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A long time ago, when Thomas Jefferson was President, most of the people in this country lived in the East. Nobody knew anything about the Far West. The only people that lived there were Indians. Many of these Indians had never seen a white man.

The President sent men to travel into this wild part of the country. He told them to go up to the upper end of the Missouri River. Then they were to go across the Rocky Mountains. They were to keep on till they got to the Pacific Ocean. Then they were to come back again. They were to find out the best way to get through the mountains. And they were to find out what kind of people the Indians in that country were. They were also to tell about the animals.

There were two captains of this company. Their names were Lewis and Clark. There were forty-five men in the party.

They were gone two years and four months. For most of that time they did not see any white men but their own party. They did not hear a word from home for more than two years.

They got their food mostly by hunting. They killed a great many buffaloes and elks and deer. They also shot wild geese and other large birds. Sometimes they had nothing but fish to eat. Sometimes they had to eat wolves. When they had no other meat, they were glad to buy dogs from the Indians and eat them. Sometimes they ate horses. They became fond of the meat of dogs and horses.

When they were very hungry, they had to live on roots if they could get them. Some of the Indians made a kind of bread out of roots. The white men bought this when they could not get meat. But there were days when they did not have anything to eat.

They were very friendly with the Indians. One day some of the men went to make a visit to an Indian village. The Indians gave them something to eat.

In the Indian wigwam where they were, there was a head of a dead buffalo. When dinner was over, the Indians filled a bowl full of meat. They set this down in front of the head. Then they said to the head, "Eat that."

The Indians believed, that, if they treated this buffalo head politely, the live buffaloes would come to their hunting ground. Then they would have plenty of meat. They think the spirit of the buffalo is a kind of a god. They are very careful to please this god.

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Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the story multiple times.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


While Thomas Jefferson was America's third President, he sent Lewis and Clark with over forty men to the wild west of America. Thomas Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to venture west across the plains, across the Rocky Mountains, and to the Pacific Ocean and back. Thomas Jefferson also tasked the expedition to discover the best paths through the mountains, to learn about the animals, and to find out about the American Indians living there. The journey took Lewis and Clark over two years. They hunted and ate buffalo, elk, deer, geese, fish, and even wolves, horses, and dogs to survive. They were friendly to the American Indians. One day, the Indians invited Lewis and Clark into a wigwam to eat. During the meal, the Indians gave a bowl of meat to the head of a dead buffalo. The Indians believed honoring the spirit of the buffalo would bring more buffaloes to their hunting grounds.


President: The elected head of state.
Pacific Ocean: The large expanse of sea to the west of America.
Rocky Mountains: The line of high, rocky mountains that stretch over western America.
Root: The part of a plant that attaches it into the ground.
Wigwam: A dome-shaped hut or tent made by fastening mats, skins, or bark over a framework of poles.


Buffalo are heavily built, shaggy brown wild oxen with horns.

Facts about buffalo:

  1. They are also called American bison, American buffalo, bison, or buffalo.
  2. They grazed over much of North America until they were overhunted in the 1800s.
  3. Today, buffalo live in national parks, on reserves, and on farms.
  4. Buffalo meat is sold as an alternative to hamburger.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_bison


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the story events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Color the Story   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 32 of 'History Coloring Pages for First Grade.'

Activity 3: Map the Story

  • Zoom in and study the map below. It plots out the path that Lewis and Clark took.
  • Find 'Camp Wood', near St. Louis.
  • Using your mouse cursor or finger, trace the path Louis and Clark took to 'Fort Clatsop.' Recite aloud the names of the forts and cities as you pass through them.
  • Find where the path crossed the Columbia River. The picture in the next activity shows the expedition encountering a group of American Indians on the Columbia River.
  • Find where you live on the map. Do you live anywhere near the expedition path?

Activity 4: Study the Story Picture

In the picture below, Louis and Clark encounter a group of Columbia River Indians. The Columbia River Indians are advancing in decorated dugout canoes on the group. Louis and Clark's Indian guide, Sacagawea, holds her hands out and talks to the Indians, hoping to keep the peace.

Study the picture, and find the following:

  • American Indians
  • Men on an Expedition
  • Columbia River
  • Clark (The red-haired man standing in the canoe and holding a gun.)
  • Sacagawea (Louis and Clark's female Indian guide)
  • Indian Dugout Canoes
  • Expedition Canoes
  • Paddles
  • Animal Head - Canoe Decorations
  • Animal Head - Head Covering
  • Pine Trees
  • Cliffs


Question 1

Why did Thomas Jefferson send Lewis and Clark West?
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Answer 1

To find the best mountain paths and to learn about the Indians and animals who lived in those lands.
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Question 2

Why did Lewis and Clark and their men eat wolves, horses, and dogs?
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Answer 2

To keep from starving when they could not find enough buffalo, deer, geese, and fish.
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  1. Why did Thomas Jefferson send Lewis and Clark West? To find the best mountain paths and to learn about the Indians and animals who lived in those lands.
  2. Why did Lewis and Clark and their men eat wolves, horses, and dogs? To keep from starving when they could not find enough buffalo, deer, geese, and fish.