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Protests Greet Lewis & Clark Group

A group re-enacting the historic trek of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across America in the early 1800s were confronted in South Dakota by American Indian leaders who questioned the legacy of the 200-year-old trip and its effects on native culture.

An American Indian delegation greeted the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles over the weekend with protest signs, including one suggesting the original 1804-1806 expedition of Lewis and Clark led to genocide of their people and destruction of their culture. The re-enactors were asked to go back home.

"I went as a peaceful emissary and asked in a kind way if they would leave," said Alex White Plume, a Lakota from Pine Ridge, S.D., who led the protest. "They should go home and rethink what they did to the native population."

Jon Ruybalid, a spokesman for the re-enactors, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the group expects more dialogue with the American Indians they met Saturday near Chamberlain, South Dakota.

"It wasn't easy listening," Ruybalid said. "What they said was filled with a lot of pain. We are being educated and, in the process, we are a platform for people to express their concerns."

About 20 people taking part in the expedition left St. Charles, Missouri, on May 23 on its planned journey along the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The expedition is heading up the Missouri River in a replica boat.

Ruybalid said members of several South Dakota tribes planned to take part in bicentennial events this weekend near Pierre, S.D. But White Plume said he was "saddened that some tribes welcome them with open arms."

Larry McClain, the expedition's executive director, said last week that the group has had positive experiences with native people throughout the journey.

"We're kind of a platform for education on a lot of issues," he said. "We obviously would like to help them have a voice and a platform for education."