"A bold running creek," up which Captain Clark passed on September 19, was appropriately named by him "Hungry Creek," as at that place they had nothing to eat. But, at about six miles' distance from the head of the stream, "he fortunately found a horse, on which he breakfasted, and hung the rest on a tree for the party in the rear." This was one of the wild horses, strayed from Indian bands, which they found in the wilderness, too wild to be caught and used, but not too wild to shoot and eat. Later, on the same day, this entry is made in the journal:
"The road along the creek is a narrow rocky path near the borders of very high precipices, from which a fall seems almost inevitable destruction. One of our horses slipped and rolled over with his load down the hillside, which was nearly perpendicular and strewed with large irregular rocks, nearly one hundred yards, and did not stop till he fell into the creek. We all expected he was killed, but to our astonishment, on taking off his load he rose, seemed but little injured, and in twenty minutes proceeded with his load. Having no other provision, we took some portable soup, our only refreshment during the day. This abstinence, joined with fatigue, has a visible effect on our health. The men are growing weak and losing their flesh very fast; several are afflicted with dysentery, and eruptions of the skin are very common."
Next day, the party descended the last of the Bitter Root range and reached level country. They were at last over the Great Divide. Three Indian boys were discovered hiding in the grass, in great alarm. Captain Clark at once dismounted from his horse, and, making signs of amity, went after the boys. He calmed their terrors, and, giving them some bits of ribbon, sent them home.
"Soon after the boys reached home, a man came out to meet the party, with great caution; but he conducted them to a large tent in the village, and all the inhabitants gathered round to view with a mixture of fear and pleasure these wonderful strangers. The conductor now informed Captain Clark, by signs, that the spacious tent was the residence of the great chief, who had set out three days ago with all the warriors to attack some of their enemies toward the southwest; that he would not return before fifteen or eighteen days, and that in the mean time there were only a few men left to guard the women and children. They now set before them a small piece of buffalo-meat, some dried salmon, berries, and several kinds of roots. Among these last is one which is round, much like an onion in appearance, and sweet to the taste. It is called quamash, and is eaten either in its natural state, or boiled into a kind of soup, or made into a cake, which is then called pasheco. After the long abstinence this was a sumptuous treat. They returned the kindness of the people by a few small presents, and then went on in company with one of the chiefs to a second village in the same plain, at the distance of two miles. Here the party were treated with great kindness, and passed the night. The hunters were sent out, but, though they saw some tracks of deer, were not able to procure anything."
The root which the Indians used in so many ways is now known as camas; it is still much sought for by the Nez Perces and other wandering tribes in the Northwest, and Camas Prairie, in that region, derives its name from the much-sought-for vegetable.
Captain Clark and his men stayed with these hospitable Indians several days. The free use of wholesome food, to which he had not lately been accustomed, made Clark very ill, and he contented himself with staying in the Indian villages, of which. there were two. These Indians called themselves Chopunnish, or Pierced Noses; this latter name is now more commonly rendered Nez Perces, the French voyageurs having given it that translation into their own tongue. But these people, so far as known, did not pierce their noses. After sending a man back on the trail to notify Captain Lewis of his progress, Captain Clark went on to the village of Chief Twisted-hair. Most of the women and children, though notified of the coming of the white man, were so scared by the appearance of the strangers that they fled to the woods. The men, however, received them without fear and gave them a plentiful supply of food. They were now on one of the upper branches of the Kooskooskee River, near what is the site of Pierce City, county seat of Shoshonee County, Idaho. The Indians endeavored, by means of signs, to explain to their visitors the geography of the country beyond.
"Among others, Twisted-hair drew a chart of the river on a white elk-skin. According to this, the Kooskooskee forks [confluence of its North fork] a few miles from this place; two days toward the south is another and larger fork [confluence of Snake River], on which the Shoshonee or Snake Indians fish; five days' journey further is a large river from the northwest [that is, the Columbia itself] into which Clark's River empties; from the mouth of that river [that is, confluence of the Snake with the Columbia] to the falls is five days' journey further; on all the forks as well as on the main river great numbers of Indians reside."
On the twenty-third of September, Captain Lewis and his party having come up, the white men assembled the Indians and explained to them where they came from and what was their errand across the continent. The Indians appeared to be entirely satisfied, and they sold their visitors as much provisions as their half-famished horses could carry. The journal here says:--