Native Americans along the trails of Lewis and Clark

illustrations by Alison Davis Lyne

Return to Lyneart --- Alison's Page---Frank's Page---Blog---History Page

In Fall of 2006, I got an assignment to draw illustrations for an interactive display at the Kentucky History Museum. Since time was short, the Museum's Education Specialist was wonderful in getting a great selection to me of visual references for the illustrations. In most all of the assignments I get, I end up learning as much as the students! This page only touches the surface of the wealth of information that Lewis and Clark gathered about Native American life and lands, at the time of their journeys.

The Museum was borrowing a panel exhibit on Lewis and Clark, and needed an interactive element. They asked me to create backgrounds and individual objects and people, of three distinct groups of Native Americans encountered by the Lewis and Clark expedition. The individual objects and people could then be placed on the correct background landscape.

The first group I drew for was the Mandan Indians, located roughly in the state of North Dakota. Some of the best "real time" references were paintings done by George Catlin. This painting had a lot of good references, both for the landscape and the bull boats that the Mandan used to navigate the river. I loved the Mandan dress and mortar and pestle in this Museum collection. I chose, in this illustration, to show a Mandan woman grinding corn. Imagine having to grind enough corn to make stews and bread every day! And yes I did ask.....the mortar was used pointy side down!

This is a drawing of a young Mandan maiden holding an ear of corn, a vital component of their diets.

The Mandan lived by the river, where they fished, and they also hunted buffalo and other wildlife. They grew the "Three Sisters" of corn, beans and squash for a big portion of their diet. They mostly lived in mud and sod covered lodges.

The next group of Native Americans I worked on were the Shoshone. This tribe lived in and around today's state of Idaho. They lived more of a nomad existence, and lived in teepees, which could be set up and taken down very quickly. When the horse was introduced, they began using it as a means of transportation in their travels. You can see more about the Shoshone and Chief Cameahwait by clicking on the links.

The Shoshone also hunted the small animals in the plains, and often used the fur for robes to keep warm. This little boy is keeping warm in a fur robe.

Finally, close to the end of Lewis and Clark's travels across the U.S., they met up with the Yakima tribe, that lived in the Northwest corner of the U.S. in Washington state. One of the main staples of their diet was salmon, which they caught and dried on drying racks. This was done so they could preserve the fish for food in the winter. They also wove lovely cedar bark or cattail baskets to hold their catch.

Here is a snapshot of the Kentucky Museum exhibit, showing the main backgrounds, with some of the images placed on the backgrounds.


I very much enjoy painting history "as it might have been". During the research part of the process, I end up learning a lot. After all to draw something correctly, an artist has first got to understand it herself!

After I completed this project I was also lucky enough to get to illustrate a children's book with a Native American theme, On Earth as it is in Heaven by Linda Leaf-Bolin. You can see more about it by clicking on the link.

I would welcome inquiries about other projects that have to do with history. You can contact me at

Return to – Alison Lyne IllustrationsFrank Lyne Sculpture Lyneart Main Page

All artwork here is copyright the artist