Mountain Man – Indian – Canadian Fur Trade
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North of present day Mexico, America was explored, wars were fought, and Indian cultures destroyed in the pursuit of the Mountain Man-Indian Fur Trade. The American Fur Trade set the stage for what eventually become America’s Manifest Destiny. A “catch-phrase” to justify the United States territorial expansion to the Pacific Ocean, the phrase Manifest Destiny was coined in 1844 by New York journalist John L. O’Sullivan in his magazine, The Democratic Review. Manifest Destiny expressed the belief that the United States was divinely inspired to spread democracy and freedom across North America.
The Mountain Man Plains Indian Fur Trade website is concerned with the effects of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, Mountain Man explorations, and eventually western expansion over the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails on the American Indians. The last Rocky Mountain Man rendezvous was held in the Green River Valley of Wyoming. At the conclusion of the 1840 rendezvous:
The first settlers, the Joel Walker family, traveled to the Oregon Country over the Oregon Trail. Forty-six years later (1886), the last buffalo hunt was held in the Judith Valley of Montana, and the vast majority of free-roaming Plains Indians were confined to reservations…a way of life gone forever.
The large comprehensive articles on the Mountain Man-Indian Fur Trade website are historically factual, well researched, and referenced. Despite claims by some liberal activists, my goal is to be as unbiased and historically factual as possible. If a mistake occurs in an article, please point it out and the appropriate correction will be made. If your comment is based on disagreement with an article, back up your comments with referenced facts.
One of life’s truths is…no one learns anything by someone agreeing with them.
Although not directly involved with the mountain man-Indian fur trade, the articles on Prehistoric Indians, Plains Indians, Trail of Tears, Martin’s Cove, Hole-in-the Rock pioneers, and the devastation of forest fires should be of interest to anyone wanting to understand and preserve our history…but more importantly, our heritage.
In the articles on the Mountain Man and Native American Fur Trade, the Plains Indians and the Rocky Mountain Indians are grouped together as the Plains Indians. Ethnologists considered the nomadic tribes as the Plains Indians–not the semi-sedentary Indians such as the Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa. The map below shows the tribes prominent in the Rocky Mountain fur trade.
A brief summary on the Mountain Man Canadian and Indian Fur Trade articles:
Paleo-Indians migrated to the Americas about 13,500 (11,500 B.C.) years ago. The three earliest groups, Clovis, Folsom, and Plainview are referred to as Paleo-Indians. A major portion of these hunter-gatherers came by way of Beringia and the Bering Strait land bridge, but there is growing evidence of Paleo-Indians arriving by boats at an earlier date.
Mesoamerica, or Meso-America, is the area of central America from central Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula to Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras. Some of the most advanced cultures of the time developed in Mesoamerica. Vast temple ruins are found throughout Mesoamerica. It is interesting to note the second oldest civilization in the world developed at Caral in Peru.
Barrier Canyon Indians left some of the oldest and finest rock art in the United States. Located in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Barrier Canyon has been renamed Horseshoe Canyon.
Anasazi Indians (Hisatsinom, Ancestral Puebloans, Ancient Ones, Ancient Enemies) settled in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern United States during the late Archaic Period. Anasazi and the Hohokam-Sinagua Indians built large pueblos, raised corn, squash, and beans several hundred years before European explorers “discovered” North America. Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde were population centers several centuries before the first colonists reached the North American Continent.
As the Chaco Canyon system failed, the Mesa Verde area increased in population. Between 1150 A.D. and 1300 A.D., the Mesa Verde area of the San Juan Basin with its massive cliff dwellings, such as Cliff Place and Spruce Tree House, were built. These areas were built for protection, not as population centers. The surrounding area, Montezuma County, had an estimated twenty-five to fifty-thousand Anasazi Indians. The Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are protected as Mesa Verde National Park.
The Navajo National Monument consists of three Anasazi cliff dwellings: Betatakin, Kiet Siel (Keet Seel), and Inscription House; Inscription House is closed to public access. Betatakin and Kiet Siel were built and abandoned within eighty years. The Kayenta-Virgin River Anasazi based their subsistence around agriculture. The primary crops were maize (corn), beans, and various types of squash. In addition to agriculture products, the people of the Tsegi Canyon system hunted wild game.
Hovenweep National Monument is located near Monument Valley in the four corners area of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. Built by the Anasazi, the inhabitants of Hovenweep remained in the Four Corners area less than one hundred years. Within the Hovenweep complex are three outstanding ruins: Holly, Cutthroat, and Cajon.
Cedar Mesa is located south of Canyonlands National Park. The remote four hundred square mile Cedar Mesa-Grand Gulch area houses Anasazi ruins, kivas, rock art, and artifacts in spectacular sandstone canyons. With multiple deep narrow canyons draining into Grand Gulch and Comb Wash, Cedar Mesa contains the largest number of Anasazi ruins in the southwest.
Monument Valley is south and east of Hovenweep National Monument. The first known prehistoric Indians to inhabit Monument Valley were the Kayenta Anasazi. The spectacular Monument Valley monoliths are among the most photographed objects in the United States.
Fremont Indians were diverse groups of Native American Indians inhabiting, 400 A.D. to 1350 A.D., the western Colorado Plateau and the eastern Great Basin of Utah . Fremont Indian pictograph and petroglyph rock art panels are scattered throughout Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado Plateau.
Rock Art of the Fremont Indian Culture is regarded as among the finest in the world. The Fremont Indians left the rock art; Anasazi Indian Culture left the great houses and kivas.
The four major “things” brought to Native Americans by early European explorers, colonists, Mountain Men and fur traders were diseases, alcohol, trade guns, and Spanish Colonial horses. Of the four, diseases and alcohol had the most devastating effects on the Native American Indians.
The Indian smallpox outbreak of 1780 – 1782 killed a great many Plains Indians, and the one in 1837 – 1838 was as bad or worse. Misinformation and outright fabrications has led many people to believe the smallpox virus was deliberately spread among the First Nations by the United States Army.
Indian alcohol was regulated by the the federal government through a series of Trade and Intercourse Acts starting in 1790. With the limited ability of the government to enforce these federal acts, the white man’s firewater turned a great many proud, self-reliant Native Americans into drunken beggars.
The use of Northwest trade guns during the Mountain Man-Plains Indian Fur Trade Era is of questionable value. Before the introduction of the breechloader, the value of Northwest trade guns to the Plains Indians for hunting and warfare is blown all out of proportion.
Spanish Colonial horses were brought to America in 1519 by Spanish Conquistadors. An Indian to Indian horse trading network spread the Indian horses out of the Southwest, across the Rocky Mountains, the Northwest, the Plains, and to the Cree in Canada. Spanish horses were the one trade item that the American Indians could reproduce and trade to fur traders and Mountain Man.
Trade Beads were a medium of exchange between Europeans and Native Americans. Columbus in 1492 and the Spanish explorers, Cortéz in 1519 (Mexico), Narváez in 1527 (Florida), and De Soto in 1539 (Florida) carried glass beads for trade with the native inhabitants.
The Trail of Tears (Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole) and the Navajo Long Walk were forced relocation of American Indians by federal troops. This forced relocation of American Indian nations resulted in one of the darkest chapters in America’s history. It is ironic to note:
The cornerstone of a country where all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness did not apply to the American Indians.
Mountain Man – Explorers:
Spanish and Canadian fur trappers and traders were the first to ascend the Missouri River and its tributaries. During the late seventeen hundreds, the Plains Indians exchanged beaver pelts and horses to the Hudson’s Bay and North West fur traders for European goods on the Kootanae Plains and at Missouri River trade fairs.
Astorians and the discovery of the Oregon Trail is divided into six parts: John Jacob Astor, Tonquin, Fort Astoria, Wilson Price Hunt, and Robert Stuart. The Astorians had a pronounced effect on the geographical outline of the United States.
David Thompson ranks as the premier surveyor of North America. Two Canadians, David Thompson and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, are also the leading explorers of North America. Mackenzie was the first to reach the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean by an overland route .
The Lewis and Clark article covers interesting tidbits of information on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Native Americans, and Sacajawea.
The Mountain Man fur trade history is a broad comprehensive overview of the history of the North American fur trade era. This article is divided into several section from the actual trapping of beaver to the effects of the North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies. Andrew Henry, Manuel Lisa, and Donald Mackenzie where among the early mountain men to explore and trap the Rocky Mountains.
Fur Trade Facts are short tidbits of information on the United States and Canadian fur trade conducted by Mountain Man, Missouri River traders, and Astorians. Many of these “facts” point out distortions in the history of the Mountain Man Plains Indian fur trade.
William H. Ashley was not a mountain man. Ashley bought a supply train to the mountain man rendezvous in 1825 and 1826. After the 1826 rendezvous, Ashley sold out to Jedediah Smith, David Jackson and William Sublette. Ashley never returned to the Rocky Mountains.
Etienne Provost was a Taos trapper and eventually a brigade leader for the Western Division of the American Fur Company. Provost was involved with the fur trade from 1822 to 1839. Etienne Provost is one of a hand full of men who was an active participant in the Rocky Mountain fur trade from its inception to its demise.
Thomas Fitzpatrick had the most varied career of all the Rocky Mountain men. Mountain man, fur trader, Oregon Trail guide, military expedition guide, and Indian agent could all be used in describing Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick…Chief of the Mountain Men.
Jedediah Smith made the effective discovery of South Pass in 1824. Jedediah Smith made the first crossings of the Great Basin in Utah from North to South and East to West, as well as, explored from the southern end of California to the Columbia River. Smith was killed by Comanche Indians on the Cimmarron River on the twenty-seventh of May, 1831.
Joseph Rutherford Walker is considered America’s greatest mountain man—explorer. His closest rivals for the honor are Jedediah Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Etienne Provost, and three Canadians, David Thompson, Alexander Mackenzie, and Peter Skene Ogden.
William Sublette, a partner in the firm of Smith Jackson and Sublette, was a major force in the Rocky Mountain fur trade from its beginning to long after it ended. Sublette was a true entrepreneur of the fur trade era.
Each rendezvous site is pictured with an approximate GPS locations. The Grand Teton located on the Wyoming-Idaho border is the geographical center of the Mountain Man Indian fur trade rendezvous. All sixteen of the Rocky Mountain rendezvous were within two hundred miles of Wyoming’s Grand Teton. Six of the sixteen rendezvous were held outside the United States in territory belonging to Mexico. Except three sites in Utah and one in Idaho, all of the 1825 to 1840 rendezvous were held in Wyoming.
The mythical Fort Bonneville on Wyoming’s Green River is the creation of post-fur trade historians and archaeologists…not rendezvous participants. Other than Paul C. Phillip’s 1940 edited version based on magazine excerpts of Warren A Ferris’ Life in the Rocky Mountains, not one journal, biography, or even Captain Bonneville’s journal,The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, edited by Washington Irving, mentions a Fort Bonneville as supposedly described by Ferris.
Western expansion over the Mormon, Oregon and California trails cannot be separated from the Mountain Man-Indian fur trade. Mountain Men discovered, or were shown by Native American Indians, the western trail routes. Except the Mormon migration, mountain men served as guides for the early pioneer wagon trains to California and the Oregon Country.
The South Pass Historical Landmarks are markers and monument associated with the Oregon-California, and Mormon trails, the Mountain Man Fur Trade.
The Oregon Trail was pioneered by Robert Stuart in 1812. It is interesting to note Stuart’s Route was from Oregon to St. Louis Missouri…a west to east direction. The Oregon-California trail opened a new way of life for a great many Americans. The Oregon Trail article contain historical facts, tidbits of information, and some gross misrepresentations in connection with America’s western expansion.
The Lander Cutoff from the last Crossing of the Sweetwater to the Oregon Trail west of Soda Springs, Idaho, shortened the Oregon-California Trail by eighty miles and seven days of travel time. An advantage to the Lander Trail was good grass, water, and firewood, a disadvantage was a steeper, rougher trail.
Settlement of the Oregon Country boundary at the forty-ninth parallel in 1846 and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848 determined, except for a part of Arizona, the geographical outline of American western expansion.
The Mormon Trail was the route of exodus for Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. The Mormon Trail consisted of two segments. The first segment across Iowa to the Missouri River in February of 1846 covered two hundred and sixty-five miles and took four months to build a wagon road. The second segment from Winter Quarters on the Missouri River to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake covered one thousand and thirty-two miles in the same amount of time as the first segment…four months.
The Willey and Martin Handcart Companies tragedy is considered by some the worst disaster in the history of western overland travel…the Cherokee Trail of Tears resulted in a much higher death rate. Only a massive rescue effort prevented the snowbound handcart companies from being a worse disaster.
The Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to the San Juan area in the four corners of the United States is a feat unparalleled in American western expansion. The Hole-in-the-Rock narrative is more than men and women colonizing a new area. It is the “can do”, or as Jens Nielson would say “stickie-ta-tudy” attitude of America’s Manifest Destiny.
The Periodic Spring article is included because of home pride. The world’s largest cold water Intermittent Spring is four miles from the mouth of Swift Creek Canyon which is one mile east of Afton, Wyoming. A photo gallery of Swift Creek Canyon shows why it is regarded as one of the most beautiful canyons in the Rocky Mountains.
Not directly related to the Mountain Man Indian Fur Trade, forest fires should be a concern to all of us who do not want our National Parks and Forests destroyed by forest fires. Forest fires are rampant in western federal lands. Environmentalist and bureaucratic policies render federal agencies ineffective in managing the National Forests. Environmental policies of the Sierra Club and other radical environmentalist groups are destroying our National Forests. There have been some interesting responses to the forest fire articles…pro and con.
North Horse Creek 2002 Mule Fire was in Sublette County, Wyoming. The Mule Fire article is based on day to day observations of the fire from start to finish.
The next picture is what we should see in our National Forests and Parks, not the black burned areas still visible fourteen years after the Yellowstone forest fires of 1988.
Mountains of Stone deals with the clash of European and Indian cultures beyond the Allegheny Mountains. Western expansion set in opposition two peoples: one with an insatiable thirst for furs and land; the other a territorial people with no concept of land ownership…Mother Earth was shared by all. A rich historical background intertwined in American expansion and Native American Cultural and Religious aspects makes Mountains of Stone a gripping blend of historical fact and fiction. An exciting, page turning, storyline makes Mountains of Stone a “good read”, as well as, educational. Click on Mountains of Stone to order.
The Winds of Change chronicles the early affects of westward expansion on the Northwest (Great Lakes area) and Plains Indians. The central characters of Winds of Change bring to life an exciting period of American history. Broken Knife’s and Wind’s interaction with the leading fur traders of St. Louis, the head of Indian Affairs, General William Clark, Partisan of the Sioux, and Tecumseh of the Shawnee creates an interesting storyline, while maintaining a high degree of historical accuracy. The Winds of Change is footnoted throughout the book. The last chapter on Western Expansion Trivia is divided into seven sections: Lewis and Clark, Astorians, Mountain Men, Canadian Fur Trade, Oregon Trail, Oregon Country, and the Mormon Trail. Like Mountains of Stone, The Winds of Change is an exciting read, as well as, educational. Click on The Winds of Change to order.
There are frequent request to link to other internet sites, but I have refrained from linking to some of them because the sites are not about fur trade history. However, there are several good new, or republished, books on the fur trade.
Pierre’s Hole! The Fur Trade History of Teton Valley by Jim Hardee. Jim Hardee is the editor of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal, and director of the Fur Trade Research Center. Published by the Sublette County Historical Society and the Museum of the Mountain Man, Pierre’s Hole! is an excellent source of information on the Rocky Mountain fur trade associated with the Teton Valley and the upper Snake River plains. Jim’s meticulous research uncovered several unpublished accounts of the 1832 Pierre’s Hole Rendezvous. Pierre’s Hole! The Fur Trade History of Teton Valley is available online at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale.
Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country by Lenora Good is written from the standpoint of Marie Dorion and her journey West with the Wilson Price Hunt party in 1812. Ms. Good maintains a high standard of historical accuracy in telling the story of the westbound Astorians from the perspective of a member of the Hunt party, as well as Marie Dorion’s life in Oregon. Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country is available as a hardbound book and as a Kindle e-book on Amazon.
Fur, Fortune, and Empire by Eric Jay Dolin is published by W. W. Norton & Company. This Epic History of the American Fur Trade begins in the early Seventeenth Century with the Dutch traders on the Hudson River and culminates with the destruction of the buffalo in the late Nineteenth Century.
Oregon State University Press republished Don Berry’s book, A Majority of Scoundrels. A Majority of Scoundrels is an excellent book on the business aspects of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade. Oregon State has recently reprinted a good book on the northwest Métis, Children of the Fur Trade by John C. Jackson.
Angus McDonald of the Great Divide by Steve A. Anderson delves into the life of Angus McDonald Chief Trader for the Hudson’s Bay Company. In charge of several different posts in the northwest, the fur trade in this area is presented from the standpoint of the Hudson’s Bay traders. Angus McDonald of the Great Divide is published by the Museum of North Idaho in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, 2011.
Missouri was the starting point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Missouri and Rocky Mountain fur trade, the Oregon, California, and the Spanish trail. Missouri clearly played the role as the major conduit to American Western Expansion. The Missouri Natural Resource website contains many links in relation to present day Missouri…of special interest are several links under the Wilderness Resources.
Life of a Mountain Man was hazardous, and without medical practitioners, they relied on themselves or other mountain men: Peg-leg Smith cut his own leg off; James Clyman sewed Jedediah Smith’s ear back own; Hugh Glass crawled 200 miles to Fort Kiowa after being mauled by a grizzle bear. The only recorded surgery done in the mountains was Dr. Marcus Whitman removing an arrowhead embedded in Jim Bridger’s back at the 1835 Rendezvous. Long term nursing care was often provided by Indian women.
The Mountain Man walked, rode a horse or mule, or traveled in a wagon, but that is no longer the case. Now transportation even in the mountains is often provided by some type of motorized vehicle, and in most case, it is often a long ways to find help with any problems. Drivers in the mountains or desert isolated terrain should have at the bare minimum a few extra parts and at least some rudimentary knowledge on vehicular repair.
Unless otherwise noted, Ned Eddins took the photographs on the Mountain Man Plains Indian website. In some cases, the pictures have been digitally enhanced to portray Yellowstone, the Tetons, Jackson Hole, Monument Valley, Four Corners Area, etc. before the prevailing winds brought West Coast smog.
This picture was taken in Swift Creek Canyon on New Years day 2006.
New Year’s day was one of the clearest days in a long time. Even on what appears a clear day, there is usually a gray haze on the horizon…look how much clearer the sky reflection is in the water of the beaver dam picture.
Captain Lewis recorded in his journal how clear the air was as they approached the Rocky Mountains…not anymore.
Many of the people using this web site are students writing school research papers, or people writing and researching topics of interest to them. I have provided links to a site that helps students with free essay writing tips. There is also a freelance writers; site where writers can meet to share information.
Permission is given for the articles on the Mountain Man and Plains Indian Fur Trade websites to be used for school papers.
This site is maintained through the sale of my two historical novels. Your purchase of Mountains of Stone and /or The Winds of Change helps defray the cost of maintain this website and is greatly appreciated.
There have been many requests for copies of pictures from the website. The best website pictures, from Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, and Star Valley, Wyoming, and from southern Utah have been put on a CD. The pictures make beautiful screen savers, or can be used as a slide show in Windows XP and 7. When ordering Mountains of Stone, request the CD and I will send it free with the book. The Winds of Change CD contains different pictures than those on the Mountains of Stone CD.
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The Native American Indian points and Indian knives are from a private collection of West Texas Projectile Points.
P. O. 305
June 9, 2016