Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hood River and The Sad Fate of York the Slave

(Wind Surfing in Hood River Oregon)

"In the evening 2 Chief and 15 men came over in a single canoe... They determined to stay with us all night, we had a fire made for them and one man played on the violin which please them much... my servant danced..."  -Clark, Oct 26, 1805

From the moment of his birth, York was essentially the property of William Clark.  Born on the family plantation, the two played together as boys and York eventually became Clark's body servant.  Upon Clark's father's death, he stipulated in his will that his son William would received 8 slaves including York, Old York (the slave father) his wife Rose, and Nancy and Juba (York's children).  At the age of 29, William Clark received these slaves.  When the Corps of Discovery headed west, York accompanied Clark.
(Hood River along the Columbia, has always been a place of freedom and joy for nature lovers)

"York brought my horse, he is here but of very little service to me... insolent and sulky, I gave him a severe trouncing the other day and he has much mended since... could he be hired for anything at or near Louisville, I think if he was hired there a while to a severe master he would see the difference and do better." -Clark, letter to his brother, 1809

York was the only black man and only slave that set out on the expedition of 33 people through the unknown Louisiana Territory.  During their two year trek, he experienced more freedom that he had in his whole life.  Hunting, exploring, tracking game, navigating, his voice was listened to and he was viewed as an equal.  At the Pacific Ocean, he was the last to cast a vote on which side of the Columbia to winter.  A site that would later be known as Fort Clatsop.  The slave York, could be considered the first recorded Black voter in American history.
(I love this little town, home also to Full Sail, which every Oregonian knows)

"Indeed I have been olbiged to whip almost all my people... and they are now beginning to think that it is best to do better and not cry hard when I am compelled to use the whip.  They have been troublesome but are not all so now."  -Clark, July 1808

Things proved disastrous upon his return.  Mostly, York could never again adjust to life as a slave after having tasted freedom on the previous journey.  He quarreled openly with Clark and their relationship deteriorated.  
(Lewis and Clark... along with Sacagawea and York and the others, all passed through here.  They likely stopped here and rested.  Felt the swirling winds.  Marveled at glistening Mt. Hood.)

"I have made frequent enquiries relative to the conduct of York since his living here and in justice to him must assert that all the information I have been able to gather contribute strongly to prove that his conduct has been such as entitles him to credit."  -Clark, spring 1811

The problems between Clark and York intensified when Clark was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs and moved to St. Louis, effectively separating York permanently from his wife and children.  Clark routinely whipped York for his sullen and morose attitude during this time.  Clark wrote: "I did wish to do well by [York] - but as he has got such a notion about freedom and his ... service, that I do not expect he will be of much service to me again."  York was then sold back toward Louisville where he could be close to his family.
(Spending days in Hood River, I can't help but think of York... standing here, feeling the wind, feeling freedom.  There's nothing more incredible than feeling free)

"His slaves- set them free- one he placed at a ferry- another on a farm, giving him land, horses and a third he gave a large wagon and team of 6 horses ... the waggoner was York, the hero of the Missouri expedition and adviser of the Indians."  -Washington Irving, quoting Clark upon their meeting, Sept. 13, 1832

The ultimate fate of York was accounted by none other than Washington Irving, the great American writer of Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, who visited an aging Clark in St. Louis in 1832, many years after the Corps of Discovery had made them all famous.  Irving recounts how they ate a splendid lunch and discussed Indian matters and travel routes (Irving himself was to venture west for his own travel book: A Tour of the Prairies) and Clark proved insightful and incredibly knowledgable. He even detailed the deaths and demises of many of the original Corps members.  He said of York, that he eventually granted him freedom and given him cart and horses... which York tried to sell but was cheated.  Clark said York attempted many times to come back to slavery in his service, saying it was easier to be a slave under a master than out on his own... but that he eventually died of cholera. It's a sad and tragic end.  York loses everything.  His wife, his home, his possessions, even his relationship with Clark.  It's a profound sadness... and symbolizes all of slavery in itself. 








Thursday, April 20, 2017

Multnomah Falls and the Depth of William Clark

It's always been a two for one.  If you're traveling down the Columbia River Gorge and stopping at beautiful Multnomah Falls, then you also must pause to gasp at the magnificent views at the Vista House.  They're inseparable.  Sitting within a few winding and luscious miles of one another along historic Hwy 30 on the Oregon side.
In the same way, both Lewis and Clark are forever co-joined.  One name cannot be mentioned without the other, one life cannot be examined unless properly placed in the context of the former or latter.  The last night of Lewis's life was spent waiting for Clark to arrive and save him.  It's therefore difficult to split the two...but split we shall.
William Clark was an American explorer, map maker, soldier, slaveholder, plantation owner,  Indian agent, and territorial governor.  After the Louisiana Purchase, he served on the Corps of Discovery that claimed the Pacific Northwest for the United States.  Upon his return he was appointed governor of the Missouri Territory and later as Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  
Yes. Yes.  Yes.  Another amazing white guy.  We know this.  We know that when he died his long list of accomplishments AND his funeral procession were both a mile long.  But... what's really interesting to me are in between the great lines of a person's life.  What falls through the cracks.  What inside force penetrates the outer exterior of a person's life.  This is the real contemplation as we hike these historic narrative trails.  This is the real 'stuff' I'm interested in knowing.  
Clark retired from the military at the age of 26 because of 'health' reasons.  His older brother had been the highest ranking military officer on the western front, but was accused of being drunk on duty and stripped of his title and later wandered around in Indian Territory squabbling over debts and drinking.  Clark took care of him until he died of a stroke.  Death was always close to Clark, the love of his life, a Miss Hancock, to whom he had scratched her name onto trees and named rivers after her all through Montana and Idaho, died after bearing him six children.  He then married her cousin, who gave him three more children, until her death as well.  Clark protected them, just as he was entrusted with Sacagawea's children... and the little known Nez Perce child he fathered out of wedlock, the son by a sister of Chief Red Grizzly Bear.  Later, the Nez Perce ceded nine-tenths of their land to the American government and most died on reservations or in prison camps in Indian Territory.  
He was 33 when Lewis persuaded him to join the Corps of Discovery.  Clark spent most of the expedition making detailed maps and surveying the land, hunting for game, learning and observing Indian culture, and wandering off to explore.  It's astounding to me that he walked these trails.  Clark was never one for poetry; his writing is detailed and matter of fact.  He wrote of the Columbia:  "I deturmined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated but swelling, boiling, and whorling river in every direction which from the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it."  But walk them he did!  
During his tenure as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, so much of the Indian land was turned over to the U.S. government.  Though Indian diplomacy occupied much of Clark's attention, and recognition of history, language, and culture was ever present on his mind... he was still a soldier and bureaucrat... and though he tried to protect the Indian's way of life by introducing inoculations, having their portraits painted, their artifacts preserved in museums, and religious beliefs promoted... he also encouraged federal 'civilization' and 'educational' programs to change native lifestyles and the removal of Indians from ancestral lands to the reservations.  His views are then... very complex.  Even his slave York, who accompanied the Corps of Discovery, and who was instrumental in diffusing mistrust and apprehension upon first meeting Indian nations, was returned to slavery after his return to Missouri.  Clark even had York whipped for his poor attitude after the long journey together side by side.  The ingrained, systematic racism of that cannot be ignored.  So what do you do with all this.... this information in your head about a "Great Man's Life" ?  What do you do?
  Lewis and Clark paddled their boats right past this place.  They hiked this area.  They marveled at the splendor.  They braved the wilderness, endured the incredible elements of brutal weather, starvation, impossible navigation, animal attacks, hostile natives... and then they returned home as heroes ... and Lewis shot himself in the head and Clark systematically robbed whole generations of people from their ancestral lands.  
That's what history is... isn't it? A hike through the paths of past lives... lost on the trails of discovery of people and events that shaped our world.  I'm also a traveler.  I've been all over the world and it has changed me in ways and brought me to depths I cannot yet fathom.  Yet in following Lewis and Clark...following this Corps of Discovery... their trail back home.  I find I am also inseparable from them, their ideas, their observations... they are leading me... to an understanding of America, a deeper land, I must find.





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Zebulon Pike and the Secret Beauty of Wahkeena Falls

(Hiking Wahkeena Falls, one of the many number of cool waterfalls in the Multnomah Falls Area.)

Traveling east along the Columbia River Gorge, I wanted to take a brief moment to note the contemporary expedition of Lewis and Clark, that of Zebulon Pike.
(Wahkeena is easily accessible from a parking lot and proves a very fun hike for all ages.)

The Pike Expedition (June 15, 1806 - July 1, 1807) set off just a few months before Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis and traveled west into Spanish Territory through the vast prairies and grasslands toward the Rocky Mountains.  The were equipped poorly with inaccurate maps and little clothing for the winter and Pike had to leave many men behind as they climbed into the snowy mountains toward what would later be known as Pike's Peak.  
(All kind of animals and nature can be seen from the trail that winds around a little stream.)

They were eventually captured by Spanish soldiers and accused of espionage and marched through modern day Arizona and New Mexico and imprisoned, which despite becoming folk heroes to local villagers, caused a bit of an international kerfuffle.  They were eventually released and returned home, but not before Pike made numerous mental notes of military garrisons, soldier numbers, army supply lines, provincial government systems, and geography.  His notes proved vital to a burgeoning U.S. government.  
(Oh yes, and the Hartenstein girls loved a little dip in the water too.)

Anyway... while traveling through the Oregon Gorge, most visitors only stop to ponder the magnificence of Multnomah Falls, but they often fail to visit any of the lesser trails and parks in the area.  Multnomah Falls is a cool network or trails stretching from Bridal Veil to Horsetail to Oneonta.  All of these separate waterfalls are beautiful and spell-binding in their own way and prove wonderful places to hang out and discover.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sacagawea

"Everything I do is for my people."  -Sacagawea

 There's been so much written about Sacagawea, the daughter of a Shoshone chief who served as a translator for the Lewis and Clark expedition... she was born around 1788 in Lemhi County, Idaho and around the age of 12 was kidnapped and sold to a French-Canadian trapper who made her his wife.  Ultimately, her role in the Corps of Discovery was so vital, just her laughter around the campfire at night would have been immeasurable in value.  Throughout the entire journey she lugged a baby on her back!  As a parent, that kind of struggle is more heroic than any other part of the story. I always feel that Sacagawea never receives enough attention.  While trying to find horses to purchase for the arduous trek through the Rocky Mountains, Sacagawea and the Corps happen upon a chance meeting with her long lost brother, Cameahwait, who assists the men in procuring horses.  This event is absolutely miraculous.  In fact, there are so many aspects of Sacagawea's life that should be noted.  That her infant son, Jean-Baptiste, was entrusted to Clark and enrolled in the Saint Louis Academy.  That she gave birth to a daughter, Lizette sometime around 1810, which was also adopted by Clark.  Finally, that she died of a fever at the age of 25.  
"The sight of this Indian woman, wife to one of our interpreters, confirmed those people of our friendly intentions, as no woman ever accompanied war parties of Indians."  -Clark

At Fort Clatsop, there is a statue of Sacagawea with young son strapped to her back.  It's modest and fits very well within the natural surroundings.  I wish there was a way we could honor her life more.  She was a woman plucked from total and complete obscurity, but became a role model and an inspiration for not only Americans, but people every where.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Walking in Lewis and Clark's Footsteps

Ok... I admit it.  I totally geek out over Lewis and Clark.  Their adventure is astounding to me.  The magnitude of this group of diverse individual traipsing through the wilderness.  The complete story... harrowing escapes, chance encounters, travel hardships... and the tragic weird ending after their return.  Studying the Corps of Discovery with my daughters, visiting Fort Clatsop, traveling along the Lewis and Clark trail from Oregon through Washington, Idaho, and Montana was so much fun!
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson seized the opportunity to acquire Louisiana from the French Emperor Napoleon for $15 million.  It was a vast area of 828,000 sq miles which stretched from New Orleans to Montana. This doubled the size of the United States and opened up the territories to the west.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson decided to send an expedition to explore the new territory.  It was led by Meriwether Lewis, Jefferson's private secretary, and William Clark, a former army officer.
The Corps of Discovery, as the expedition became known, set out from Missouri in May 1804.  They did not find a river route from the U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, as Jefferson had hoped for, but managed to cross the Rocky Mountains and reach the ocean nonetheless.  
During this journey, the group kept a detailed account of the plants and animals they saw and made extensive maps of the lands they crossed.  They also made contact with several native Indian nations and established formal communications, trade partners, allies, enemies, and general observations about the people that were inhabiting the land.  
We spent a long time at Fort Clatsop and were rewarded for our efforts.  We hiked the little trails down to the Lewis and Clark River and read from the journal along the water and our only visitors were an occasional thrush in the cypress trees or turkey vulture floating high above.  Dear Reader, I don't know how often you spend a day just sitting beside a river reading a book... but it is time well spent.

Visiting Fort Clatsop with Kids

Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery from December 1805 to March 1806.
Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men crossed the south shore of the Columbia River and built a small for that would be their winter home.
They absolutely needed the rest.  Over the past year, they had made the difficult journey upstream of the Missouri River and somehow crossed the Rocky Mountains.  They had faced wild grizzly bears, bloodthirsty Indians, horrible bouts of sickness, plaguing mosquitoes, endless miles of wilderness, and total uncertainty
The fort sits just a few miles up from Netual Creek which is now called the Lewis and Clark River.  It has an ample supply of elk and deep and beaver. 
The fort was completed on Christmas Eve and was named in honor of the local Indian tribes who were tough negotiators.  The winter months proved brutal.  The constant Oregon rain soaked their fur pelts causing lice and vermin to run wild. They attempted to use this time for journaling, but the papers were soaked.  Despite this, Clark was able to create scaled maps of their arduous journey that are incredibly accurate to this day.
My daughters hit Fort Clatsop ready for some awesome Lewis and Clark adventure... we were not disappointed.
The expedition departed on March 23, 1806 and planned alternative routes back home, even planning on separating to better map the area.  
Although this fort is a recreation, visiting here is a very emotional and profound experience for anyone.  While on the Oregon Coast, after scratching their names into trees, the participants of the Corps of Discovery all voted on what to do:  Return over the Rocky Mountains or Winter Along the Coast.  Everyone had a vote, including their shoshone guide, Sacagawea and York, Clark's slave. There's an intimacy in this kind of history, retracing the footsteps, reading the inner most thoughts through journals and letters.  It's a very special and moving place, laying still in the forest... but bursting with history come alive. 




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Journals of Lewis and Clark at Fort Clatsop Oregon

(The kids and I had a fantastic time doing the Jr. Ranger Program at Fort Clatsop, Oregon)

 "From this place we had an extensive view of these stupendous mountains principally covered with snow... it would have seemed impossible ever to have escaped."  -Lewis, June 27, 1806
(We spent over two weeks reading the Journals of Lewis and Clark and so traveling here was so much fun to see history come alive.)

 "We had plenty of guns, powder, and ball, and we had given them a cannon to defend themselves... and to keep away from the river or we should kill every one of them... 7 of them halted on the top of a hill and blackguarded us, told us to come across and they would kill us all and of course we took no notice."  Clark, August 30, 1806
(The National Park is filled with incredible artifacts including muskets, powder horns, original clothes, fur pelts, and tools.)

 "There were three beaver taken this morning by the party.  The men prefer the flesh of this animal to that of any other which we have... I eat very heartily of the beaver myself ... particularly the tail and liver..."  -Lewis, April 17, 1805
(It's been said, that the Corps of Discovery, which was well outfitted with gear, truly conquered the west with ample supply of paper, gun powder, and ink.)

 "The wind blew so hard during the whole of this day that we were unable to move... sore eyes is a common complain among the party... so penetrating is this sand that we cannot keep any article free from it."  -Lewis, April 24, 1805
(The Journals of Lewis and Clark are absolutely hilarious and informative and wildly entertaining.  I highly recommend it for late elementary age children to just sit and read them in their entirety.  Take your kids out of school for a fortnight, sit down and read these journals, sketch them, watch documentaries, including the fantastic Ken Burns doc, and then travel to Fort Clatsop and soak it all up.  You will be immensely rewarded.)

 "The buffalo elk and antelope are so gentle that we pass near them while feeding without appearing to excite any alarm among them, and when we attract their attention, they frequently approach us..."  -Lewis, April 25, 1805
(Another great resource at Fort Clatsop are the maps and information on Native Americans.  Lewis and Clark have amazing light to shed on their culture.)

"The bear... after my firing on him pursued me seventy or eighty yards, but fortunately had been so badly wounded... it is astonishing to see the wounds they will bear before they can be put to death."  -Lewis, April 29, 1805
(Plus, this canoe is so pretty I stared at is for about ten minutes.)

 "The bear was very near catching Drewyer, it also pursued Carbono who fired his gun in the air as he ran but fortunately eluded the vigilence of the bear by secreting himself very securely in the bushes until Drewyer finally killed it by a shot in the head..."  -Lewis, June 2, 1805
(When you grow up in the northwest, you become accustomed to wildlife, but tracking it, hunting it, skinning it and eating it... is an art lost on all of us.)

 "9 Indians ran down the bank and beckoned to us to land, they appeared to be a war party, and I took them to be Tetons... as one canoe was yet behind we landed in an open commanding situation... several guns were fired by the Indians."  -Clark, September 1, 1806
(The Jr. Ranger program is free and the National Park Rangers were so helpful and kind.  They gave us pointers and badges and we had an excellent time.)

"I marked my name with red paint on a cotton tree near my camp and set out at an early hour..."  -Clark, July 27, 1806
(Don't shoot!)

 "Captain Lewis and myself ate a supper of roots boiled, which filled us so full of wind, that we were scarcely able to breathe all night."  -Clark, October 5, 1805
(Fort Clatsop is not only a Ranger Station and Museum, there is an actual fort here just a quick stroll through the woods... come on, let's take a walk!)

"We had horses 38 in number, collected and branded, cut off their fore top and delivered them to the 2 brothers and one son of the chiefs who intends to accompany us down the river."  -Clark, October 5, 1805




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase

 It's the single greatest baller move in American history!  Thomas Jefferson staring down Napoleon Bonaparte and swindling him out of half the known continent.  Ok... maybe that's an exaggeration, but come on... the Louisiana Purchase changed the history of the world.
 Jefferson always had an eye on the west.  His father Peter was a surveyor and map maker in the Virginia Frontier and young Thomas spent much of his formative years out along the Blue Ridge Mountains dreaming of the possibilities of travel.  Jefferson had the vision to see that land west of the Mississippi was not a wild wasteland but was in fact an area rich in distinct nations and competing cultures.
 Despite this, and incredibly ironic, President Jefferson instituted his "Empire for Liberty," which he believed was the natural responsibility of America to spread liberty and freedom across the world... this didn't include prohibiting slavery from entering the western states or sovereignty for native peoples... but that's another story!
As the first leg of Loop #2 kicks off... we head to Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coast to read about the Louisiana Purchase, the flawed greatness of Thomas Jefferson, and begin the massive collection of artifacts, letters, and journals of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thomas Jefferson, the Seaside Statue of Lewis & Clark and Jumping on the Pacific Ocean

If you had to answer: "Who is the greatest American?"  Many would start with captains of industry like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan or inventors and innovators like Edison, Disney, or Ford or modern titans like Gates, Winfrey, or Jobs.  
Perhaps one would venture toward trailblazers such as Lewis and Clark or Neil Armstrong or civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Muhammed Ali, or Harriet Tubman.  
Perhaps one could argue the greatest American isn't a person at all but a character such as Mickey Mouse or Uncle Sam, or to go off the board completely and say it was an invention like the telephone or Rock and Roll music.
Stranger yet, one could lay claim that our greatest American was an idea itself like liberty or the spirit of ingenuity.  Inexplicably, determining America's greatest figure is like deciphering between fact and fiction.  What is a lie and what is the true?  This is essentially what our country has always tried to do, for how can "All Men Be Created Equal" if slavery yet exists?  
This is why many would choose a president.  Nobel leaders such as Washington or Lincoln, Roosevelt or Jackson, Kennedy or Obama.  But America government has always been a power grab and our current administration is no different, appearing uninterested in the common good but only to bolster their own war chests.  This is exactly why Thomas Jefferson stands out as a potential greatest American.  Just look at his accomplishments:  
1. He Wrote the Declaration of Independence, giving birth to America.
2.  He made the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the country.
3.  He launched the Lewis and Clark Expedition along with dozens others that mapped and charted the unknown territory west of the Mississippi.
4.  He founded the Library of Congress with the donation of his personal library.
5.  He advocated for Free Public Education

I posed this question to my daughters as we began our next American Literature/History unit:  A New Nation.  They agreed Jefferson was a fine choice, someone had to win after all.  Yet they were confused how someone so seemingly honest and full of integrity, could have been a slave holder himself. This seemed to disqualify him in their eyes. 
It's so difficult to judge a person historically.  No one is perfect.  Why then do we compare ourselves against one another's heroic deeds?  Greatness lies not in the known facts of achievement or public success, but in the quiet unseen events of our life.  Playing on the beach with my daughters, we laughed about this.  Leaping in the sunlight.  Jumping not to compare our height to one another...but just to feast in the the fact we are alive.  There's greatness in that.  It's called ... joy!