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Lewis & Clark Keelboat

Another View of Keelboat

Big A** Cottonwood Trees in Lewis & Clark State Park

Omaha Indian Earthlodge Interpretive Structure

Interior View of Earthlodge

Earthlodge Symbolism Chart

Scenic Overlook from Chief Blackbird Burial Site

View of Missouri River from Scenic Overlook

Topography of Omaha Nation Indian Reservation


From On-Ur-Wa RV Park – Onawa, Iowa

Lewis & Clark State Park was on our agenda today. It was here on August 9, 1804 Clark said, “This place is called Coupe a Jarcke, a place where the river cut through and shortened the River several miles”.

Docked at the “oxbow” Blue Lake in the park is a replica of the keelboat used by Lewis & Clark expedition up the Missouri River. In 2004 volunteers under the leadership of boatwright Butch Bouvier began construction on this keelboat replica named “Best Friend”.

Her design is not to the specifications of the Barge used by Lewis & Clark expedition. That craft was 55 ft long and only 8 ft. 4 inches wide. This is a width ratio less than most canoes. It was extremely unstable in 1804 and still an unstable design today. Wanting visitors to experience the feeling of working on one the craft and keep it safe, she was built longer and wider for good stability.

Specifications of “Best Friend” are:

Weight – 12 tons Length – 58 ft Width – 12 ft

Draft (empty) – 18 inches Cargo capacity – 15 to 20 tons

Our next destination was a drive on the Omaha Nation Indian Reservation which included the town of Macy. This tribe was the first of the Plains Indians to master equestrianism making them for a brief time the most powerful tribe. On the drive we came upon an Earthlodge Interpretive Structure. This structure recreated many of the qualities of an Omaha earthlodge.

At 30 foot diameter, this lodge would be considered small. Lodges sheltered many families and their horses with diameters of up to 60 feet. At the center is a symbolic fireplace of stone native to the Omaha’s first plains village in northwest Iowa. The fireplace is surrounded by a mosaic in the floor that interprets the tribe’s social organization and associated village layout.

In the north half, plum brick represents the Sky people who were responsible for the tribe’s spiritual needs. On the south half is red brick representing the Earth people responsible for the tribe’s physical welfare. Each of these was comprised of 5 clans. Encircling the two halves is a ring of black brick symbolizing the union of sky and earth forces.

Within the ring are 10 columns depicting the tribe’s clans. Near 2 of the columns are 3 tent symbols indicating the clans responsible for care of the Sacred Tent of War, Tent of the Sacred Pole and Tent of the Sacred White Buffalo Hide. The 7 columns surrounding the fireplace represent the Council of Seven Chiefs, the leaders who governed the tribe.

Also at this site was a scenic overlook of the Missouri River. It is here that Chief Blackbird is buried on the bluff west of the Missouri River in what is now Nebraska. He died of smallpox in 1800 and was buried upright on his horse. In 1804 Lewis & Clark expedition members were lead to his burial site.

I want again to thank all who read and follow this journal on a regular basis. I have also been aware of more and more traffic on the website by readers other than those getting updates on new postings of the journal. In the last week, there have been 4 days that traffic has exceeded 100.

Welcome to the new readers and remember you can get automatic updates by requesting them on the journal’s home page. Thanks to all for your interest and support.

Till Later…..

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