Index Inside the Corps The Native Americans The Archive Living History Into the Unknown Forum with Ken Burns Classroom Resources Related Products Interactive Trail Map Search Lewis and Clark navigation Introduction Lessons Lewis and Clark navigation
  Connect the Language Chain and Save the Expedition!

The Corps of Discovery found themselves in an interesting situation in August of 1805. They were tired and running out of supplies, so they hoped that when they reached the Continental Divide they would find a short and easy passage connecting the Missouri and Columbia Rivers which would take them to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they were confronted by the ranges of the Rocky Mountains. If the Corps was to reach the ocean and complete their mission, they would have to cross over those mountains before winter. Unfamiliar with the land to the west, and more importantly, in need of horses to cross the mountains, the Corps desperately needed to make contact with the Shoshone Indians, whom they hoped would help them.

The Corps eventually found the camp of the Lemhi Shoshone band led by Chief Cameahwait. In order to communicate with each other, it was necessary to put the following chain of translation in place: Lewis would speak English to Private Francois Labiche, who would speak French to the interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau, who would speak Hidatsa to his Shoshone wife Sacagawea, who would speak Shoshone to Chief Cameahwait. Then, Cameahwait's reply would move back along the language chain back to Lewis.

That's where you come in. Do you have what it takes to be a translator? If Lewis and Cameahwait are unable to understand each other, the Corps may have to give up and turn back!

Begin the Language Chain