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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A03E1D9173DE733A25754C1A9619C946497D6CF
- 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.