33. Yankton, South Dakota

Missouri River

View west, upstream

To see labels, point to the image.

Interactive aerial photo labeling the landmarks

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Peace Parley

The Corps moved eight and a half miles through this stretch of the Missouri on 27 August 1804. They went ashore on the south side of the river below Calumet Bluff just above the river's bend, near the left edge of the photo. Here they "formed a camp in a Butifull Plain," erected a flagpole, ran up their large flag, and settled in to wait for the Sioux, whom they had invited to meet with them. On the thirtieth, seventy-five Sioux men of the Yankton tribe, or E-hank-ton-wan, "People of the End Village," ceremoniously entered the expedition's camp, eager to parley. They had managed to get along with the British and the Spanish, and were ready to play ball with the Americans.

Lewis delivered a long speech, translated into Siouan by his recently hired interpreter and local envoy, Pierre Dorion, Sr., then distributed peace medals and sundry gifts, plus an American flag—a symbol of the nation that now "owned" the land of the Sioux. That night there was a war dance by firelight, with boastful harangues from some of the leading warriors. Early the next morning, the Yankton chiefs promised they'd make peace with the Otos and Missouris. The captains thought it went pretty well. Easily said. On 1 September they set sail "under a gentle Breeze from the South" toward another band of the Sioux Nation, the Teton. In less than a month their little fling with diplomatic success would turn sour.

There was no settlement here at the time, but by 1860 Yankton was on the western edge of white settlement on the Great Plains, and was named capital of the huge Dakota Territory a year later. On this part of the Missouri today, the river is essentially a chain of dam-created reservoirs. The one farthest downstream, visible just below the horizon, is Lewis and Clark Lake, the 25-mile-long impoundment of the Gavins Point Dam west of the city of Yankton.


From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press