Captain Lewis Shoots an Indian
Jefferson Peace Medal
Wolf Calf's Story
Violence on the Two Medicine River
"I … left the medal about the neck of the dead man
that they might be informed who we were.”
(Meriwether Lewis, July 27,
In early June 1806, a group of Nez Perce guides led the American expedition back over the Bitterroot Mountains into modern Montana. The guides remained with the Americans for a month. On July 2, Lewis and nine other men set off to explore the north bank of the Missouri while the remainder of the expedition descended the Yellowstone River, passing through the country of the Crow Indians. The two groups would rendezvous on August 12.
On July 26, Lewis’s small party encountered eight young Blackfeet men in the hills near the Two Medicine River. A cordial meeting produced a decision to camp together. Lewis presented the leader of the group with a small flag and a peace medal. He told them that the Americans had formed alliances with the Nez Perce, Salish, and Shoshones, traditional enemies of the Blackfeet. The following morning, the young Indians, perhaps alarmed by Lewis’s speech the night before, grabbed some of the Americans’ precious guns and tried to escape. Private Reuben Fields seized one of the men and stabbed him in the heart. Lewis pursued and shot dead another man who had confronted him with a rifle. Lewis then set the Indians’ baggage ablaze and retrieved the flag he had given out the night before. He left the peace medal around the neck of one of the dead warriors.