H istory has not been kind to [Zebulon] Pike," says Pioneers Museum director Matt Mayberry. "He was overshadowed by Lewis and Clark, and the 1812 war, and trade on the Santa Fe Trail soon eclipsed his journey."
Getting lost, then captured by the Spanish, didn't help. Nor did rumors that he was a spy. And not only did Pike fail to climb the peak that bears his name, his journal reads: "I believe no human being could have ascended its pinical [sic]."
Mayberry acknowledges that Pike lacked mountaineering foresight, but that does not negate the importance of his expedition. This year's bicentennial celebration attempts to raise awareness of Pike and put him into a national context, at the forefront of United States' imperial aspirations.
On July 15, 1806, Pike, then a 26-year-old Army lieutenant, set out from St. Louis on a mission to define the southwestern reaches of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. As he pushed west, he became the first U.S. official to engage the numerous Indian tribes that populated the area. He also established the United States as a force in a complex set of international relations, challenging Spanish, English and French influence. His 1810 account of the expedition expanded the nation's sense of what, at that time, was unknown territory.
Pike's World: Exploration and Empire in the Greater Southwest, the first of three bicentennial exhibits at the Pioneers Museum, contains artifacts and interactive displays that document Pike's journey. Lecture dates and listings for historical re-enactments, guided tours throughout the Pikes Peak region and other special events are available at the museum or at springsgov.com.
-- Wayne Young
Pike's World: Exploration and Empire in the Greater Southwest
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St.
Through Oct. 14
Free admission; for more, call 385-5990 or visit springsgov.com.