Lewis and Clark’s backcountry renaissance man, George Drouillard helped the Corps of Discovery navigate, scout, interpret, and, of course, hunt on their exploration West and back again. In his journals, Lewis wrote of Drouillard, “I scarcely know how we would subsist were it not for the exertions of this excellent hunter.” Drouillard hunted all of Montana, from the Breaks of the Upper Missouri River to the dense thickets of the Bitterroot Mountains. He was confident, bordering on cocky, and that’s likely what caused his gruesome death.
The son of a French Canadian father and Shawnee mother, Drouillard had a foot in both worlds, which made him ideal for the trip up the Missouri. He was 28 when hired on by Lewis and Clark in 1803, and once the Corps returned to St. Louis, Drouillard would venture west again. For four years, he trapped the upper Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. In 1810, trader and entrepreneur Manual Lisa tried to establish a fort where few others dared: the three forks of the Missouri. The land was rich with beaver and patrolled by members of the Blackfeet. After continually being attacked, the trappers, even John Colter, threw up their hands and left. Colter settled in Missouri and became a farmer. Not so for Drouillard.
In early May 1810, he and 21 other trappers set their traps up the Jefferson River, the same river that nearly got John Colter killed. Drouillard did especially well and boasted of his spoils. Yet on that same excursion, not two miles from camp, Drouillard was ambushed. Written historical accounts tell of Drouillard using his horse as a bulwark, but in the end, little was left of his mutilated corpse.