Saturday, 6 March 2010

Gathering historical research on William Clark's Nez Perce son

During the past year, I have been attempting to gather all available information about William Clark’s supposed Nez Perce son, variously known as Tzi-Kal-Tza, Halahtookit, Al-pa-to-kate, Daytime Smoke(r), and Son of Daytime Smoker. The name I find the most poignant, however, the name that links into my research on personal identity, is the one he is said to have called himself – Clark (Moulton, vol 7, p 241).
The idea for my project started to emerge about ten years ago, when I visited the Nez Perce Historical Museum in my hometown of Lewiston, Idaho. Among the exhibits were collections of artifacts from early white settlers, the Nez Perce tribe, and the Lewis and Clark expedition which passed through the region twice: in September 1805, on their way to the west coast; and in May 1806, on their return journey to St. Louis. As I grew up in Lewiston, I thought I knew the history of the area fairly well, but tucked into a display of beaded gauntlets and stone tools was a piece of information I hadn’t come across before.

Pinned to the wall, was a brief narrative claiming that in 1806, William Clark had married a Nez Perce woman, ‘Indian style’. The woman was said to have accompanied him across the mountains into Montana before returning home to Kamiah. Nez Perce oral history claims that she bore a son who had “reddish hair and eyes like the sky”. I was intrigued.

When dealing with history, there are things we ‘know’ because of corroborating evidence: one eye-witness account is supported by another, multiple documents contain similar information, and so forth. The more pieces of data there are to support a claim, the stronger that claim becomes. We ‘know’ about the Lewis and Clark Expedition because six men, including the two captains, kept written accounts of their journey. With regards to my research, these are the things I know (this information is generally accepted, so I have not provided source information):

In September, 1805, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery crossed the Bitterroot Mountains on their way to the Pacific. The trail they followed through the mountains was treacherous in places, taking them along deep ravines into which their horses sometimes fell. Unable to find game along the way, they were half-starved by the time they emerged onto the Weippe Prairie. There, in what is now north-central Idaho, near the Clearwater River, they came to a Nez Perce village.
  • The men of the Lewis and Clark expedition were the first white people the Nez Perce had ever seen, but they took in these bedraggled strangers, fed them, befriended them, and equipped them for their onward journey. Of the forty-eight tribes that the expedition met during the Voyage of Discovery, the Nez Perce were written about the most warmly. The diaries are filled with praise for their beauty, their horsemanship, their honesty, and their friendship.
  • In 1855 and 1863, treaties throughout the north-west, relegated native tribes onto reservations in order to open up land for white homesteaders and to encourage the Indians to take up farming, a vocation which was supposed to have a ‘civilizing’ effect. Some Nez Perce bands agreed to move onto the reservation at Lapwai, but five others refused.
  • In 1877 these non-treaty Nez Perce bands were finally threatened with force. If they did not go to the reservation of their own accord, the military would be sent in, with the likely result that they would lose their horses and cattle. Finally they consented. Just before they got to the reservation at Lapwai, however, three young warriors took revenge for the murder of a Nez Perce man, and killed a number of settlers along the Salmon River. Coming only a year after Custer was defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Nez Perce leaders knew that punishment would be swift and thorough, so they decided to flee to Canada where Sitting Bull had taken refuge.
  • A number of battles took place between the Nez Perce and government troops -- Big Hole being the worst. Here, beside the Big Hole River, the Indians were attacked in the pre-dawn hours of 9th August, 1877. Between 60 and 90 Nez Perce were killed on this day, but the survivors managed to escape, turning south to Yellowstone, before heading north again, towards Canada.
Note how all of these events involved white participants, each of whom would have passed on their experiences, many of which would have been written down or documented. But what of events at which white people were not present? Because the Nez Perce did not have a written language until relatively recent times, their history – their knowledge – was passed on verbally. Traditionally, oral history has been held in lesser regard. The continued use of phrases such as ‘Nez Perce oral history’ rather than simply ‘Nez Perce history’ shows us that we harbor doubts about its accuracy. This is further complicated by the way oral history, even when it is recounting the same event or the same person, changes over time, much as does information passed during a game of Chinese Whispers.

There is little documented evidence to prove that a child was born as a result of a union between William Clark and a Nez Perce woman on the Weippe Prairie – Clark’s diaries hold only tantalizing clues to the nature of the ‘friendly relations’ he developed with Native women – but historians including Landon Jones, JP Ronda and Stephen Ambrose indicate that such a union is likely to have occurred. And there are certainly numerous accounts, within the oral tradition, of such a child being born. There are, however, discrepancies regarding the whereabouts of this child. In addition, some of the physical descriptions of this child seem unlikely. Below is a list of information I have gleaned from various sources citing oral history:

  • ‘Nez Perce legend asserts that the sister of Red Grizzly Bear bore a son by William Clark. This man, who had light hair, was proud of his ancestry and would proclaim “Me Clark!” He was photographed at least once, in his old age. He was with the famous Nez Perce flight in 1877, and with this group was deported to Indian Territory, where he died. His descendents were known by the name Clark’ (Moulton, vol 7, p 241).
  • White tourists went to see Old Clark after the non-treaty Nez Perce were incarcerated in Indian Territory (Pearson, 2008, p 122).
  • ‘Captain Clark was liked by the Nez Perce. On the return trip in the spring of 1806, one woman married him Indian style, followed the expedition to Deer Lodge, Montana, and returned to Kamiah. When her son was born he had “reddish hair and eyes like the sky.” The Nez Perce regarded this union as a political alliance. Clark’s son fought in the war of 1877 and later died, a prisoner of war in Oklahoma.’ (Alan Pinkham, LCSC lecture, 3-2002).
  • ‘[T]he old time method of making allies, creating allies with another people, with another tribe, was through intermarriage, and children. And some of the women slept with Lewis and Clark, and York, and maybe some of the other Corps of Discovery. But we know two children that was left with the Nez Perce people that were created in 1806. We had a son of Clark, and we also had a son fom York’ (Halfmoon, 2001, Clark’s Nez Perce Son,
  • When I visited the Big Hole battle site in 2006, and asked about Clark’s son, the park ranger gave me a photocopied newspaper article with a photograph of an elderly Indian man, holding a rifle which was said to have been taken ‘probably by C.A. Zimmerman, 1866-67’. The text reads: ‘Tzi-Kal-Tza – son of Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the years 1804-5-6. The date of this man’s birth was either about June, 1806, or March, 1807. Probably he was born about the latter date, for the reason tat the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped for a few days only with the Chopunnish or Nez Perce tribe of Indians in the latter part of September, 1805, while on its return in 1806 it made camp with those Indians from May 14 to June 10, enjoying a comfortable period of rest and refreshment. He was engaged in the Nez Perce Indian War in Idaho and Montana, and was made prisoner with Chief Joseph at the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, and was sent with Joseph and other prisoners to Indian territory, where he died in 1878 or 1879, aged about 79.’ (original source unknown)
  • Ronda mentions a photograph taken by William H. Jackson, sometime before 1877. Jackson is said to have ‘encountered a Nez Perce band and was introduced to a blue-eyed, sandy-haired man claiming to be William Clark’s son. Sufficiently impressed, Jackson photographed the man.’ Ronda continues: ‘The assertion that Clark left a son behind along the Clearwater persisted, and when Chief Joseph’s band surrendered to General Nelson Miles in 1877, one of the Nez Perce prisoners was pointed out as Clark’s son (p 233). I have not yet been able to locate this photograph.
  • On July 17, 1905, the New York Times published an article claiming that Clark’s Nez Perce son was killed during a battle with American soldiers in the Bear Paw Mountains in 1877. The article claims that Clark’s ‘bride’ accompanied him to the Pacific coast in 1805, and returned ‘to her own country, where her son was born. A granddaughter called Mary Clark, was said to be living in Montana. The full article is available at:
  • For her novel Do Them No Harm, Zoa Swayne carried out intensive research over the course of fifty years, gathering information from many people who were direct descendants of Nez Perce who met with Lewis and Clark. The sources she cites claim that the Nez Perce woman who bore Clark’s son followed him across the Bitterroots on his return east, and remained with a band of Salish Indians.
  • In his biography, William Clark and the Shaping of the West, Landon Jones writes: ‘Oral histories of the Nez Perces assert that a yellow-haired son called Tzi-kal-tza was born to Clark and a Nez Perce woman named Daytime Smoke (Halahtookit)’ citing Jay H. Buckley’s PhD dissertation William Clark: Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St Louis, 1813-1838 as his source (p 138). This is the only instance in which the name Halahtookit, and its English translation Daytime Smoke, are used in reference to the woman rather than the child she bore. I believe, however, that this is a case of poor syntax and poor editing, on the part of Jones, rather than an error of Buckley’s. See below.
  • Buckley states that ‘oral tradition says that [Red Grizzly Bear’s] daughter and Clark formalized the American-Nez Perce alliance through intimate relations, and that their union resulted in a son named Daytime Smoker (Hal-lah-too-kit)’ (2008, p 14).
A discussion of fictional representations of Clark’s son will follow at a later date.


Anonymous said...

Loree, this is great information that you have pulled together all in one place! Keep us post on your research into Clark's son among the Nez Perce. I have to say that the descriptions of Daytime Smoker and the photograph do not much, do you think?

Loree said...

Thanks very much. I think Halahtookit occupies a very special place in American history, one that has been overlooked for too long. I remember how surprised I was when I first came across him - the idea that the Corps of Discovery were fornicating their way across the continent was certainly never considered in my school history classes.

And yes, the descriptions of him and the one photograph I've so far been able to locate (I believe there may be one or two others) certainly do not match. Most of the descriptions I've read seem to be pretty fanciful.

Anonymous said...

From what I've read it is genetically impossible for a full blooded indian woman to have had a child with reddish hair and blue eyes.

The only way it would be possible is if she were of mixed heritage which would have been unlikely during that early time period.

I hope you can locate the other pictures you mentioned. I find this subject very interesting.

Loree said...

Hi, Thanks for your comment - and apologies for the delay in my acknoledgement!

Yes, from my understanding, it is very unlikely for Halahtookit to have had anything but dark hair - though possibly more brown than black, or with a reddish glow...? I take these descriptions of him to be more poetic, than literal. And I suppose that from a 19th century Indian perspective, any coloring which is not the standard might have been described in these terms.

I've still not located any other photographs of Halahtookit, though I did get hold of a copy of an article printed in Montana: The Magazine of Western History vol 5, No 3, from the summer of 1955 which has a photograph of 'Mary Clark', his daughter, said to have been taken in Missoula in 1905. She looks quite elderly in this photo. A second, undated, photo shows Mary with 'Euenia Clark' when as adolescents.

Frustratingly, the original photo of Halahtookit, himself (the photo shown, here), is, according to the article, inscribed on the back by Granville Stuart, the first Secretary of the Historical Society of Montana, 'I knew the old man well. His hair was yellow. This is his picture.' Anyone can see, though the photo is black and white, that his hair was definitely NOT 'yellow'!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your research on this subject. I grew up in Clarkston and never was aware that the town's namesake had a Nez Perce heir.

Loree said...

Yes, it was quite a surprise to me, too. As I think I mentioned, I first came across mention of Tzi-Kal-Tza in the Nez Perce County Historical Museum in downtown Lewiston. None of my school history lessons mentioned anything about 'having relations' with the native population along the way, but I think there were probably quite a number of progeny who sprung from the loins of the Corps of Discovery!

Karla Akins said...

Fascinating info. You are correct in that the "loins of the Corp of Discovery" were busy loins indeed. In fact, there are quite a few entries in the Lewis and Clark journals regarding venereal diseases the men and the natives they cavorted with were treated for. For obvious reasons they leave these details our of school history books.

Thanks for sharing this info and I hope you will continue to post new information as you learn it. Are there any descendents who could do DNA testing that you know of?

Loree Westron said...

Hi Karla,
Thanks for your message. Yes, there are all sorts of entries in the diaries about the Corps' encounters with Native women which have been edited out of school textbooks, and I've read about a couple of other children that were born as a result. I think there was a lot of venereal disease in the tribes further east, who had been in contact with American/European trappers etc for quite some time. Awful stuff, really.

I recently had a conversation with a cousin who teaches primary school in Oregon about the teaching of Lewis and Clark history, and while I can understand that somethings may need to be edited out for very young children, it seems to me that we should strive to teach the real history - not just the glorious myth. Most people know nothing about Clark's son, and it seems a great shame that such a pivotal figure has been ignored by history.

I believe that at least one of Halahtookit's daughters survived Oklahoma and was repatriated to north Idaho. Not sure about subsequent descendants, though I'm sure the Nez Perce themselves know.

Anonymous said...

Hope this isn't too late to post a comment on this thread. I live on the Colville Reservation and there are a number of Nez Perce people here with the last name of Clark. Have you done any research with this tribe? This is where Chief Joseph and his band were allowed to come when they were released.

Also, my grandchildren are from Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. Their word for "blonde" actually means kind of a reddish brown, the same color someone who is half Native American tends to have. I have also known Native Americans with the reddish brown hair to get blond streaks in it if they are outside in the summer a lot. So there is that possibility.

While I agree that blue eyes might be impossible due to it being a recessive trait, there is a strain of Jemez Indians that are "albino" and while they are 4/4 they have a kind of dark blond hair and blue eyes.

My point? You just never know.

Loree Westron said...

Hello 'Anonymous'!

Thank you very much for your response. I really do appreciate your input and you have given me food for thought. I've kind of come to a similar conclusion, myself. 'Blonde' is very much a relative term and I imagine that to anyone who is full blood, it is a way of distinguishing any hair that is lighter than the norm. And the photograph I have is of course black and white so any lighter shades would not be so apparent - and could even have been darkened in the developing process...

Thank you also for the information about Clarks on the Colville reservation. I visited Chief Joseph's grave, there, about 10 years ago - before I began my investigations into Clark's son. As far as I know, Halatookit/Clark had at least one daughter with him in Oklahoma and it is quite possible that when the Nez Perce were repatriated to the Northwest that she was among those who went to Colville, rather than Lapwai. Definitely something for me to look into!

Bill Hoop said...

I am a Clark. Our family believes that we are descendants. Could LDS geneology help establish our link ?

Loree Westron said...

Hi Bill,
Great to hear from you. Thanks for writing. I haven't used the LDS geneology services myself, but I've heard they are very good so if you're wanting to show your connection to William Clark and/or his Nez Perce son, Halahtookit, that's probably a good place to start. Can I ask if you are Nez Perce? I'd certainly be interested in talking to you about any connections you may have to Clark's son.

Nik said...

Good morning,
My grandmother has recently stated that she has some letters written from William Clark's son by a Native woman, proving that we are descendants. I've been trying to find any information about it, and am lost. I have been able to trace our ancestry back to a Laurilla or Lauretta Clark, born 1819 in Vermont, died 1914 in Oregon. Her parents were a Joseph Clark, and an unnamed Livermore. My grandmother believes her name was Elizabeth / Betsy. Does this sound like it could be correct? How could I verify anything like this?
Thanks for your help!


Loree Westron said...

Hi Nikki,

Thanks for your message. If I were you, I would get in touch with someone from the Nez Perce tribe. I'm sure they would be very interested in any letters connected to Clark's son, Halahtookit. Alan Pinkham is a Nez Perce elder and tribal historian. I don't have any contact details for him, but I'm sure you could find him through the tribal office. Or you might try contacting the Nez Perce Museum in Spalding, Idaho.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Have you done any research into William Clark's other possible children? Pawnee chief Sharitahrish looks a LOT like Clark and Clark was in the area dealing with Pawnees for a treaty at the time Sharitahrish could have been conceived in 1815.

Loree Westron said...

Hello, and thanks for your interest. To answer your question, no, I haven't done any further investigation into Clark's other Native children. I've heard suggestions that there were at least one or two others by my research has been limited to Halahtookit and Clark's relationship with the Nez Perce. I wonder if his biographer Lanny Jones might have any information about this Pawnee son. I've just had a quick look through my copy of his book WILLIAM CLARK and the SHAPING of the WEST but have not seen anything there, but if you're researching the subject yourself Lanny might be a good contact.