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Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska

Life-size statues commemorate and interpret the "First Council" between Captains Lewis and Clark of the Corps of Discovery and chiefs of the Oto and Missouria Indian nations on August 3, 1804. This exhibit (surrounded by an amphitheatre of native plants) is located at the Fort Atkinson State Historic Park in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, on the site of the "Council Bluff" where the historic meeting took place.

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First Council Commemorative Bronze Statues

The realistic representation depicts Captains Lewis and Clark in full-dress military uniforms, assisted by a trader-interpreter named Fairfong (or Fairlong) and Lewis's dog "Seaman"

Sculptor ~ Oreland C. Joe.  1993, Oreland received the distinct honor of becoming the first Native American artist to be a member of the famed and prestigious organization "Cowboy Artist of America". This honor continues to launch Oreland into new heights in his career. In 1996, he was chosen out of 50 artist and was commissioned by the Ponca City Native American Foundation to produce a twenty-two feet bronze sculpture of "Chief Standing Bear".  In June 2002, the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska,commissioned Oreland to create "The First Council" bronze statues.

First Council

On August 3, 1804: "Our party paraded and delivered a long speech to them expressing our journey, the wishes of our government, some advice to them...  The principal Chief for the Nation being absent, we sent him the speech flag, peace medal, and some clothes."

Lewis commented on the size on Nation:  "Those two parts of nations, Ottos and Missouries, now residing together is about 250 men".  "The Ottos composing 2/3 and Missouris 1/3".

 The Otoe Indians were part of the Southern Sioux tribes who lived along the Missouri River near the present-day border of Missouri and Nebraska. They were buffalo-hunters and farmers who lived in oven-shaped, earth-covered houses grouped into towns.

Smallpox had depleted their numbers, so the Otoe Indians combined with the neighboring Missouri Indians, and their villages totaled about 250 people.

Many of the Otoe's and Missouri's were away hunting buffalo when the Lewis and Clark expedition reached their towns in late July 1804. The Corps sent out two men to search for the Indians but came up empty. The captains decided to proceed up the river.

On August 2, a small group of Otoe's and Missouri's arrived at the Corps’ camp site, which Clark had named Council Bluff – across and downriver from what is now Council Bluffs, Iowa. The leading chiefs were still away hunting, but Lewis and Clark invited six or seven lesser chiefs to a council the next morning.

On August 3, with great ceremony, Lewis and Clark held the first formal meeting between representatives of the United States and western Indians. The Indians observed as the soldiers marched in full regalia and demonstrated their skills with weaponry. The Corps’ show of decorum and military strength would establish the routine for subsequent councils.

During the council, the Indians were told they were the “children” of a new “great father” who would provide them with trade and protection in place of their unreliable commerce with the French and the Spanish. It was a speech Lewis would deliver to numerous tribes throughout the journey.

The Otoe's were advised to make peace with other Indian tribes in order to bring the trade Lewis promised. He also urged the chiefs to send a delegation east to visit President Jefferson. When Lewis concluded, each chief received gifts including a peace medal and face paint. But the captains also sought a council with the leading Otoe chief, Little Thief.  Lewis had the chiefs take gifts and a copy of his speech to Little Thief in hopes the leader would meet them further up the river.

On August 18, Little Thief and the main Missouri chief, Big Horse, met with the Corps. Lewis gave his speech, and Little Thief agreed that peace would benefit everyone. He asked the captains to negotiate peace between the Otoe's and the Omaha Indians. But Little Thief also noted that most important to the Otoe's was the price and quality of trade goods.

Before departing, Little Thief indicated he would go to Washington in the spring.  In March 1805, a delegation including Little Thief and one Missouri chief met in Washington, D.C., with President Jefferson, who promised trade goods and told them he hoped for peace.

About Fort Atkinson

Fort Atkinson was occupied by the U.S. Army from 1820-1827. It was the first military post established west of the Missouri River and its preservation, age, and research significance have rendered it perhaps the most important Euroamerican archeological site in Nebraska.

Fort Atkinson was a large military post with 1,000 officers and troops and untold numbers of civilians.  Their mission was to protect the burgeoning western fur trade and control access to the upper Missouri and Platte Valley overland route. 



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GPO 1991-557-779

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