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Lewis and Clark: American Explorers

Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) set out in May 1804 to explore and map the American West. Lewis and Clark were accompanied by a crew of men, and later, the Shoshone Indian guide and interpreter Sacajawea (also spelled Sacagawea) and her infant son. Lewis and Clark travelled by river and by land from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Oregon coast (Fort Clatsop), and back again.

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis to head an expedition to explore the newly-bought Louisiana Territory in order to further commerce (trade). Jefferson also wanted information on the plant and animal life of the American West. This was the first official expedition to cross the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis chose Clark as the co-leader of the expedition; the two men had been friends since childhood.

Lewis left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1803, heading for Louisville, Kentucky, where he joined Clark and his African-American servant named York, on route to St. Louis.

On May 14, 1804, 45 men in three boats left St. Louis, Missouri, heading west on the Missouri River. Only about half of the men went on the entire trip to the Pacific Ocean and back; the other half of the men turned back during the trip west, bringing maps and scientific specimens back to President Jefferson. Only one man died on the journey; Sergeant Charles Floyd died in Iowa in 1804 of a sudden, unknown illness (the Floyd River is named for him).

Lewis and Clark were joined in North Dakota by the Shoshone Indian guide, interpreter, and negotiator Sacajawea (1788-1812) and her newborn son, called Jean Baptiste (his nickname was Little Pomp). She traveled with the expedition westward to the Pacific Ocean and back to North Dakota. As a young girl, Sacagawea had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa Indians, and was later sold to the French-Canadian fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau. Charbonneau then married Sacagawea. Charbonneau and Sacagawea (who was then pregnant) were hired to help guide the Lewis and Clark expedition. Sacagawea brought her newborn boy along on the journey. William Clark documented Sacagawea's extensive contributions to the expedition, and later cared for her son in his home in St. Louis, Missouri. A golden Sacagawea dollar coin was introduced in the USA in 2000.

Lewis and Clark's journey took 2 years, 4 months, and 10 days; they covered over 8,000 miles. Their expedition was the first to describe the grizzly bear; they also sent a prairie dog back to President Jefferson (these animals were not previously known to Europeans). Upon their return as heroes, Jefferson named Clark the Indian agent for the West, and he appointed Lewis as Governor of the new Louisiana Territory (but Lewis died soon after).

Activities:
Cloze

Lewis and Clark Cloze: Fill in the Blanks

A cloze (fill-in-the-blank) activity on Lewis and Clark. Or go to the answers.
Follow the Instructions

Lewis and Clark: Follow the Instructions

Color the trail that Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery followed in their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase according to simple directions, such as, "Draw a red star at their starting point." For beginning readers. Or go to the answers.
Follow the Instructions

Lewis and Clark: Follow the Instructions #2

Color the trail that Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery followed in their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase according to simple directions, such as, "Draw a red star at their starting point." For fluent readers. Or go to the answers.
Cloze

Draw Lewis and Clark's Route

Print out this map, then draw Lewis and Clark's route and label the states they passed through..

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