Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lewis and Clark, revisited

On July 25, 1805 William Clark arrived at a place on the Yellowstone River we now call Pompey's Pillar. He left the only mark that is still present today scratched into it's side:
Hubby and I went to the Pillar for the 205th celebration of their expedition and stop at the National Monument.

Hasan Davis portrayed Clark's slave York. What an outstanding performance! His discussion will help provide a different prospective to Black History Month in my third grade classroom this year. York was born a slave and as a young man went on the expedition without being asked or paid. The thirty other men went knowing that there was a grave possibility that they wouldn't return but York wasn't given that choice. As they went further west into the unknown York was given more and more freedom, once even allowed to vote - something never allowed a slave. In Hasan's portrayal the listener understands York's feeling of complete freedom for the first time in his life as well as frustration when they arrive back in Saint Louis and he becomes a slave once again. The other men were given 360 acres of farm land for the two year trek. York, who had worked side by side and gone step by step with the other men, became a slave once again.
Hasan brought a new and interesting discovery to this talk. Recently there were letters found in an attic in Saint Louis. The letters were from Clark to his brother stating that his life long slave, York, had become surly and uncooperative since the expedition.  Clark asked his brother to take York and show him what being a slave was really like. York went to the home of Clark's brother and became a field hand but was eventually set free. No one knows what happened to York but I like to think he made his way back to this part of the country where he again knew freedom and was once again welcomed by the Native Americans.

Just a week later I was at Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark spent their winter on the Pacific Ocean before returning to St. Louis.

The fort is located six miles inland. Over the winter the men boiled water to make 20 gallons of salt!
The forest between the fort and ocean...

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