The explorers were still in the country which is now the State of Washington, at a point where the counties of Franklin, Yakima, and Walla Walla come together, at the junction of the Snake and the Columbia. We quote now from the journal:--
"From the point of junction the country is a continued plain, low near the water, from which it rises gradually, and the only elevation to be seen is a range of high country running from northeast to southwest, where it joins a range of mountains from the southwest, and is on the opposite side about two miles from the Columbia. There is on this plain no tree, and scarcely any shrubs, except a few willow-bushes; even of smaller plants there is not much more than the prickly-pear, which is in great abundance, and is even more thorny and troublesome than any we have yet seen. During this time the principal chief came down with several of his warriors, and smoked with us. We were also visited by several men and women, who offered dogs and fish for sale; but as the fish was out of season, and at present abundant in the river, we contented ourselves with purchasing all the dogs we could obtain.
"The nation among which we now are call themselves Sokulks; with them are united a few of another nation, who reside on a western branch which empties into the Columbia a few miles above the mouth of the latter river, and whose name is Chimnapum. The languages of these two nations, of each of which we obtained a vocabulary, differ but little from each other, or from that of the Chopunnish who inhabit the Kooskooskee and Lewis' rivers. In their dress and general appearance they also much resemble those nations; the men wearing a robe of deer- or antelope-skin, under which a few of them have a short leathern shirt. The most striking difference is among the females, the Sokulk women being more inclined to corpulency than any we have yet seen. Their stature is low, their faces are broad, and their heads flattened in such a manner that the forehead is in a straight line from the nose to the crown of the head. Their eyes are of a dirty sable, their hair is coarse and black, and braided without ornament of any kind. Instead of wearing, as do the Chopunnish, long leathern shirts highly decorated with beads and shells, the Sokulk women have no other covering but a truss or piece of leather tied round the hips, and drawn tight between the legs. The ornaments usually worn by both sexes are large blue or white beads, either pendant from their ears, or round the neck, wrists, and arms; they have likewise bracelets of brass, copper, and born, and some trinkets of shells, fishbones, and curious feathers.
"The houses of the Sokulks are made of large mats of rushes, and are generally of a square or oblong form, varying in length from fifteen to sixty feet, and supported in the inside by poles or forks about six feet high. The top is covered with mats, leaving a space of twelve or fifteen inches the whole length of the house, for the purpose of admitting the light and suffering the smoke to escape. The roof is nearly flat, which seems to indicate that rains are not common in this open country; and the house is not divided into apartments, the fire being in the middle of the enclosure, and immediately under the bole in the roof. The interior is ornamented with their nets, gigs, and other fishing-tackle, as well as the bow of each inmate, and a large quiver of arrows, which are headed with flint.
"The Sokulks seem to be of a mild and peaceable disposition, and live in a state of comparative happiness. The men, like those on the Kimooenim, are said to content themselves with a single wife, with whom the husband, we observe, shares the labors of procuring subsistence much more than is common among savages. What may be considered an unequivocal proof of their good disposition, is the great respect which is shown to old age. Among other marks of it, we noticed in one of the houses an old woman perfectly blind, and who, we were told, had lived more than a hundred winters. In this state of decrepitude, she occupied the best position in the house, seemed to be treated with great kindness, and whatever she said was listened to with much attention. They are by no means obtrusive; and as their fisheries supply them with a competent, if not an abundant subsistence, although they receive thankfully whatever we choose to give, they do not importune us by begging. Fish is, indeed, their chief food, except roots and casual supplies of antelope, which latter, to those who have only bows and arrows, must be very scanty. This diet may be the direct or the remote cause of the chief disorder which prevails among them, as well as among the Flatheads on the Kooskooskee and Lewis' rivers. With all these Indians a bad soreness of the eyes is a very common disorder, which is suffered to ripen by neglect, till many are deprived of one of their eyes, and some have totally lost the use of both. This dreadful calamity may reasonably, we think, be imputed to the constant reflection of the sun on the waters, where they are constantly fishing in the spring, summer, and fall, and during the rest of the year on the snows of a country which affords no object to relieve the sight.
"Among the Sokulks, indeed among all the tribes whose chief subsistence is fish, we have observed that bad teeth are very general; some have the teeth, particularly those of the upper jaw, worn down to the gums, and many of both sexes, even of middle age, have lost them almost entirely. This decay of the teeth is a circumstance very unusual among Indians, either of the mountains or the plains, and seems peculiar to the inhabitants of the Columbia. We cannot avoid regarding as one principal cause of it the manner in which they eat their food. The roots are swallowed as they are dug from the ground, frequently covered with a gritty sand; so little idea have they that this is offensive that all the roots they offer us for sale are in the same condition."
The explorers were now at the entrance of the mighty Columbia,--"The Great River" of which they had heard so much from the Indians. We might suppose that when they actually embarked upon the waters of the famous stream, variously known as "The River of the North" and "The Oregon," the explorers would be touched with a little of the enthusiasm with which they straddled the headwaters of the Missouri and gazed upon the snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains. But no such kindling of the imagination seems to have been noted in their journal. In this commonplace way, according to their own account, Captain Clark entered upon the mighty Columbia:--
"In the course of the day [October 17, 1805], Captain Clark, in a small canoe with two men, ascended the Columbia. At the distance of five miles he passed an island in the middle of the river, at the head of which was a small but not dangerous rapid. On the left bank, opposite to this island, was a fishing-place consisting of three mat houses. Here were great quantities of salmon drying on scaffolds; and, indeed, from the mouth of the river upward, he saw immense numbers of dead salmon strewed along the shore, or floating on the surface of the water, which is so clear that the fish may be seen swimming at the depth of fifteen or twenty feet. The Indians, who had collected on the banks to observe him, now joined him in eighteen canoes, and accompanied him up the river. A mile above the rapids he came to the lower point of an island, where the course of the stream, which had been from its mouth north eighty-three degrees west, now became due west. He proceeded in that direction, until, observing three house's of mats at a short distance, he landed to visit them. On entering one of these houses, he found it crowded with men, women, and children, who immediately provided a mat for him to sit on, and one of the party undertook to prepare something to eat. He began by bringing in a piece of pine wood that had drifted down the river, which he split into small pieces with a wedge made of elkhorn, by means of a mallet of stone curiously carved. The pieces of wood were then laid on the fire, and several round stones placed upon them. One of the squaws now brought a bucket of water, in which was a large salmon about half dried, and, as the stones became heated, they were put into the bucket till the salmon was sufficiently boiled for use. It was then taken out, put on a platter of rushes neatly made, and laid before Captain Clark, while another was boiled for each of his men. During these preparations he smoked with such about him as would accept of tobacco, but very few were desirous of smoking, a custom which is not general among them, and chiefly used as a matter of form in great ceremonies.