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

Ambrose, Stephen E. | Touchstone, 1996


p. 380

Despite white American presumptuousness and paternalism about Indians (you are “children” or “savages” and “your land” needs to become ours), despite the strangeness of the white explorers to Indian eyes and ears, Lewis and Clark and company were often—maybe more often than not—treated kindly by Indians. The Nez Percé in the area close to today’s Missoula, Montana were especially kind to Lewis and Clark and their men. “The Nez Percé had seen the white soldiers hungry and fed them; seen them cold and provided fuel; seen them without horses and put them on mounts; seen them confused and provided good advice; seen them make fools of themselves trying to cross mountains ten feet deep in snow and not snickered; seen them lost and guided them. They had ridden together, eaten together, slept together, played together and crossed the Lolo Trail together.” They had become friends. [Remarkably, this exalted account of Nez Percé kindness and understanding came from Meriwether Lewis, whose views of Indians were, at other times, paternalistic.]