You may have never heard of today. It isn’t a federal holiday. It isn’t really taught in schools. But it is a very important day in the history of democracy
Sure, democracy had taken hold in the U.S. before this day in 1805, but not really. As we all know, women and people of color were denied the right to vote during those times.
But today, November 24 , 1805, at Cape Disappointment, Oregon, men, 1 Native American woman, and 1 African American slave were all given equal voice in a roll call vote.
Lewis and Clark had reached the Pacific Ocean where it met the Columbia River on this day. There was much to be done. They had to survey the river, and hunker down to wait out the winter. They would need to build a fort, but where? To answer that question these two military men did something unheard of in their time. They put the decision to a vote.
They certainly didn’t have to. As military men on a government sponsored expedition they could have done whatever they wanted. Instead, they respected the knowledge, experiences and opinions of those that they had crossed the continent with.
Not only did the white men of the expedition vote, but Sacagewea and York, Clark’s slave, were given equal voice. Their opinions were heard and marked. It was a whisper that would foretell the roar of voices that would come behind them.
You can debate the effect of the Lewis and Clark expedition all you want, but this day, this moment of the expedition is a cause for celebration.