© Charlotte Staub Thomas

Camas
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Camassia quamash
Liliaceae

THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY first encountered Camassia quamash in the fall of 1805 as they were descending the western slopes of the Bitterroot Mountains in present-day Idaho. The explorers were hungry and weary; game and other sources of food were scarce, the country was rugged, and the weather was getting worse. William Clark was again leading an advance party in hopes of finding deer or other game. On September 20 he came upon many Indian lodges. The chief and most of the warriors were away, but one man led him to the chief’s lodge, where he was given food, including bread made from camas roots, which he ate heartily. The Indians were members of the Nez Perce tribe, and camas root, or quamash, was a much liked and important source of food for them.

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