"The Vote" and Station Camp
Today is the 199th anniversary of an incident occurring during the Lewis and Clark expedition that has been elevated to one of those “pivotal moments” of the entire journey. This is “The Vote” taken on the north side of the
Considering that back in the States, black men could not vote until 1870 (and that in 1805, most were slaves), women could not vote (nation-wide) until 1920, and Native Americans weren’t even citizens until 1924, the Vote was remarkable as an example of true (American) democracy. It’s also considered remarkable that even the enlisted men got to vote on what was still a military expedition.
But the interpretive hype pertaining to The Vote is a bit exaggerated. (While discussing his lengthy documentary, Ken Burns excitedly proclaims, “The Lewis and Clark expedition was about freedom!” Huh?) Sacagawea and York were not exercising any offical political franchise. The expedition was no longer in the “civilized”
Even this interpretation is probably too romantic. Historians and military people point out that extending a democratic voice to the expedition members at key moments was simply good leadership on the part of the captains, especially when they figured the people under their command would support decisions they'd already made.
Next year, there will be an official bicentennial reenactment of The Vote at the Station Camp site. This year (today), there was a reenactment of sorts by 100 Washington school children, as reported on Oregon Public Radio a short while ago (as I write this). The school children voted to stay on the Washington side, but as we know, the expedition voted to cross the river and look for a good wintering location to the south. This resulted in their 2005-06 encampment at what they called Fort Clatsop.
Next: stuck in a "Dismal Nitch."
[All photos by K. Dahl, copyright 2005.]