By Kristi Kates
During the first few years of the 1800s, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on the first serious overland expedition taken across the United States. Now, those intrepid explorers are making a trip to Petoskey with an exhibit at the public library.
With help from Sacajawea (a Shoshone woman who acted as interpreter and guide) and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, Lewis and Clark helped set the groundwork for the westward expansion of the U.S., and traveled through many sovereign Indian nations along the way.
They werent the first to explore the American West; but they were the first scientific expedition that did so in an official capacity. Their voyage of discovery and the culture of Native America will be celebrated at the Petoskey exhibit.
THE INDIAN COUNTRY
The exhibit is called Lewis and Clark and the Indian Country, but the name is a bit misleading, Petoskey District Library Director Karen Sherrard explains. The emphasis of the exhibit is not on Lewis and Clark themselves, but on their journey through the sovereign Indian nations who had been living along the path of the U.S. Corps of Discovery (what Lewis and Clarks expedition was called) for 10,000 years.
Sherrard says the exhibit will consist of four displays: what the tribal cultures were like before European contact;
what happened in the encounters with tribal cultures during the trip;
the changes to native cultures because of American presence over the years;
and the present-day efforts being made to restore the culture and spiritual life of the tribes.
The exhibits goal is to introduce a new set of ideas about the encounters of Native Americans with the Lewis and Clark party, and the importance of sustaining the Indian culture today. The Petoskey Library is one of only a select number of libraries that will have the privilege of showing the exhibit.
Only 23 libraries were chosen, Sherrard says, I believe that our library was chosen because we worked closely with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians to write the grant, and we agreed that hosting this exhibit would provide an ideal way to build community bridges and educate our community not only about the Lewis and Clark expedition, but about the history of our own area, which in many ways parallels the experiences of the tribes in the Northwest.
Another important part of the story, Sherrard says, is the story of the dislocation and disruption to sovereign nations, followed by the local tribes mission to restore the peoples and their history, culture, and society.
Its an inspiring story and one we need to tell as our civilization is at a crossroads in terms of living on this earth, Sherrard says.
MUCH TO LEARN
Visitors will be able to view the free exhibit on the second floor of the library. There will be plenty of learning opportunities, as well.
We are planning public programs in the Carnegie Building and in the LTBB Government building around each of the four themes of the exhibit, as well as a program about Sacagawea and one about a family who traveled the Lewis and Clark Trail, Sherrard says. The Little Traverse Bay Historical Society, Father Solanus Mission Church and Greensky Hill Church are also doing programs and tours.
The opening program for Lewis and Clark and the Indian Country will take place on Monday, May 10, with the exhibit running until June 18. Group tours may be arranged by telephoning 231-758-3121. Local programs and ads are being paid for by the Library, the Friends of the Library, and the LTBB; the traveling exhibit is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the SaraLee Foundation.