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Q: Why did Lewis and Clark pay such close attention to plants and animals in their journals?
A: Thomas Jefferson responded to a questionnaire sent out by Francois
Marbois in 1780 concerning the natural environment of Virginia. In partial
response to this questionnaire, Jefferson was also taking a shot at a European
theory that the climate of the "New World was so hostile to animals and men,
either indigenous or transferred from Europe, that they must inevitably degenerate
physically and-in the case of men-mentally and morally." Jefferson refuted
this strongly in his Notes on the State of Virginia. i
According to historian Donald Jackson, Jefferson's appetite had been whetted
and ". . . having felt the need for a greater knowledge of plants and minerals
beyond his reach, and having organized his thoughts on the geography of his
country and found them based on the scantiest of data-it was imperative for
Jefferson to become one day the father of American exploration." ii
Since he was not going, detailed examination on the part of those who went
for him was required in the interest of Enlightenment science.
Professor Dan Flores, University of Montana, wrote-"western exploration
represented an official government support of Enlightenment science aimed
directly at part of the earth where European plant collectors and naturalists
had only nibbled. There was a whole, fascinating world out there beyond the
Blue Ridge Mountains of home about which Jefferson's mind wondered restlessly."
Q: The Indians ate trees!? Which ones and why?
A: They ate the inner bark of Lodgepole Pine and Ponderosa Pine trees, which had a sweet taste and they had few resources for such. They also fed the bark to their horses during lean times.
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