Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans - Edward Eggleston

A Long Journey

A long time ago, when Thomas Jefferson was President, most of the people in this country lived in the East. Nobody knew anything about the Far West. The only people that lived there were Indians. Many of these Indians had never seen a white man.

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

An Elk

The President sent men to travel into this wild part of the country. He told them to go up to the upper end of the Missouri River. Then they were to go across the Rocky Mountains. They were to keep on till they got to the Pacific Ocean. Then they were to come back again. They were to find out the best way to get through the mountains. And they were to find out what kind of people the Indians in that country were. They were also to tell about the animals.

There were two captains of this company. Their names were Lewis and Clark. There were forty-five men in the party.

They were gone two years and four months. For most of that time they did not see any white men but their own party. They did not hear a word from home for more than two years.

They got their food mostly by hunting. They killed a great many buffaloes and elks and deer. They also shot wild geese and other large birds. Sometimes they had nothing but fish to eat. Sometimes they had to eat wolves. When they had no other meat, they were glad to buy dogs from the Indians and eat them. Sometimes they ate horses. They became fond of the meat of dogs and horses.

When they were very hungry, they had to live on roots if they could get them. Some of the Indians made a kind of bread out of roots. The white men bought this when they could not get meat. But there were days when they did not have anything to eat.

They were very friendly with the Indians. One day some of the men went to make a visit to an Indian village. The Indians gave them something to eat.

In the Indian wigwam where they were, there was a head of a dead buffalo. When dinner was over, the Indians filled a bowl full of meat. They set this down in front of the head. Then they said to the head, "Eat that."

[Illustration] from Great Americans by Edward Eggleston

Feeding the Spirit of the Buffalo

The Indians believed, that, if they treated this buffalo head politely, the live buffaloes would come to their hunting ground. Then they would have plenty of meat. They think the spirit of the buffalo is a kind of a god. They are very careful to please this god.