York is focus of 'Ocian in View' 2003

Ron Craig

PENINSULA - "Ocian in View" this weekend provides an opportunity to partake in lectures and tours that offer insight into the Lewis and Clark Expedition, here where the Corps of Discovery, at long last, reached the Pacific Ocean.

The highlights of this year's event center around York, Capt. Clark's African-American slave, who assisted the expedition in countless ways.

Here's an advance peek at some of the planned events:

Friday, Nov. 7, Iwaco Heritage Museum, 7 p.m., $10

Dr. David Peck leads off the "Ocian in View" weekend with a fascinating look at wilderness medicine. Peck, a practicing physician from San Diego, is the author of "Or Perish in the Attempt: Wilderness Medicine and the Lewis & Clark Expedition."

For each illness, Peck has compiled evidence from the journals to make a comparison between the Corps' medical treatments and how the illness would be diagnosed in the 21st century.

"Dr. Peck not only has great knowledge, he is also a wonderful and entertaining speaker," said Montana Historical Society historian Dave Walter.

In addition, Peck will delve into the psychology of Expedition members as they learned to work as a unit. To give a sense of the era of Lewis and Clark, Peck will describe the changing medical and political landscape during their time. Peck will be presenting a slide show and signing books that evening, as well.

Saturday, Nov. 8, Hilltop Middle School, 7 p.m., $10

Two speakers will be offering their insight into the not often told story of York, who accompanied Clark as his slave. They will provide a glimpse into the intriguing life of the only African American on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Hasan Davis will present a living history performance of "York, Black Explorer of the Lewis & Clark Expedition." Davis, who comes from Kentucky, the land of York and Clark, captivates national audiences with his riveting story of York. A drama graduate who holds a Doctorate in Law, Davis was selected in 2001 as a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Fellow.

Adding understanding will be Ron Craig, a filmmaker and author from Portland. Executive producer of Filmworks Northwest, he is currently creating a one-hour documentary entitled "Who Was York? A New Look at the Lewis & Clark Expedition." He has co-authored a children's book of the same title, to be published by the National Geographic Society in 2004. Craig was a featured speaker at the opening of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration at Monticello in January.

Sunday, Nov. 9, Fort Columbia State Park Theater, 2:30 p.m.

Returning speaker Gary Lentz will present a unique family-oriented program entitled, "Means of Substance." He will demonstrate types of food, methods of cooking, and culinary details used throughout the Expedition. Lentz is currently a Washington State Park Ranger from the Lewis & Clark Trail Park. Fort Columbia is located one mile west of the Astoria-Megler bridge on U.S. 101. No admission at door. $5 vehicle parking fee in effect.

Bus Tours, Nov. 8, 9 and 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., $25

Compelling narrated bus tours will take passengers to significant campsites and other spots along the Columbia River, Cape Disappointment, Discovery Trail and the Pacific Coast. Historian Rex Ziak, author of "In Full View," will lead the Saturday and Sunday tours. Jim Sayce, local authority on Lewis and Clark, will narrate the Monday tour. Tours depart from the Ilwaco Heritage Museum at 9 a.m. and return at 1 p.m. Early reservations are encouraged as the tours fill quickly.

Contact Information

"Ocian In View", presented by the Pacific County Friends of Lewis & Clark, is made possible by grants from Humanities Washington and the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. For more information on the program or Lewis & Clark information access the Friends website at http://www.lewisandclarkwa.org or call 360-642-2805.

York's Story

York was brought on the voyage as Clark's companion and slave.

The only African-American on the Expedition, he was seen at first as a subordinate. However, the close networking of the group gave rise to his acceptance among the men. He fished, hunted and scouted along with the rest, quickly demonstrating his value to the Expedition.

In his journals, Clark mentions York's compassion for those who fell ill and his wonderful sense of humor along their difficult journey. York attracted the attention of many Native American tribes who had never seen an African-American man. Their interest in him contributed greatly to the diplomacy between tribal leaders and the captains.

As James Holmberg, a Lewis and Clark scholar writes, "York is coming from an inferior place in society. Now, he's being treated as an equal ... and even being superior to [the other Expedition members] in the eyes of the Native Americans."

When the expedition was faced with the decision on where to winter, democracy prevailed and York was allowed to vote with the rest of the company.

Clark left lasting monuments to York, naming islands and a creek after him.

Despite Clark's obvious enthusiasm for all York had done, he did not release him from the bonds of slavery even after their return to Kentucky. Under protest, York remained a slave within Clark's household for many years until he was, at long last, granted his freedom.

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