The town lies near to Lemhi Pass, where white people first crossed into Shoshone lands in 1805, transgressing the prevailing US border. We are now in Indian Country. Here lies a braid of geological, personal and political stories that sit just beneath the surface of the landscape, hidden only by time. Scattered writings are taken from the personal journals of Meriwether Lewis.
Born on the Western slopes of the pass, Sacajawea was kidnapped when she was twelve. After leading Lewis and company back over the pass five years later, the first person she encountered was her brother, Cameahwait.
Cresting Lemhi Pass with prayers of the Pacific, the corp found only “immense ranges of mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered in snow.” Lewis’ dream of a northwest passage disintegrates.
The mountain they are standing on holds the largest cache of the Thorium in North America. Thorium is radioactive, and one of three primordial elements unchanged by the formation of the earth. Its half life is 14.05 Billion years, or slightly longer than the age of the universe.
After WWII the US had the opportunity to use Thorium in place of Uranium for nuclear energy production. We have a lot of it. Although safer and cleaner, it’s impossible to refine weapons-grade Plutonium from Thorium. The US government installed a Uranium-based nuclear infrastructure so that it can build bombs financed by the sale of electricity to the American people. Today, Idaho National Laboratory sits 100 miles South of the pass.
Lemhi Pass is a portal to another reality. A bough of time where indigenous cultures may have flourished and where the earth-splitting effects of nuclear proliferation never came to pass.
Merriweather Lewis, America’s most celebrated explorer, committed suicide at the age of 35.