Question 4: The value of nature


    At the turn of the nineteenth century, nature was considered important only concerning what humans could benefit from it. Lewis and Clark spent time up close and personal with nature yet their journals lack an account about the awe of the sun or the beautiful flowers around them or any insight regarding the independent animals who have a purpose outside of providing food for humans. According to the Lewis and Clark’s journals and letters from their expedition, nature existed only for them to survive, observe, and be entertained by. Throughout their travel on the North America continent, Lewis, Clark and their partners killed animals in order to have food, oil, and clothing. Clark recalls, “I shot a large beaver & Drewyer three in walking on the bank, the fresh of those animals the party is fond of eating &c.” (Jackson 106) They lacked an intimate connection to the animals they killed. The explorers did not have any remorse as they killed animals simply for entertainment. Lewis stated“it is now only amusement for Capt. C. and myself to kill as much meat as the party can consum[e]” (Jackson 106) They bears they killed were never recorded as nuisances or as a threatening danger, yet they were pursed, shot at numerous times and called a “monster” (Jackson 105) Their ferocity, strength, ability to ignore pain and determination entertained the travelers as they watched bears fight until death. Panthers,swans, otters, and many more were shot at just for the sake of doing it without any shame. The death of many animals only brought the traveler something else to observe, such as the way the otter sunk to the bottom of the clear water after it was shot (Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark 165)

Lewis recorded his vast amount of observations. The country is described as “handsome and fertile.” (Jackson 105) The snake is described in detail concerning its color and length. Bears are compared to one another such as, “this bear differs from the common black bear in several respects; it’s tallons are much longer and more blont…” (Jackson 106) Wolves are observed as they hunt antelopes by singling one out of the group. Insects are included in the journal as simply pests who gather on the explorers meat. Despite the vast amount of observations and experiences the travelers had with nature, they never created a bond with it. Their insight concerning nature remained limited. Nature, according to the letters and journals of Lewis and Clark, was simply something to be used for human needs and had no purpose beyond that. The land surrounding them only held the value of something to be explored and taken advantage of.


  1. Jackson, Donald, ed. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition / with Related Documents, 1783-1854. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois, 1962. Print.
  2. Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark. The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Ed. Bernard De Voto. Bostom:Houghton Mifflin, 1953. Print.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by lpeake on September 8, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I also noticed a heavier emphasis on the animals they were hunting rather than any of the other natural phenomenons around them. Many of the entries focused solely on the animals they had killed and eaten that day. However, the journals are not completely lacking in descriptions of other parts of nature. There are many mentions of rivers, the sun, the hills, and the climate. Much of the “May 19th Sunday 1805” entry is about these other parts of nature, mentioning not only the cold, foggy climate, but also the hills, Missouri River, and mountains (112).

    Lewis, Meriweather and William Clark. The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Ed. Bernard De Voto. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953. Print.

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