians, who were drying fish, saw us, they fled to their houses, and not one of them appeared till we had passed; when they came out in greater numbers than is usual for houses of that size, which induced us to think that the inhabitants of the five lodges had been alarmed at our approach and taken refuge with them. We were very desirous of landing in order to relieve their apprehensions, but as there was a bad rapid along the island all our care was necessary to prevent injury to the canoes. At the foot of this rapid is a rock on the left shore, which is fourteen miles from our camp of last night and resembles a hat in shape."

Later in the day, Captain Clark ascended a bluff on the river bank, where he saw "a very high mountain covered with snow." This was Mount St. Helen's, in Cowlitz County, Washington. The altitude of the peak is nine thousand seven hundred and fifty feet. "Having arrived at the lower ends of the rapids below the bluff before any of the rest of the party, be sat down on a rock to wait for them, and, seeing a crane fly across the river, shot it, and it fell near him. Several Indians had been before this passing on the opposite side towards the rapids, and some who were then nearly in front of him, being either alarmed at his appearance or the report of the gun, fled to their houses. Captain Clark was afraid that these people had not yet heard that the white men were coming, and therefore, in order to allay their uneasiness before the rest of the party should arrive, he got into the small canoe with three men, rowed over towards the houses, and, while crossing, shot a duck, which fell into the water. As he approached no person was to be seen except three men in the plains, and they, too, fled as he came near the shore. He landed in front of five houses close to each other, but no one appeared, and the doors, which were of mat, were closed. He went towards one of them with a pipe in his hand, and, pushing aside the mat, entered the lodge, where he found thirty-two persons, chiefly men and women, with a few children, all in the greatest consternation; some hanging down their heads, others crying and wringing their hands. He went up to them, and shook hands with each one in the most friendly manner; but their apprehensions, which had for a moment subsided, revived on his taking out a burning-glass, as there was no roof to the house, and lighting his pipe: he then offered it to several of the men, and distributed among the women and children some small trinkets which he had with him, and gradually restored a degree of tranquillity among them.

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