Students watch a video introducing Lewis and Clark’s time in North Dakota as part of the Corps of Discovery. Students discuss the meanings of "wilderness" and "civilization," and analyze the journals of Meriwether Lewis.
This lesson is part of Great States: North Dakota | Unit 1: Introduction to North Dakota where students will examine seemingly objective terms and concepts. The materials and activities in this unit will give students a more nuanced understanding of how to set about learning about their state.
4.2.8: Describe the significance of the Lewis and Clark expeditions (e.g., Corps of Discovery, Sacagawea) in North Dakota history.
- Video: Moments in Time | Back on the Missouri
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or other type of screen to show videos to class
- Class set of Lewis and Clark Moments in Time #6 Transcript
Tell students that they will be watching a short video clip about Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery expedition. Explain that the expedition, commissioned by President Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase, was charged with exploring, mapping, and describing the newly-acquired land.
Explain that Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery were among the first European-Americans to see what we now call the state of North Dakota, and were the first official expedition to explore and map the territory following the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in 1803. Ask students if that made Lewis and Clark the first people to see these sites. Clarify that although they were among the first people of European descent, the American Indians had lived in this region for thousands of years.
- Download, print, and distribute the transcript of Meriwether Lewis’ April 7th, 1805 journal (found via the “Transcript” button under the video). Indicate that it is a primary source—an eyewitness account of the past. While playing the video, have students follow along with the transcript and underline details about Lewis and Clark’s journey.
Play the video, Moments in Time | Back on the Missouri [1:07].
Analyze the journal entry by asking students to respond to questions such as:
What did Lewis mean by traveling where “civilized man had never trodden”?
What other explorers did Captain Lewis mention? Why do you think he referred to their explorations? Do you think that this journey was just as important as these other explorers?
What might have been Lewis’s definition of “civilized”?
What were some of the obstacles the expedition had to face on this part of the expedition?
Why was Lewis and Clark’s expedition a significant event in North Dakota’s history?
Europeans and European Americans did not consider American Indians as civilized, and only the American Indians had walked this land up until that time in history.
Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook [0:21]
Civilized meant “western civilization” or people from Europe and the established United States, those who had a government, “western” clothing, literature, and lifestyles.
Small fleet, long journey, vessels had to hold all materials. [0:17, 0:45]
Lewis and Clark’s expedition informed those in the states about the lands including North Dakota, which later led to settlement. This settlement eventually led to the displacement and often death of the region’s American Indian inhabitants.