Lewis & Clark: Lesson 3
Ethnography of the Lewis & Clark Expedition

LESSON 3: "People, people everywhere!! What are they like?" or the "Ethnography of the Lewis and Clark Expedition"

INTRODUCTION: Ordway and Gass reporting in! Captains Lewis and Clark have been given the order by President Jefferson to record the ethnography of the territory they are assigned to explore. There is much to learn! To help with this assignment, we have decided to center our next lesson around the people that were encountered on the Voyage of Discovery. This lesson is designed to challenge students to use the Lewis and Clark Journals and to promote learning about the Native American groups that this adventure came into contact with.

OBJECTIVES: Students should be able to

1. complete a chart or a series of guide questions about 11 Native American tribal groups and their geographical location and the ecology.

2. use a variety of sources to complete the ethnography study.

3. discuss the impact of Native American contact with European and American exploration.

4. explain the concept of interdependence using Native American Nations.

5. define nation, clan, and band.


4. The physical and human systems of a place.

9. The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on the Earth's surface.

10. The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics.

11. The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on the Earth's surface.


1. Divide the students into groups (11). Assign each group one of the Nations listed below. The list is an east to west distribution of people who lived in various habitats (ecological zones). They were also groups among whom Lewis and Clark spent more time and amassed more ethnological data. Oto- Sioux- Mandan- Hidatsa- Shoshone(i)- Flatheads- Nez Perce-Chinook- Clatsop- Atsina- Blackfoot

2. Have students do research on their chosen group.

3. Have students present their findings. Make a chart showing the results (See Chart on p.7). Compare & contrast nations.

4. Have students think about how guns, horses, and diseases influence Native Americans.

5. Discuss the Concept of " Nation". How do Native Americans use this today?

6. Discuss the supernatural forces as seen by Native Americans. How did they deal with them?

7. Discuss social structure. Have students define tribe, band, and clan.

8. As a follow up to the activity, have the students describe the nation they would have most likely wanted to live with for one year. They should reach consensus as a group or this could be an individual written report used as a culminating activity. You could do the same for the nation they would least like to stay with for one year.


1. Select a nation from your teacher's list or from the assigned chart. Research.

2. What are alternate names used for your nation?

3. Where are they located? Did they migrate there? When? Who are their neighbors?

4. Describe the physical environment. Climate? Vegetation? Animals? Terrain? Resources?

5. How did your group use it's environment? What did they eat? Was there a problem with food? Where did they get their food? What did they wear? What were their shelters like?

6. What kind of contacts did your group have with other people? Describe it. (War or Trade?)

7. What language was spoken by your group? How did it relate to languages used by other groups in the region? Did differences create problems? If so, how were they overcome?

8. Would you have liked to live with your group during the year 1800-1801? Why or why not?


DeVoto, Bernardo; The Journals of Lewis and Clark; Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston.

Faneslow, Julie; Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail; Falcon Publishing, Helena, MT.

Gibson, Arvell Morgan; The American Indian Prehistory to Present, D.C. Heath and Co. 1980.

Kehoe, Alice B.; North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account, 2nd ed.

Ronda, James P.; Lewis and Clark Among the Indians; University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.

Sturtevant, William (General Editor); Handbook of North American Indians; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC (V. 7, 12, 13)

Wissler, Clark; Indians of the United States; Doubleday and Co., Inc. 1968.


The works listed below should be in print. They are factual and recommended by various reviewers. There are many other excellent publications, which although out of print, may be available in your local libraries or used bookstores. Native American materials are widely available. We recommend avoiding fictional works unless your students are very sophisticated.

Blumberg, Rhoda R.; The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark; Morrow/Avon, New York, 1995. $9.95

Daugherty, James; Of Courage Undaunted; 1951. $16.95

Kroll, Steven; Lewis and Clark and the American West; Holiday House Inc., New York, 1994. $6.95

Marcovitz, Hal; Sacagawea, Guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition; Broomall, Chelsea House Publications, 2000. $17.95

McGrath, Patrick; The Lewis and Clark Expedition; Silver Burdett Press, Parsippany, N.J., 1984. $14.95

Roop, Peter, Editor; Off The Map: The Journals of Lewis and Clark; Walker and Co., New York, 1998. $15.85

Stein, R. Conrad; Lewis and Clark; Children's Press; Danbury, CT., 1997. $21.00

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