Delegation to Washington

Adelegation of chiefs from the Arikara, Ponca, Omaha, Oto, Iowa, and Missouri nations sailed down the Missouri with Corporal Warfington on the expedition's keelboat in the spring of 1805. Early in January, 1806, President Jefferson greeted them in Washington City with a formal speech—a harangue:

My friends & children . . . I take you by the hand of friendship and give you a hearty welcome to the seat of the govmt. of the U.S. . . .

We are descended from the old nations which live beyond the great water: but we & our forefathers have been so long here that we seem like you to have grown out of this land: we consider ourselves no longer as of the old nations beyond the great water, but as united in one family with our red brethren here. . . .

We are become as numerous as the leaves of the trees, and, tho' we do not boast, we do not fear any nation. We are now your fathers; and you shall not lose by the change.

He had sent "our beloved man Capt. Lewis one of my own family" to get acquainted with them, "to take them by the and, deliver my talks to them, and to inform us in what way we could be useful to them."

My children, we are strong, we are numerous as the stars in the heavens, & we are all gun-men. Yet we live in peace with all nations; and all nations esteem & honour us because we are peaceable & just. . . .

I wish you, my children to see all you can and to tell your people all you see; because I am sure the more they know of us, the more they will be our hearty friends. . . . The clouds will fly away like the morning fog and the sun of friendship appear, & shine for ever bright & clear between us.1

The Indian spokesman replied in with due formality and evident sincerity, but bluntly directed certain reservations toward his "Fathers":

Meditate what you say, you tell us that your children of this side of the Mississippi hear your Word, you are Mistaken, Since every day they Rise their tomahawks Over our heads, but we believe it be Contrary to your orders & inclination, & that, before long, should they be deaf to y our voice, you will chastise them. . . .

More pointedly, he recognized and pointed out a gross inconsistency between the president's policies and the conduct of his citizens.

You say that you are as numerous as the stars in the skies, & as strong as numerous. So much the better, fathers, tho', if you are so, we will see you ere long punishing all the wicked Red skins that you'll find amongst us, & you may tell to your white Children on our lands, to follow your orders, & to do not as they please, for they do not keep your word.2

1. Donald Jackson, ed., Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783–1854 (2nd ed., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978), 1:280–83

2. Ibid., 2:285–86.