« ForrigeFortsett »
sound when at the falls, but deemed the tale an idle or superstitious fable. It is loud and very imposing. No attempt to account for it is hazarded. The only reasonable conjecture is, that among those ' Black Mountains,' as they are here denominated, there must be a volcano, habitually in action. It will be the luxury of some future adventurers, to follow this sound directly to the locality of its cause.
But this region, so much surpassing the pictures of romance and poetry, was to the party a place of severe hard labour; for these magnificent cataracts caused them nearly twenty miles of land carriage for their boats, stores, and baggage, excepting what they lodged in a kind of vaults, or caches, under ground. Including the preparation of several new canoes, it was nearly a month's toil, during more than half of which time a considerable proportion of them were entirely losing their labour in fitting out a large iron frame of a boat with a covering of elk and buftaloe hides, which, for want of pitch, they could devise no means of making watejv tight.
They did not want, however, for little amusing stimulants, to throw some vivacity into their toils. They had on one day, for half an hour, a hail-storm, in which there fell lumps of ice of seven inches in circumference. But the most inspiriting of these stimulants was the frequent danger from brown bears, which day and night prowled about them. Several rencounters are mentioned, in one of which Captain Lewis, being surprised by the enemy when his rifle was not loaded, was furiously chased into the river, at a place where it was not deep at the edge, which he did not reach till the rampant devourer was within twenty feet of him. He betook himself to this element as affording some little more chance in the combat; but on facing round, when at waist-deep, to present the point of his espontoon, he was astonished to see his pursuer suddenly turn round and take to flight, a circumstance quite anomalous and unaccountable.—Who would not have expected, in a relation like this, the word Providence, or some synonymous term? What a contrast there is between the manner in which our adventurers relate their narrow and almost miraculous escapes, and that in which any parallel incidents are recounted by the Moravian Missionaries on the same continent!—the latter class of persons being, the while, quite as brave, with a different modification of the quality, as these intrepid explorers.
Resuming the voyage, the party soon advanced into what are denominated the ' Gates of the Rocky Mountains,' a cleft apparently forced and worn, during unknown ages, by the stream, which here has a channel to be matched by few other streams: for on either hand the rocks rise perpendicularly to the height of twelve hundred feet; and so precisely from the very edges of the water, that for miles there is not a spot nor a ledge where a man could stand. The water is deep at the edges, and the current is strong. 'Nothing,' says the describer, 'can be imagined more tremendous than
*the frowning darkness of these rocks, which project over the
* rirer and menace us with destruction.'
They almost immediately arrived at what they call the
* three forks' of the river, and without having been able, by means of a detachment led by one of the Captains over land, to obtain any communication with the Snake Indians, whom they were anxious to find, in order to obtain information of the proper route across the mountains to the great River of the West. Here, about three thousand miles, measuring through its meanders, from its confluence with the Mississipi, the Missouri is doomed to lose its name, and the three streams conjoining to constitute it, are denominated Jefferson, Madison, and i ii. ll.iiin; and some stages further on there is a farcical and uncouth subdivision into Wisdom, Philosophy, and Philanthropy rivers. The canoes were vigorously worked, but with the most harassing labour, upward to the last navigable point of the stream which had been selected, and now the band were to find their way across the mountains. In order to this it was absolutely necessary to hunt out the Indians; and at length they discovered a camp of the tribe denominated Shoshonees, a division of the widely scattered and undefined nation called Snake Indians. The moody fickleness of these wild animals, and the state of excessive suspicion and apprehension in which they were kept by the deadly hostility of a stronger tribe of savages, required, in Captain Lewis, (who, accompanied with a very few men, a great way a-head of the expedition, first explored their haunt,) a course of the nicest management to bring them to trust themselves to accompany him to meet the large party of white men which he assured them was approaching. It was not that they were in the least afraid of the white men; on the contrary, they had manifested an excessive joy on ascertaining that he and his attendants were of that species; but they were afraid lest they should be inveigled into a very different rencounter. He accomplished the object, and immediately all was exultation and confidence. Sacajawea, the Indian woman of the expedition, was almost overwhelmed with affectionate emotion on meeting a young female friend, who had at the same time as herself, been carried away captive by the Minnetarees, and on suddenly recognising soon afterwards her brother in the chief of the Indian camp,
The description of the manners and condition of this tribe, is extended and interesting. As game is scarce in the country, and they have no better weapons for hunting than the bow and arrow, they seem in constant danger of perishing by hunger, notwithstanding the aid afforded them in the chace by their fine horses, which they ride with consummate skill and daring. It is quite deplorable to see the whole numerous band put into the most eager and tumultuous commotion, by the intelligence of one of Captain Lewis's hunters baying killed a deer, and falling upon the offal with more than the ravenousness of wolves. It is very striking at the same time, to observe the punctilious sense of propriety with which they abstained, while their numbers would have made them irresistible, from touching any better portion of the animal, which they regarded as belonging to the white hunter and his companions. There are several other facts concurring to prove a very unusual degree of integrity in these unfortunate people.
The conductors of the expedition had now very great cause to be most anxious about the passage to be sought through the mountains. All the geographical knowledge of the Shoshonees was put in requisition, and the results were in no small degree intimidating. An examination was determined to be instantly made of a river, which at no great distance was to be found flowing first to the north-west, and afterwards to the west, but was represented as totally unnavigable, in consequence of its rocks and violent rapidity. Under the guidance of an intelligent and friendly old man, Captain Clarke and a party followed its impetuous course among rocks and mountains, till they approached within twenty miles of a mountain covered with eternal snow, through a most tremendous chasm of which the Indian informed them that the river passes away to the west. If that pass be, as the guide described it, (at the same time proposing to conduct the Captain thither,) 'a narrow gap, on each side of which arises perpendicularly a rock as high as the top of the mountain,' it must greatly surpass in gloomy grandeur even that already described Bnder the denomination of 'the Gates,' and must be one of the most striking localities on the globe. It is totally impossible, the Indian told them, to do more than look into that enormous 'gap.'
There was no resource but to cross the mountainous tract altogether by land. Having purchased, with considerable difficulty, about thirty horses of the Shoshonees, to carry their stores, excepting a portion which they committed to another concealment in the earth, they commenced this, the most formidable part of their adventure, at the end of August, 1803, and reached (he western base of the mountains near the end of September. The exertion was most severe for both the men and the horses; and to the men it was aggravated by such a deficiency of sustenance as amounted, during the latter part of the time, to absolute famine. They were consequently reduced to great debility, and many of them sick, by the time they escaped into the lower region, and almost all became so, the Captains included, on indulging in the unwonted luxury of eating.
The horses were now entrusted to the Indians of the country, named Chopunnish, or Pierced-nose, till the expedition should return; another cache was stored; canoes were built on the river Kooskooskee; and down that river, much infested with rapids, many of them dangerous, they descended in quest of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. The Columbia they met coming from the north-west, on the 16th of October, and found it nearly a thousand yards wide, while the river which brought them to the junction, was nearly six hundred. At every stage numbers of Indians, of various denominations, came to behold the strange spectacle, and to barter provisions, consisting of roots, dried salmon, and dogs, for which last dainty the civilized men had acquired much more courageous stomachs than the savages. The quantity of salmon, in the process of curing, or already prepared and stowed, by the Indians, or lying dead on the baiiks, or returning down the river to the sea, was incredible.
The vast number of rapids the party had descended, (and which indicate a very great declination of the ground from the western base of the Rocky Mountains to the shore of the ocean,) had well prepared them for the furious currents denominated by eminence the Falls, not very far from the sea. Some of the most formidable of them were found at two points, the one^at a considerable distance below the other. That their aspect must have been rather appalling, is easily conceived from the statement, that a very considerable descent is combined with a compression, by great rocks, of this immense river, in the one instance to the breadth of from fifty to a hundred yards, and in the other to that of forty-five. In each of the cases this straitness of the rocky channel continues for the length of half a mile. Through these passes the torrent dashes and boils and whirls with indescribable tumult and violence. The rocky banks precluded all possibility of taking the canoes on land, to be carried below the falls; the most valuable of the stores were put on shore, with such of the party as could not swim; then the rest addressed i, •! • '!v«-s to the dreadful career, and in a few moments found themselves riding in safety on the gulfs below. Another impetuous rapid ended in an absolute cataract; here, of course, the canoes were taken over land. At a short distance below this, the adventurers perceived the tide; and about a week afterwards, on the 7th of November, had a view of the Pacific Ocean. This was an exhilarating triumph; but of slight and temporary efficacy against the constant and harassing pressure of their situation; for they had heavy rain every day for a month, were several nights forced to encamp on a confined shore where they were in extreme peril from the waves, slept drenched in rain, had their clothes and bedding rotted, and most of their stores damaged or spoiled, and were buffeted about many days before they could find an eligible spot for constructing a fort for the winter. This was at length accomplished, and they remained in the station more than four months, a period, nevertheless, as full of business as their marches and voyages had been.
The multitude of remarkable objects and incidents in this most extraordinary journal, has so retarded the progress of our abstract, that we are now compelled to bring it abruptly to a termination. The portion of the narration which relates the transactions of the winter, contains, besides numerous adventures of individuals of the party, an extensive illustration of the character and condition of the various Indian tribes in the immediate neighbourhood, aud of the whole race on the waters of the Columbia. In general, they are sufficiently cunning, self-interested, and inclined to theft; but ara not particularly formidable. They are less courageous and less fierce than their brethren of the regions to the east of the mountains, and are affirmed to be very rarely at war with one another. Their persons, their dresses, their domestic manners, their habitations, their modes of traffic and navigation, and their disposal of their dead, are all described, in a plain, clear, brief, and lively manner. They subsist chiefly on fish, berries, and various roots, one of which greatly resembles a potato. Their persons are unpleasing to the last degree, a combination of repulsive circumstances being crowned by that artificial and superlative ugliness, the flattened head. A little compressing machine is fixed on the head of each infant, and kept on as much as a year, so that it determines the form for life. That form is a broad flat forehead, in a right line from the nose to the top of the head, which top of the head is a thin ridge like the edge of a cake. Both sexes are thus finished off, but the women in a broader and thinner disk than the men.
The women and the old people are treated with more consideration by these pacific fishing tribes, than among the more dignified and martial hunting nations of the Missouri. The