so, on a daily basis i pass by some kind of sign that’s supposed to remind me to remember the 200-year anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 2006; it obviously wasn’t very effective in that i didn’t get very excited about it at the time or buy myself a t-shirt to commemorate it or anything like that, but two years or so after the fact, i’ve read a little bit about it (as in, in addition to whatever i was taught about it in my youth) and i’m now armed with some pointless, ridiculous facts about this expedition that i’m going to share with you now. and for the record, i totally had about 13 hilarious ideas for a post this week, but i feel so strongly about Lewis & Clark that i wanted to talk about them instead. so hey, now some facts about L&C that you might not have known:
yet another exciting adventure starring Lewis & Clark! this week, our heroes once again narrowly dodge death at the hands of thoroughly disappointed Sioux!
Meriweather Lewis was of Welsh heritage. and the Welsh, as we all know, are the salt of the earth. based on what we’ve learned about them here on this sweet internet site, i’m led to believe that he conquered all forms of adversity by singing a) constantly and b) without any real justification for it other than that being the way that Welsh guys overcome the troubles of their lives. that being said, it’s not like anything else about the expedition leads us to note his Welsh-related skills – he didn’t seem to mine much coal or get oppressed by teams of English guys – so frankly, if the singing DIDN’T happen, he’s sort of a disappointment, beyond all the great achievement and all. i choose not to investigate much further. though maybe he wasn’t 100% Welsh, since he was crazily bi-polar, unlike every Welsh guy i know.
Thomas Jefferson was deeply concerned about mastodons and Welsh Indians. the latter refers to a common misconception that Prince Madoc ap Owain Gwynedd beat Columbus to the New World and founded a tribe of Native Americans (Jefferson, being of Welsh descent himself, a fact that helps explain HIS awesomeness, cared deeply about this notion), as opposed to the standard European practices of “killing all the Indians we can find and taking their gold,” “accidentally killing all the Indians we can find and picking up the gold they left around,” and “killing all the Indians we can find and being disappointed in their lack of gold.” it turns out that they were just regular Native Americans instead of turbo-awesome Welsh-Americans. but more ridiculous is that Jefferson was apparently quite taken with the notion that Lewis & Clark might find mastodon herds and, if they did so, to notify him immediately. now, i grant that mastodons are cool as hell and i grant that there’s nothing wrong with obsessing over wild pachyderms (i can think of at least one film i’ve purchased on that grounds that someone told me “in it, guys shoot at other guys with a cannon mounted on an elephant”) … but let’s get serious, people were all over North America and no one seemed to mention massive mastodon herds.
Lewis and Clark spent a lot of time trying to bribe Native Americans with coats and medals. seriously, this apparently happened all the time: Lewis & Clark would meet a new tribe, offer them some token gifts (like tobacco), declare various Native American chiefs from larger groups of them to be “the main chief” … and then reward them with coats and medals. and then the Native Americans, regardless of tribe, would be incredibly disappointed. while it’s fair to note they DID also take better trade goods for specific tribes and specific situations, how the fuck did no one see this disappointment coming? “guys, here’s what i want you to do: go west and impress upon the Indians you meet the wealth and power of the United States by giving them shitty jackets.” oh well, Jefferson’s still cool with me. and one of these meetings (if not more than one) did result in Lewis describing the population of the US in the terms of “we are all gun-men.” so that’s awesome.
Lewis and Clark ate a lot of dog. i’m outraged to admit it, but apparently these guys made do for food on SCORES of occasions by buying dogs from Native American tribes and then eating them. i really can’t say i condone of this activity, and i sort of get the impression that the Native Americans didn’t either. they also didn’t like it when L&C were eating horses, so L&C seem to have come off as “those white guys that were eating dogs and handing out worthless medals.” it’s pretty clear why i didn’t learn this menu information back when i was in grade school, though.
so does it bother anyone to note that Lewis had a Newfoundland dog as a sidekick while CONSTANTLY EATING DOGS? or that his dog was named Seaman? anyone?
Charbonneau didn’t die on this expedition. one reason that you shouldn’t watch Simpsons episodes where history is re-imagined in joke-filled cartoon form is that something like the following will happen:
01. the creators of the episode will decide that Charbonneau was a massive douchebag (in fairness, a fact backed by the historical record);
02. accordingly, they’ll have his role be filled Milhouse (fair enough);
03. cartoon Charbonneau will commit error after error while being mocked (which, again, is backed up by the historical record, since i can, without making a serious effort, think of at least two occasions where Charbonneau almost destroyed their boats and goods, for example);
04. cartoon Charbonneau will be killed by a snake or something. but it turns out that he didn’t actually die like that and i feel misled by animation yet again.
once again, the French saved America. or, i suppose, Americans. since we started saving France’s ass on a regular basis in 1914, they like to claim we’re even on the grounds that they made it possible for us to win the American Revolution, which might have some truth to it, but come on, why do they have to act so cocky about it? anyway, late in the expedition, almost everyone was low on food and Clark went ahead with a small group to try and alleviate that, whereupon he found some Nez Perce (who were not acquainted with white dudes). it turns out after the fact that said Nez Perce considered killing Clark & Friends for their weapons … only they didn’t, because one woman among them, Watkuweis, had some time before been captured by Blackfeet, taken to Canada, and then sold to a white trader, who treated her much better than the Blackfeet and who caused her to note that people like them having been kind to her (despite the purchasing), the Nez Perce should return the favor. and thus, Clark & Friends survived. so what the fuck does this have to do with French people? because i assume everyone in Canada prior to 1937 was a French-Canadian fur trader. now that’s what i call history!
talking about Lewis and Clark isn’t very funny. seriously, there’s like two jokes total in here. so disappointing.