The team led by Lewis and Clark spent twenty eight months exploring, studying and recording the magnificent American landscape beyond erstwhile frontiers. It is a landmark event in American history because it captures the essence of challenges to westward expansion. For example, one area of challenge is on account of international diplomacy, where American imperialist goals would be received negatively by established European imperial powers. The expedition had implications for economic and trade relations with European powers. (Jones, 2002) For example, in Coues’s 1893 edition cast Lewis and Clark, the event was seen “as part of a grand American imperial project and became part and parcel of an effort to whet the appetite of, and to prepare the American nation for, a new round of frontier conquest and empire-building, this time not in North America but overseas.” (Lewis, 2004)
Beyond the imperial overtones there were more immediate and practical challenges faced by the team. For example, communicating with local tribes was quite problematic. It is to the credit of the team that they were somehow able to overcome these challenges. Perhaps, the most astonishing of the feats by the expedition is the sheer physical endurance exhibited by the team. An indefinite journey into unchartered territory is tough enough, but when that journey continued for more than two years it underscores the superhuman effort. But such a risky enterprise was worth the effort when looked retrospectively. For, without the successful completion of the Corps of Discovery, American history would have taken a different course, perhaps less illustrious than what has transpired.
The Lewis & Clark Expedition is a precursor to the thriving field of historical and anthropological research. Even a whole new disciple such as American Studies was inspired by the rich findings of the expedition. The amount of primary scholarly material generated by the team of the Corps is one of its kind. One of the valuable collections is the book ‘In Their Own Words: Lewis and Clark’ by George Sullivan. This book uses “primary sources including drawings, journal entries, and maps-to explain the history of the Corps of Discovery.” (Brugar, 2004)
It is on account of the significance of Lewis & Clark Expedition to American history that it is celebrated even today. In January of 2003, the celebration to commemorate the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery’s expedition was inaugurated at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home in Charlottesville, Virginia. The festivities that followed continued for well over three years – a conscious decision to match the twenty eight month duration of the epic journey. An annual Lewis & Clark Day is also commemorated and celebrated. During this special day students across schools in the country are educated about the cultural, political and historical importance of the Corps of Discovery. In some schools, special exhibitions and simulations are organized, wherein,