Louis Adams is a Salish tribal elder. The Salish met Lewis & Clark in the Bitterroot valley, in Montana, in 1805 and gave the expedition horses. These excerpts are from an interview conducted in 2002.
At the time Lewis and Clark came around, the majority of our people had never seen a white man, and none of them had ever seen a black man. It was pretty open then. There were no roads, just trails. I wish I had lived at that time.
There was no communication except by sign language, so they kept pointing at him so Lewis and Clark knew that their main concern was their black man (York). Lewis and Clark had them rub his face, and so they found out that was his true color. To this day (rubbing the face) that is how you describe a black man in sign language.
The only way they helped them was with horses and food. Our people said later they should have hired a middle-aged man to help them through the Lolo trail. They would have made it in a matter of days.
At the time they felt sorry for them because they were a pitiful looking lot . . . (without natives' help) they wouldn't have gone anywhere. There were too many people that weren't like the Salish. They'd have gotten wiped out.
The deception, that's what hurt our people later on. Why couldn't they be truthful? Why couldn't they say, "Yeah, we are here exploring to take this all away from you?"