While Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to see much of what would become the western United States, those same lands had long been occupied by native peoples.
Over the course of the expedition, the Corps of Discovery would come into contact with nearly 50 Native American tribes. Quickly, the captains learned how many different definitions there really were for the word “Indian.” The Mandans lived in earth lodges, farmed corn and were amenable to trade with America. The Teton Sioux slept in tepees, hunted buffalo and guarded their territory fiercely against anyone who passed through, whether foreign or Indian. Some tribes had never seen a white or black man before Lewis and Clark. Others spoke bits of English and wore hats and coats they received from European sea captains.