History has acknowledged that the Lewis and Clark Expedition would not have survived the 8,000 mile voyage of exploration 200 years ago without the aid of many Indian tribes along the way.
However, history until now has been almost silent on the Indian's perspective of that expedition and its aftermath.
"Their half of the story has never been told," said historian and writer Alvin Josephy Jr., whose credits include "The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest," "The Patriot Chiefs" and "The Indian Heritage of America" He noted that almost everything written about the expedition was taken from the journals of Lewis and Clark themselves.
Josephy, 89, who has lived part of the year at Joseph since the 1960s, is working to see
that lopsided perspective of Lewis and Clark change with a new book project on which he is working.
The book's working title is "Lewis and Clark: The Indian's Perspective," and will be made up of chapters from nine Indian writers, journalists and historians belonging to different tribes associated with Lewis and Clark 200 years ago. The book will be published by Alfred A. Knoft.
Among those who have agreed to contribute 5-7,000 words as spokesmen for their tribes on Lewis and Clark are Allen Pinkham of the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho and Bobbie Conner of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes and director of the Tamastsklits Cultural Institute near Pendleton.
The other writers include N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa, the only Native American who has won a Pulitzer Prize; Gerard Baker, Mandan/Hidata, superintendent of the Little Bighorn Battleground National Monument; Debra Magpie Earling, Blackfoot, novelist and professor of creative writing at University of Montana; journalists Mark Trahan, Shoshone/Bannock, and Dick Bases, Clatsop; Bill Yellowtail, Crow, former Montana state senator and past western regional director of the EPA; and Vine Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux, essayist and activist, whose work includes "Custer Died for Your Sins."
Josephy has long felt that the history of Native Americans should be told by the Indians themselves, and that the publishing establishment has treated native writers and historians too long and unfairly as second raters.
Earlier this year when the opening events of the official Bicentennial Commemoration of the Lewis and Clarks Expedition (which will end in 2006) were held in Monticello, Va., and St. Louis, Mo., Josephy was disappointed to see that the officials of the expedition's bicentennial passed up the perfect opportunity to have Indians tell their stories.
Instead he said the Indians invited seemed to be treated more like "window dressing."
In March Josephy shot off a short letter to propose a new book to his editor, Ann Close, with Alfred A. Knopf publishing company which would answer this question: "What impacts - good or bad, immediate or long range - did the Indians experiece from the Lewis and Clark Expedition."
"They snapped it up," said New York publisher Marc Jaffe, Josephy's partner on the book project, about the proposal's reception by Alfred A. Knopf publishing company.
Jaffe is a former editorial director and publisher with Bantam, who more recently had his own imprint . He first worked with Josephy on "The Indian Heritage of America" and they have been good friends during the past 50 years.
"The group of writers we have are all tremendously talented and all tremendously excited in this project," said Jaffe. "They are very knowledable, a good tribal mix and a very good mix of historians, journalists, creative writers and tribal officials."
Josephy said that the only writing he might do for the book is a short overview of the project.
"This is a story that hasn't been told," said Josephy. "Let the Indians speak about the other half of the Lewis and Clark Expedition story."
The book, now in the very earliest stages, is expected to appear in print in the fall of 2005 while the Lewis and Clark bicentennial observance is still in progress.