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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sign-Talker: The Adventure of George Drouillard on the Lewis and Clark Expedition by James Alexander Thom

An entertaining look at the Lewis and Clark adventure

Lewis and Clark's famous Voyage of Discovery lasted from 1803-1806. Besides Lewis and Clark there were a number of French trappers, Seaman (Lewis' dog) soldiers, frontier hunters, Clark's slave named York, Sacagewa and her son and George Drouillard, a half-French/half-Shawnee brought along with the dual role of sign-language interpreter and hunter. Meriwether Lewis called Drouillard "One of the two or three most valuable members of the expedition..."

In Sign-Talker, James Alexander Thom tells the story of Drouillard, focusing on his journey with Lewis and Clark. This book is James Alexander Thom at his descriptive best - the descriptions of camp life, hunting with Drouillard and the look into his presumed spiritual life gives the reader tremendous insight into what life may have been like 200 years ago.

A memorial in Jefferson City, Mo.
from left to right: Meriwether Lewis,
Seaman the dog, William Clark, and
George Drouillard (crouching)

However, this book is also infused with a streak of political correctness that will be sure to irritate most readers. Drouillard continually comments on the cultural insensitivity of Lewis and Clark - and to be sure, they brought more than their share of cultural bigotry to their dealings with the local native tribes as they traveled - but he never expects those local native tribes to be more open and tolerant of the ways of the white men in the Voyage of Discovery. Tolerance is not a one-way street.

Anyway, the PC streak did not detract much for me (although it is a sign of things to come with Thom's later books). The story is interesting, well told and I do recommend it.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on June 24, 2011.

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