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Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, near Charlottesville, Virginia. Lewis grew up among the forests and wilderness of the Shenandoah Valley and developed a love of hunting and exploring. Lewis became a soldier at an early age and fought in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. He soon became an officer in the Army and battled the Native Americans in the Northwest Territory of the new nation. Lewis became very educated about the Native Americans and even learned some of their languages.
Jefferson's Personal Secretary
As a neighbor and friend of the Lewis family, Thomas Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis as his personal secretary. He prepared Lewis for two years to explore the lands acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis studied plants, animals, and navigation at the University of Pennsylvania in preparation. Lewis invited William Clark to co-lead the expedition. Although Congress authorized Lewis as the captain of the expedition, he insisted that he and Clark be considered co-captains during the journey.
Lewis and Clark spent over two years exploring the new frontier, mapping the terrain, and learning about and trading with various Indian tribes. Lewis was considered an outstanding leader and was highly respected by the members of the Corps of Discovery. His journal, which recorded many (not all) of the events of the expedition, is one of the most important documents in American history. As Lewis and Clark made their way west, they were the first to confirm that there was no direct water passage across the continent (Northwest Passage).
Painting by Charles Marion Russell showing the Corps of Discovery meeting the Chinook on the Columbia River
After successfully establishing Fort Clatsop, Oregon, and after discovering over 300 new species of animals and plants throughout the Great Plains and western mountains, the pair returned. Meriwether Lewis was named the new governor of the Louisiana Territory. On October 11, 1809, Lewis was on his way to Washington D.C., on the famed Natchez Trace when he mysteriously died at a hotel.
Lewis and Clark Interactive - This section provides an interactive map of the Lewis and Clark route to the Pacific. Simply click and learn! Perfect as an introduction to the expedition or for younger kids.
Sacagawea Reading Comprehension - Online - This resource includes a historical passage and ten multiple choice questions. It gives immediate feedback. In addition, when you click the "listen" button, you can hear the passage while it highlights the text.
Lewis and Clark Correct-me Passage - This fun activity requires students to correct a passage about Lewis and Clark that has nine factual errors. Students first must discover the errors, then click on them and select the correct answer from the drop down menu.
Lewis and Clark - The Dynamic Duo - This printable exercise requires students to compare Lewis and Clark to other "dynamic duos" in literature, movies, or even sports.
Lewis and Clark - The Climb - This printout requires students to consider a time when they thought they were at the cusp of finishing something great, only to learn there was MUCH more work to do - ALA Miley Cyrus.
The Lost Journal Pages of Lewis and Clark! - When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the vast Louisiana Territory, he had visions that they'd find exotic creatures such as wholly mammoths and undiscovered landforms such as mountains made of salt. While Lewis and Clark discovered over three hundred species of animals and plants, and even sent a magpie and prairie dog as pets to Thomas Jefferson, they never found the kind of creatures that legends are made of (though they did find massive grizzly bears). What if Lewis and Clark actually did discover an unworldly plant, animal, and landform, but those pages were somehow lost from Lewis’ journal forever when their keelboat capsized? In the spaces provided below, use your imagination to name, draw, and describe these lost discoveries.
A Long-lost Picture of Sacagawea - Did you know that there are no known drawings of depictions of Sacagawea? All of the images you see of her today are simply guesses. This activity shows three different depictions of Sacagawea and challenges students to author their own "authentic" sketch of Sacagawea.
Sacagawea - the Unsung Hero - This activity explains the idea of Sacagawea as an unsung hero. Students must then write about an unsung hero they select from movies, literature, sports, or their own lives.