1804 - Lewis and Clark meet white traders

        Lewis and Clark were surprised to meet a number of white traders living with, or visiting the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes on the Knife.

        Rene Jessaume lived with the Mandans and worked for the North West Company as a free lance trapper and trader.  He had lived with the tribe for fifteen years.  Clark described him as "cunning and insincere."

Lewis _and _Clark _1954_Issue -3c

        Hugh McCraken, a British trader with the North West Company, had just arrived at the villages from the Assiniboin River, 150 miles to the north.  He was a regular trader and brought manufactured goods to the villages. Clark wanted to change these trade relationships and replace them with Americans, but he had to be very careful as the Indians were loyal to McCracken and Clark was not in a position to alienate his hosts.

        Francois Larocke and Charles MacKenzie each left journals describing their times with the Mandan, and with Lewis and Clark.  Larocque, a Frenchman from Quebec, was very politely received and spent a lot of time with them.  It's interesting to note that Lewis told Larocque that the objective of the expedition was purely scientific and in no way concerned trade.  MacKenzie wrote, "It is true, Captain Lewis could not make himself agreeable to us...his inveterate disposition against the British stained, at least in our eyes, all his eloquence."

        Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian rascal, was 45 years old and had once worked for the North West Company.  He lived among the Hidatsa with whom he traded goods for his wives, including the Shoshone girl we know as Sakakawea, who was six moths pregnant when Lewis and Clark arrived.  Bird Woman, as she was called by her adoptive clan,  could communicate to her husband in Hidatsa.  He, in turn, spoke French to Drouillar, another French trader, who then spoke English to the Americans.

(click here for more on frontier trade)

         The Corps of Discovery built Fort Clark as their winter quarters, but they spent a great deal of time in the villages.  They hunted together, traded, and shared the same women for sexual pleasure on a regular basis, a highlight for the Americans who had never known women who viewed sex as a means of transferring power and fortune from a stranger to their own husbands.  Since the whites were viewed as very powerful, the young explorers were also 'untiringly zealous' of obliging the women's requests for sexual favors.