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How did luck or good fortune probably save Lewis and Clark's expedition?

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Susana Scanlon eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–06) benefited from a number of fortunate circumstances and events. It was a very successful expedition and only one explorer perished.

First, the mission was lucky to have two remarkable leaders who worked well together. William Clark had been Meriwether Lewis's superior during Indian battles years before. Lewis, chosen to command the expedition, wanted Clark as co-commander. This request was refused. In spite of this, the two men worked as co-leaders, and there was no rivalry between them.

Second, luck always seemed to be with them when they encountered difficulties. For example, in 1805, the group reached a fork in the Missouri River. Luckily, they chose the southern route—the correct way.

Third, almost all of the Native Americans they met were amicable, and the tribes provided the explorers with food, shelter, horses, information, entertainment, and women. They also taught them hunting and how to make clothing from deer hides.

And finally, the aid given to the expedition by Sacagawea, a Shoshone woman, was indispensable. Little is known of her background or her life after the expedition. However, during the journey across America, she ably served as interpreter and guide, carrying her newborn son along with them.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The fact that Lewis and Clark were not savagely attacked by animals was an example of luck.  Given the fact that the Louisiana Territory was literally unknown, it was luck that the explorers did not wind up as victims of animal attacks. The larger element of luck would have been their meeting up with Sacagawea.  It was not planned nor was it thought of before the two embarked on their expedition that they would find a Shoshone guide who was able to help them navigate and chart out the territory.  Finding her and being able to rely on her for guidance and information helped make the expedition a success and one that did not prove fatal.  It was another in a long line of events where White settlers felt challenged and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the nation, only to feel comforted and assured by the Native Americans.  The sad truth of this would be that this comfort and reassurance gave way to control and dominance down the dialectical path.

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