Lewis & Clark

When the Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery ascended the Missouri, they received a typical warm welcome from the Mandan. When the Missouri froze over, they had no choice but to remain through the harsh Northern Plains winter.

The principal chief of Mitutanka, the Mandan village nearest Fort Mandan, was Shehek-Shote. Also known as Sheheke or Shahaka, he likely was a very large man with a pale complexion – so was referred to as “Lé Gros Blanc” or “Big White” by the French traders who often visited the area.

Sheheke responded to Lewis and Clark’s gifts and attentions by welcoming the Corps of Discovery to the land of the Mandan. The warmth of his hospitality was made clear to the Captains during that famously cold winter, telling the Americans: “If we eat, you shall eat; if we starve, you must starve also.”

According to their journals, Lewis and Clark’s men often walked across the frozen river to the Mandan village Mitutanka on the western bank in search of fellowship among the earth lodge people.

That winter at the Hidatsa village Awatiza they met French-Canadian fur traders Rene Jessaume and Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife Sakakawea, the young Indian guide who with her infant led Lewis and Clark westward on the next leg of their journey.

Two years later when the Corps of Discovery descended the Missouri on their way back to St. Louis, they parted ways with Sakakawea at the Knife River Villages and took the Mandan Chief Sheheke with them to meet President Jefferson in Washington, DC.

Travel the trail of the Corps of Discovery to learn more about their amazing journey to the Pacific coast.

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