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Lewis and Clark
SHOWING RECORD: 10 of 13   Missouri Indians
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Missouri Indians

First Noted by Expedition
July 28, 1804

For more than a hundred years the Missouri Indians lived in earth-covered homes along the river that bears their name, at the river's junction with a tributary called the Grand River. But six years before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, the Sauk and Fox Indians swept down from the northeast to defeat them. The survivors established villages south of the Platte River in what is now part of Nebraska.

Lewis and Clark's expedition first encountered the Missouri settlements in summer 1804, when the Missouri were away buffalo hunting and their villages were empty. The Missouri were farmer-hunters, growing and harvesting corn, beans, and squash, but also hunting bison and other game to supplement their diet. At one point, Clark lamented that the Corps might pass through the region before the Missouri returned.

But on July 28, one of the corpsmen met a Missouri Indian, who told Lewis that his band of about 20 lodges had recently joined surviving Oto. Both populations had been recently stricken with smallpox; now only about 250 people survived. Lewis and Clark sent out a party to this village, and on August 2 the men returned with a small group of Oto and Missouri.

The next day, at modern-day Council Bluffs, Iowa, Lewis and Clark held their first meeting with western Indians, setting the pattern for future such councils. Amid great pomp and ceremony the Corps marched in their full uniform regalia, demonstrating their weaponry and distributing gifts to those chiefs they felt were of sufficient rank.

Despite the success of these first meetings, Lewis still wanted to meet with the head Missouri chief, Big Horse. A search party went out and on August 18 the Corps finally met with Big Horse and Oto Chief Little Thief.

The discussions centered on trade and peace negotiations. Lewis wanted the Oto-Missouri to support peace on the Plains and to stop raiding the neighboring tribes. The Missouri and Oto were more interested in a reliable, open-trade system.

Disappointed in the seemingly paltry gifts of beads, paint, and tobacco from the huge supply on the keelboat, both the Oto and the Missouri were unhappy with the exchange. This first Indian council ended on a flat note and nothing was really accomplished.

By the mid-1860s there were about 400 Oto-Missouri remaining, and they settled on a reservation on the Big Blue River between Kansas and Nebraska. In 1881 this combined tribe moved to Indian Territory in modern Oklahoma. The 1991 census listed about 1,350 Oto-Missouri still living near Pawnee, Oklahoma.

From the Expedition Journals

"G Drewyer brought in a Missourie Indian which he met with hunting in the Prarie This Indian is one of the fiew remaining of that nation. ..."

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