Lewis & Clark Stolen Canoe Finally Returned to Tribe

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Rick Bowmer / AP

The Honorable Tribal Chairman Ray Gardner, of the Chinook Indian Nation.

Returning stolen property gets tough when you don’t have that property any more. So decedents of William Clark — of Lewis and Clark fame — did the next best thing: they had a replica canoe constructed and returned to the Chinook Indian Nation.

Sure, the theft dates back to 1806, but don’t let over 200 years stand in the way of trying to do the right thing. Which is what happened when a group got together to have the 36-foot-long oceangoing canoe custom-built in Veneta, Ore., and presented to the tribe during a special ceremony in Long Beach, Wash.

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History says that at the end of the Corps of Discovery expedition that culminated at the mouth of the Columbia River, Meriwether Lewis and Clark needed one more canoe for the return trip. The group poached one from the Clatsop Indians — which became part of the Chinook Indian Nation — even though the Clatsops had kept them alive all winter simply because they were unwilling to trade away one of their prized canoes.

Of course, with canoes being sacred in tribal culture and considered part of the family, that thievery didn’t go over too well.

A seventh-generation Clark descendant, Lotsie Clark Holton, learned of the theft while doing research and decided to make amends, however small it might be, spearheading the $26,000 effort to give an seaworthy canoe back to the tribe. She, along with descendants down to the ninth generation, was at the ceremony where the new canoe was named Klmin (KlaMEEN), named for a hereditary chief and translated as “moon,” according to the Seattle Times.

Ray Gardner, chairman of the Chinook Nation’s tribal council, says the gesture is a “good place to begin healing.”

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Tim Newcomb is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.