Hudson’s Bay Fort Colvile Bicentennial, Preliminary Thoughts
(March 9th, 2021)
Today as a nation and a world we are constantly considering momentous changes in government, health, technology; the exploration of space and the preservation of life itself. It is hard to recount all of these changes in our own lifetimes. It is harder still to look back 200 years to the establishment of Hudson’s Bay Fort Colvile between the confluences of the Colville and Kettle Rivers with the Columbia River in 1825 and recognize all the changes that made to this region. But this can be considered the most culturally significant time in our history. In 4 years we will celebrate the bicentennial of this event. It is an opportunity to reflect on the changes it precipitated; what was lost and what was gained from the perspective of the many parties involved.
Indigenous peoples gathered at Kettle Falls to fish, trade and celebrate nature’s bounty for thousands of years. By 1825 their numbers had been devastated by European diseases for generations. Their practices to maintain the health of the forest, animals and fish for millennia suffered along with them. The arrival of David Thompson and the North West Trade Company had introduced tools, weapons and a colonial trade empire based on beaver pelts into native life for over a decade. Its fur traders were mostly Métis, mixed Indigenous and French people from eastern Canada. They contributed construction techniques for bateaux boats which carried supplies up and down the Columbia from where goods were shipped around the world. The Métis also married into local tribes and brought the Catholic religion with them. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) had recently merged with the North West Trade Company. HBC’s mostly Scottish culture brought a new kind of tribal history to the mix along with strict accounting and a global corporate culture over a hundred years old. One of the HBC goals was to establish a large farm to raise crops for its many factories (forts) in the region.
All of these cultures, Indigenous, Métis, Scottish, English, French, Japanese, Catholic, Protestant and the environment itself are still involved in making Northeast Washington what it is today. In preparing to commemorate the events of 1825 we need to seek out the visions of all of them as to how to portray this occasion. This is a momentous challenge. It will take attention and dedication to develop the event on many fronts for a long time before it actually comes to pass. In this document I am setting out some preliminary thoughts, (not reflecting the knowledge or advice of anyone else at this point,) in hopes of eliciting thoughts and advice from many people as the project develops. It may look organized, but is basically brainstorming, a naturally messy process.