Lewis and Clark historian Rex Ziak visits Naselle classroom

Historian Rex Ziak recently spoke with fifth-graders in Naselle.

NASELLE - Naselle fifth-graders have spent eight weeks "traveling" with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Classroom resources jumped over the frustrating events at the mouth of the Columbia, so to help the students better understand this local history, historian Rex Ziak visited the class.

Mr. Ziak brought a sextant (and described the painstaking way to use it) and a huge map of the Columbia River region. The expedition had been traveling more than 30 miles a day down the Columbia River, but that progress stopped at Pillar Rock (Altoona area).

Mr. Ziak explained why it took the expedition one month to get from there to where they built the fort. The rough dugout canoes didn't work well in the strong current of the Columbia River, and fierce storms kept the expedition trapped in tiny coves.

Among the surprising details Mr. Ziak told the class was that although the Lewis and Clark Expedition was military, all members voted on the decision to cross the Columbia River in search of a good camping location. This was likely the first time a black man and a woman had voted in North America.

Students were delighted when Mr. Ziak told them significant events involving each member, and they agreed with his suggestion that our area "must have seemed like the land of giants," with the enormous trees, sturgeon, whale vertebrae, and the 9-foot California condor's wingspan.

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