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Capt. Clark's descendants make amends for stolen canoe

Laura McCallum
It took a dozen men to lift the Chinook canoe at the boat builder's shop earlier this year. The canoe will replace the one stolen by William Clark during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

It's never too late to make amends. That could be the moral of a story unfolding Saturday near the mouth of the Columbia River. Descendants of explorer William Clark will replace a canoe stolen by the Lewis and Clark Expedition from a local tribe more than two centuries ago.

The theft of the canoe by Lewis and Clark was a big deal to the Chinook people. Tribal chairman Ray Gardner says the story was passed down through the generations to the present day.

"Our canoes are considered living members of the tribe. All of our canoes have a heart. So therefore they were basically stealing a member of the tribe," Gardner said.

As luck would have it, about three years ago Gardner happened to meet to a 7th generation descendant of Captain William Clark. Gardner brought up the sore point of the stolen canoe. Clark family members quickly decided they wanted to erase what they perceive as a stain on the family honor.

The family arranged for a replica sea-going canoe to be built by a professional boat builder in Northwest Oregon. Now the 36-foot long canoe will be presented, blessed and then launched at a private ceremony near Chinook, Wash., 205 years after the initial theft.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.