Idaho Chapter

Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

On-the-ground amongst the greatest number and
least disturbed Lewis and Clark sites in the nation!

Sergeant Floyd's Tomahawk on the Clearwater

by Norman Steadman
Idaho Chapter – Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation

19th-century pipe tomahawk

The head of a tomahawk with an ax and a pipe bowl

Photo © 2010 Kris Townsend

Most of the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition carried pipe tomahawks. They were used for smoking and probably for a small camp ax.

Pipe tomahawks had been used east of the Mississippi River for at least 75 years before the Lewis and Clark expedition. They were manufactured in both England and France and were widely distributed by the time of the American Revolution.

Lewis and Clark introduced "peace pipe tomahawks" to the Indians on the upper Missouri. Lewis purchased 12 pipe tomahawks for the expedition at Harpers Ferry for $18.

Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only member who died while on the expedition, carried a personal pipe tomahawk. After Floyd's death, Captain Clark carried Floyd's tomahawk and intended to give it to Floyd's friends when he returned to the United States. Clark carried the tomahawk from Sioux City, Iowa, to Canoe Camp on the Clearwater River. On October 7, 1805, the pipe tomahawk was stolen as they were preparing to launch the canoes.

On the return trip in 1806, while encamped at Kamiah, Idaho, the Indians told Lewis and Clark about an Indian that had two of their pipe tomahawks. On June 2, Lewis wrote:

This morning Drewyer accompanyed by Hohastillilp set out in search of two tomahawks of ours which we have understood were in the presiding possession of certain Indians residing a distance in the plains on the South side of Kooskoske: the one is a tomahawk that Capt. Left at our camp on musquetoe cr. [Big Canyon Creek] and the other was stolen from us while we lay at the forks of this and the Chopunnish rivers [North Fork of the Clearwater] last fall.

It appears that Clark was copying Lewis's journal on June 1, except he wrote it was Lewis that left the tomahawk on Musquetor Creek.

On June 2, Lewis wrote:

Drewyer arrived this evening with Neeshneparkkeeook [Cut Nose] and Hohastillilp who had accompanyed him to the lodges of the persons who had the tomahawks. He obtained both tomahawks principally by the influence of the former of these Chiefs. The one which had been stolen we prized most as it was private property of the late Sergt. Floyd and Capt. C was desireous of returning it to his friends. The man who had this tomahawk had purchased it, and was himself at the moment of their arrival just expiring. His relations were unwilling to give up the tomahawk as they intended to bury it with the disceased owner, but were at length induced to do so for the consideration of a haderchief, two strands of beads. which [Cap. C sent by] Drewyer gave them and two horses given by the cheifs to be killed agreeably to their custom at the grave of the disceased.

Thanks to the two Chopunnish Chiefs, Captain Clark left the Clearwater valley with the late Sergeant Floyd's pipe tomahawk. We will never know if it was returned to Floyd's friends in the United States.

Information from the Journals of Lewis & Clark Expedition, Gary E. Moulton, Editor, University of Nebraska Press.