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 Arikaras Assiniboins Blackfeet Chinooks Clatsops Hidatsas Mandans Missouris Nez Perces Otos Shoshones Teton Sioux Tillamooks Walla Wallas Wishrams Yankton Sioux Lewis and Clark navigation

“The Scioues Camps are handsom of a Conic form Covered with Buffalow Roabs Painted different colours and all compact & handsomly arranged,” wrote William Clark in his journal on August 29, 1804. He was describing a teepee-populated village. Teepees, conical tents constructed out of painted buffalo skins, were a common sight near the mouth of the James River. The mouth of the James, located in present-day southern South Dakota, was in the territory of the Yankton Sioux.

Hollow Horn Bear of the Brule Sioux, 1907
Hollow Horn Bear of the Brule Sioux, 1907

When they met the expedition at the end of August 1804, the Yanktons were ready to open a trade relationship with the United States. The Yanktons had already entertained British and French traders, and were aware that the world and their place in it was changing. Moreover, the tribe lacked firearms and ammunition, and many of its women and children were destitute. Yankton chiefs wanted to preserve their nation, and believed that the Corps of Discovery could help make that possible.

The first council between the Yanktons and the expedition took place with a good deal of pomp on August 30, 1804. Some 70 Yanktons journeyed to the Corps’ camp, all proceeded by musicians. During the meeting, the Yankton chief Weuche explained his people’s poverty to Lewis and Clark, as well as their need for a reliable trading partner. Afterward, Yankton braves demonstrated their proficiency with one of the weapons of their people – the bow and arrow – and then performed a series of ceremonial dances.

On the whole, the Yanktons’ talks with Lewis and Clark were not particularly successful. The Yanktons wanted rifles, ammunition and possibly whiskey from the Americans, but they were to get none of these. Instead, they received and accepted an invitation to send a delegation to Washington D.C., where they might begin trade discussions with President Jefferson.