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On April 25 1805 the Corps of Discovery camped by the riverside near the future site of Fort Union Lewis and Clark hoped they were only weeks away from the Pacific via an all-water route the mythical Northwest Passage The group rested and celebrated their arrival at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers The expedition journals noted the spots potential as a trade location between two navigable rivers the early highways of commerce Entering what would be Montana led the expedition into the land of the Blackfeet Their first contact with this tribe had been less than promising The Northwest Passage was not Jeffersons only priority In fact of the tasks assigned them Lewis and Clark accomplished the most within the modern borders of Montana Contact and negotiations with native tribes the reconnaissance of suitable sites for trading posts and forts and scientific accounts of the lands plants animals and scenic resources were all in keeping with Jeffersons hopes for the expedition The Mandan Indian Villages The first leg of the journey to the ocean took the explorers to the Mandan and Hidasts Indian villages in present central North Dakota Here over 1600 miles from their point of departure they made their first winters headquarters and named it Fort Mandan The following spring they sent the keelboat and several men back to St Louis with information and the specimens they had collected to that point At Ft Mandan they hired a French fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife Sacagawea as interpreters to accompany them to the ocean Sacagawea was a Shoshone-an Indian tribe that lived in the Rocky Mountains at the headwaters of the Missouri She had been abducted five years earlier by a band of Hidatsas and sold to Charbonneau She would be useful when the Expedition bar gained with her people for the horses
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