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Missouri

Information on the Missouri Indians
Recorded by Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804

The following excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men present a picture of the Missouri people as the Anglo-Americans saw them. The modern reader must be careful to understand that what these white men saw and recorded was not necessarily correct from the Indian perspective. The Missouri people were a small tribe, and when first encountered by Marquette in 1673 had a village at the mouth of the Grand River. They spoke a Siouan language and were closely related to the Iowas, Otos and Winnebagoes. They were village people who also hunted the buffalo. Their name, which means "people with the dugout canoes," was applied to the state and the river Missouri. In 1798 the Sac and Fox made an attack on the Missouri which devastated the tribe. The survivors lived among the Osage, Kaw and Oto, and in 1829 the Missouris formally united with the Oto tribe.

The following passages have been freely adapted and excerpted from the original texts, and the spelling has been corrected to make them easier to read. For students wishing to quote these passages, the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary Moulton and published by the University of Nebraska Press, is the recommended source. For those who wish more in-depth information about Lewis and Clark's relations with various Indian tribes, including background from the Indian perspective, the best book is James P. Ronda's Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. The very best way to obtain accurate information from the tribal perspective is to contact tribal councils for individual tribes - in other words, to consult the people themselves.

[Clark]
13th June Wednesday, 1804
We set out early. Passed a round bend to the S.S. and two Creeks called the round bend Creeks. Between those two Creeks and behind a Small willow island in the bend is a Prairie in which the Missouri Indians once lived, and the spot where 300 of them fell a sacrifice to the fury of the Sauk. This nation (Missouri), once the most numerous nation in this part of the Continent, is now reduced to about 80 families and that few under the protection of the Otteaus [Otos] on the River Platte, who themselves are declining.

[Clark]
15 June Friday 1804
The Missouri Nation resided under the protection of the Osage, after their nation was reduced by the Saukees below. They built their Village in the same low Prairie and lived there many years. The war was So hot & both nations become So reduced that the Little Osage & a few of the Missouris moved & built a village 5 miles nearer the Grand Osage, the rest of the Missouris went and took protection under the Otteaus [Otos] on Platte river.

Did You Know?

Dinosaur cartoon

On September 10, 1804 on Cedar Island, in South Dakota, William Clark discovered the fossilized remains of the ribs, backbone and teeth of a plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs were animals who lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, but swam rather than walking on land. Clark thought it was a giant fish bone! More...