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History is a controversial phenomenon because it cannot always give a consistent appraisal of an event. For example, almost every agreement can be either positive or negative, depending on what side comments on it. The same refers to the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the early 19th century. The given expedition resulted in economic, political, and environmental benefits for the United States, while Native Americans later considered it as an encroachment on their freedom and independence.
Intended Goals of the Expedition
Being one of the most significant expeditions in US history, the given mission had the following background. In 1803, Jefferson stated that the nation had bought approximately “825,000 square miles of land, mostly inhabited by Native Americans” (Meares par. 2). Since no American citizen has visited that territory, the president decided to send an expedition to explore the land. The journey was headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who were representatives of the military. Also known as the Corps of Discovery, the men started the expedition in 1804.
Jefferson provided Lewis and Clark with precise tasks to be performed. In addition to creating a map of new territory, the mission needed to establish political and economic relationships with the indigenous population as well as study flora and fauna. Jefferson’s another requirement was to find an all-water route along the Missouri River to reach the Pacific (Meares par. 6). Considering such a wide range of goals, one should not be surprised that it took almost two years for the mission to travel there and back. In general, the Corps of Discovery managed to perform most of its tasks, but the following comments will present a detailed insight into the expedition’s impact.
To begin with, one should mention that the expedition failed to find the direct water route to the Pacific because it does not exist. However, the journeymen reached the ocean by overcoming the Rocky Mountains. At the same time, the mission managed to end their journey with a few positive outcomes. It related to the fact that various relationships with the indigenous population were established. Firstly, Lewis and Clark laid the foundation for fur trade with Native Americans, which would be economically beneficial for the USA.
Secondly, social and political advantages were represented by close diplomatic contacts between the Indians and the United States. Finally, one cannot underestimate the cultural meaning of the expedition because its members encountered many local tribes, including the Nez Perce, Mandans, and Sioux, as well as discovered their customs and traditions (Meares par. 10).
In addition to that, it is necessary to comment on the environmental impact of the mission. Over their journey, Lewis and Clark identified and described “at least 178 plants and 122 animals” (Meares par. 17). Among these creatures, some species had not been known to American zoology before.
Consequently, the mission was a significant impulse that stimulated the development of US science. It was so because the findings made environmentalists organize new expeditions to explore flora and fauna of the new territory, which resulted in many essential discoveries. For example, the Lewis and Clark mission helped find bighorn sheep, mountain beaver, barking squirrel, and others (Meares par. 17). Thus, one can say that the given expedition managed to generate many positive results.
Native American Views
Irrespective of the advantages mentioned above, it is impossible to assess the expedition unequivocally because of its impact on the indigenous population. It relates to the fact that Lewis and Clark showed that non-native Americans could have control over more extensive territories, which was the first step toward invading the West. Thus, the US government started taking specific actions to settle the Western regions with white Americans. For this purpose, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was created to make the Indians leave their land and move deep into the West (National Park Service par. 5).
Furthermore, 1851 witnessed as the Indian Appropriations Act obliged Native Americans to live within reservations, which allowed the government to redistribute the land among settlers and businesses (National Park Service par. 5). In addition to that, Indian children attended boarding schools where they were not allowed to “speak their native languages or practice cultural traditions” (National Park Service par. 6). Thus, the Lewis and Clark expedition resulted in many problems for Native Americans.
One cannot deny the significance of the given mission for US history. On the one hand, it is necessary to emphasize its positive outcomes. Lewis and Clark explored the new territory of their nation, which would result in more journeys sent to that land. They also analyzed local flora and fauna, which contributed to the development of environmental sciences in the United States. Furthermore, established contacts with the indigenous population were profitable for the USA because the country developed its trade and political relationships in this manner.
On the other hand, the expedition was harmful to Native Americans because the government started inhabiting these territories with US citizens by expelling the Indians. Thus, the Lewis and Clark expedition was beneficial for the United States but harmful to Native Americans.
Meares, Hadley. “Lewis and Clark: How the Explorer’s Corps of Discovery Transformed North America.” Biography, 2019. Web.
National Park Service. “The Expedition’s Impact on Indigenous Americans.” National Park Service, 2017. Web.