MORE TO THE STORY

MORE TO THE STORY

By: Darrelyn L. Tutt

There would be no story of Lewis and Clark without York.
Sacagawea, the Native American woman who partnered beside her husband Charbonneau, has been given great recognition with time in her aid to the Lewis and Clark expedition but not until late has proper recognition been applied to York.
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In one of the greatest exploratory "field trips" ever known to man, it's fair and right that we convey ourselves through this significant historical passage with accurate realities in mind.
Lewis and Clark are famously known for their two and half year trek (May 1804 - September 1806) across the western portion of the United States, their passage through the Continental Divide, and their journey to the Pacific coast, and back, which was an extraordinary fete and wondrous success.
But put Lewis and Clark together and you haven't got the steel composed of the man named York.
I put before you neglected facts about the beautiful man named York:
+York was Clark's closest childhood friend who eventually became his personal servant/slave, confidante, carrier, conveyor, and body-guard.
Everywhere Clark went, York went.
York was not early named in the expedition because he was not deemed a person on account of his color.
+York conveyed, carried, and contributed an experiential intelligence, wisdom, and labor throughout the expedition which made it even possible. From building shelters, to communicating with the Native Americans, to shouldering Clark's load on top of his own, and navigating in no-man's land, York displayed unusual and remarkable leadership skills garnering him a furthered experiential education and confidence throughout the expedition.
Consider the reception given him by Native Americans alone and recognize his influential power:
"Once again, York was the sensation. The natives crowded around him because of his black skin. Chief One Eye, a Hidatsa who lived nearby, insisted upon examining him closely. He spit on his finger and rubbed the skin expecting to wash off the paint. When One Eye declared that York was not a painted man, all the Indians decided that York was "great medicine." They attributed sacred power to him because of his skin color. His huge, muscular body and unusual features added to his impressive appearance."
Indeed, tribe after Native American tribe, favored York in an extraordinary way which became the salvation of Lewis and Clark.
"According to one Nez Perce account, when the expedition appeared, most of the Indians wanted to kill the white strangers. The Nez Perce changed their minds as soon as they saw York, who seemed fierce to them.
... York was the big attraction. The Indians stood in a ring around him, reaching out their hands to touch him. They honored him and called him, "Black Indian," a term that classified York with them rather than with the 'whites.'"
-R. Blumberg
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Continually, emphatically, and beyond question, in notes recorded by Clark, the considerable and valiant efforts of York were inestimable in bringing them to their heralded and famed destination.
York also, on more than one occasion, risked his life for Clark on the expedition.
But sadly and unfortunately when the expedition ended, "Lewis and Clark" were heralded openly and famously while the name of York appeared nowhere. Indeed ... wealth, land, and fame brought Lewis and Clark into favorable new lands of their own.
When York, who was given nothing, begged to be freed from slavery and remain near his wife at this juncture, Clark openly charged York with defiance and asserted that no slave ought to be seeking pursuit over "his" personal welfare and well-being.
Request was flatly denied.
The relationship between Clark and York ended abruptly and poorly and York was left in the hands of cruel men.
No one knows what came of York except the honest consideration that his life ended sadly, tragically, and in a scarred-up condition.
And that's history as we don't know it.
A reminder ...
There's always more to the story.
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York Islands
"The islands were named for Clark's slave, York, who accompanied the Corp of Discovery. Although the name 'Yorks 8 Islands' appear on Clark's 1805 map, the name was not officially recognized for 195 years until the U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved 'York Islands" in 2000."