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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Ambrose, Stephen E. | Touchstone, 1996


pp. 188 - 189

Lewis and Clark met with the chiefs of a great many Indian tribes, always including in their presentation to the Indians a plea for peace among the various tribes. Their idea, emanating from President Jefferson, was that the Western territories would be far more appealing to white settlers and travelers if the Indians weren’t warring. But there were problems in talking to Indians about Indian peace. In present-day North Dakota, the Hidatsa tribe seemingly couldn’t grasp the concepts “war” and “peace.” Their experience for years had been matter-of-fact. Periodically, their young braves would get restless. They were “spurred by their desire for glory and honor, which could be won only on raids, which always brought on revenge raids, in a regular cycle.” The white explorers might as well have counselled the Indians to stop spring rain. Besides, one young brave asked, if we quit hostilities, what would the tribe do for chiefs? Chiefs die every so often and need to be replaced, and the only way of selecting new chiefs was to see who were the bravest warriors.