Uncharted Territory: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau


Uploaded by kspstv on 04.02.2011

Transcript:
MAPS.
KNOWING WHERE WE ARE ON THIS EARTH.
POWERFUL INFORMATION THAT OPENS UP NEW WORLDS.
200 YEARS AGO, CANADIAN EXPLORER, FUR TRADER AND
SURVEYOR DAVID THOMPSON MAPPED THE UNCHARTED VAST
INTERIOR OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA.
HE RETRACED THOUSANDS OF ANCIENT TRIBAL TRAILS.
"HE'S AS MUCH A MAPMAKER OF THE CANADIAN IMAGINATION
AS HE IS A SURVEYOR AND CARTOGRAPHER."
THOMPSON WAS LIKE A HUMAN MAP-QUEST.
ARMED WITH A SEXTANT, HE SPENT DECADES IN
THE WILDERNESS TRAVELING 55,000 MILES
BY SNOWSHOE, HORSEBACK, DOGSLED, AND CANOE,
USING THE STARS TO MAP ONE FIFTH
OF THE CONTINENT, 1.5 MILLION SQUARE MILES.
"THERE WERE TIMES WHEN IT WAS 20-30 DEGREES BELOW
ZERO" "HIS MIND, WAS THIS BIG
COMPLEX MIND WORKING ON A LOT OF CYLINDERS"
IN SALISH, HIS NAME WAS KOO KOO SINT,
THE MAN WHO LOOKS AT STARS.
"THERE'S SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL AND UNIQUE ABOUT
USING A SEXTANT, LOOKING AT THE STARS, LOOKING TO THE
HEAVENS TO FIND YOUR WAY ON EARTH."
THOMPSON MAPPED AS FAR NORTH AS ATHABASCA,
SOUTH TO THE MISSOURI, FROM HUDSON BAY. TO THE
PACIFIC OCEAN.
EVEN LEWIS AND CLARK USED ONE OF THOMPSON'S MAPS.
THOMPSON, SOME THINK, WAS THE GREATEST LAND
"WHETHER IT'S THOMPSON SKETCHING MAPS OR WHETHER
IT'S THOMPSON SKETCHING MOUNTAINS, OR THOMPSON
SKETCHING THESE WONDERFUL SUCCINCT POETIC STATEMENTS
ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND THEIR LANGUAGES AND THEIR
INTERACTIONS, HE'S VERY RELEVANT"
IN 1807, THOMPSON CROSSED THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE INTO
UNCHARTED TERRITORY.
HE WAS SEARCHING FOR THE COLUMBIA RIVER, THE INLAND
NORTHWEST PASSAGE FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO THE SEA.
FOR FIVE YEARS, THOMPSON EXPLORED THE COLUMBIA
PLATEAU, ITS RIVERS,
AND THE UNIQUE PEOPLE WHO LIVED THERE.
OUR STORY CENTERS ON THIS UNIQUE TIME.
♪ ♪ VOYAGEURS SINGING IT'S A COLD MAY MORNING
ON THE NORTH SASKATCHEWAN RIVER.
BATTLING HEADWINDS, THE 2008 DAVID THOMPSON BRIGADE
IS RETRACING A RIVER HIGHWAY FROM THE ROCKY
MOUNTAINS TO LAKE SUPERIOR.
"THESE RIVER HIGHWAYS LED TO CANADA AS WE
KNOW IT.
AND, IT'S POSSIBLE TO GO FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
ALL THE WAY TO THE ATLANTIC, ALL THE WAY TO
THE HUDSON BAY" THE FUR TRADE WAS BUILT
ON THESE RIVER HIGHWAYS.
TRADE GOODS WERE BROUGHT IN,
FURS WERE BROUGHT OUT, ALMOST ALL BY WATER.
IN ENGLAND, HIGH FASHION FELT HATS, WERE MADE OUT OF
THE BEAVER FURS.
EXTREMELY VALUABLE AND OFTEN PASSED FROM
FATHER TO SON.
THE VOYAGEURS, PRIMARILY FRENCH CANADIAN, WERE THE
BACKBONE OF THE FUR TRADE.
THE VOYAGEURS WRE LABORERS, THE HEAVY LIFTERS
EXPECTED TO WORK 16 HOURS A DAY,
PADDLING 55 STOKES PER MINUTE.
THE BIRCH BARK CANOE WAS THE TRANSPORTATION OF
CHOICE.
"IT WAS THE SEMI TRAILER OF THE DAY, THERE'S JUST NO
QUESTION ABOUT IT.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT A 25' BOAT, FOUR FEET ACROSS THE
BEAM, IT WAS ABLE TO CARRY A TON AND A HALF OF TRADE
CARGO".
THE NORTH AMERICAN FUR TRADE WAS BOOMING THE YEAR
DAVID THOMPSON WAS BORN.
BORN IN LONDON IN 1770, DAVID THOMPSON WAS RAISED
BY HIS WIDOWED MOTHER IN THE TOUGH PART OF
WESTMINSTER.
AT SEVEN, HE ENTERED THE GREY COAT CHARITY SCHOOL,
DEDICATED TO EDUCATING POOR CHILDREN.
"IF YOU WERE SMART YOU GOT YOU GOT ON A HONOR'S TRACK,
SO HE WAS TAKING TRIGONOMETRY WHEN HE WAS
12, 13 YEARS OLD AND GETTING GOOD AT IT. "
THOMPSON LEARNED THE BASICS OF PRACTICAL NAVIGATION,
THE USE OF A QUADRANT AND CROSS STAFF AND
STANDARD METHODS FOR DETERMINING LATITUDE.
"THE HUDSON'S BAY CO.
KNEW ABOUT THESE CHARITY SCHOOLS AS DID THE BRITISH
NAVY AND THEY WERE LOOKING FOR PEOPLE WITH SURVEYING
SKILLS. " IN 1784, TWO STUDENTS WERE
APPRENTICED TO THE HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY FOR SEVEN
YEARS, TO WORK IN THE NORTH AMERICAN FUR TRADE.
ONE RAN AWAY.
THE OTHER WAS 14 YEAR OLD DAVID THOMPSON.
"IT MUST HAVE BEEN PRETTY SHOCKING TO LAND ON THE
SHORE OF HUDSON BAY, WHICH ALONE IS A PRETTY RUGGED
PLACE, LET ALONE THE KIND OF PEOPLE HE WAS
SURROUNDED BY" ".BEING THRUST INTO AN ALIEN
LANDSCAPE WHILE STILL AN ADOLESCENT.
LEARNING CREE, LEARNING PIEGAN, LEARNING FRENCH,
COMING TO KNOW THE LANDS OF THE PEOPLE OF WESTERN NORTH
AMERICA FIRST HAND. " WITHIN MONTHS THE
ALIEN LANDSCAPE FROZE.
"THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT FOLDED
UP UNDER THE PRESSURE OF BEING ABOVE THE TREE LINE.
HE NEVER COMPLAINED ABOUT BEING COLD.
HE GOES OUT AND LEARNS HOW TO HUNT POLAR BEARS, AND
PTARMIGAN AND FISH AND LOOKS AT MOSQUITOES, AND I
MEAN HIS BOUNDLESS CURIOSITY DEVELOPED AT THE
GREY COAT SCHOOL IS GIVEN A WHOLE CONTINENT TO
FLOURISH. " THE FUR TRADE WAS BOTH A
NATIVE AND EUROPEAN WORLD.
"WE MAKE A MISTAKE IN THINKING THAT WE LIVE IN A
MULTICULTURAL AGE, BECAUSE IF WE LOOK BACK
AT THE WORLD OF THE WEST, IN THE LATE 18TH AND EARLY
19TH CENTURIES, WE HAVE THE ABORIGINAL PRESENCE AND
THERE IS SO MUCH DIVERSITY ALREADY JUST
WITHIN THAT WORLD.
SO YOU'RE HEARING ALL THE NATIVE LANGUAGES, YOU'RE
HEARING ENGLISH, GAELIC, FRENCH,
IT'S JUST SUCH A FANTASTIC TAPESTRY OR
MOSAIC OF CULTURES. " AT 17, THOMPSON WAS SENT
WEST TO WINTER WITH THE BLACKFEET AT A WINTERING
CAMP NEAR CALGARY, ALBERTA.
" AND THAT'S WHERE HE MET SAUKAMAPPEE AND
KOOTENAI APPE, THE GREAT WAR CHIEF, AND
SOKATOW THE CIVIL CHIEF.
SO, HE FORMED A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE
PIEGAN, HE LEARNED THEIR LANGUAGE"
"THERE'S 5 WHITE GUYS IN A WINTER CAMP OF ABOUT 25
HUNDRED BLACKFEET, BUT THE BLACKFEET ARE VERY
HOSPITABLE TO THEM, AND THEY TAKE THIS YOUNG
TEENAGER AND PUT HIM IN THE TENT OF AN ELDER WHICH WAS
VERY GRACIOUS THING TO DO SO HE COULD LEARN SOMETHING
DURING THE WINTER" DAVID THOMPSON JOURNAL: WE
WERE LODGED IN THE TENT OF AN OLD MAN.
HE WAS FULL SIX FEET IN HEIGHT, ERECT, AND OF A
FRAME THAT SHOWED STRENGTH AND ACTIVITY.
I SAT AND LISTENED WITHOUT BEING IN THE LEAST TIRED"
THE ELDER WAS A CREE NAMED SAUKAMAPPEE.
NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, THOMPSON LISTENED TO SAUKEMAPPE TELL
STORIES.
"SAUKAMAPPEE LIVED A LIFE PROBABLY AS INTERESTING AS
THOMPSON'S.
HE WITNESSED THE INTRODUCTION OF THE HORSE
TO THE PLAINS.
THE INTRODUCTION OF FIREARMS TO PLAINS WAR
WARFARE.
HE WITNESSED THE SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC.
AND HE WAS ABLE TO RELATE ALL THAT TO THOMPSON AND
THOMPSON IN TURN COULD RELATE IT TO US. "
"IT'S REALLY EASY TO SEE HIS EDUCATION TO WESTERN
NORTH AMERICA BEGINNING IN THAT TENT. "
"DAVID THOMPSON HAD THE MISFORTUNE TO
BREAK HIS LEG AND IT WAS SO SWELLED THAT I FOUND IT
A DIFFICULT MATTER TO SET IT.
WHATEVER THE CONSEQUENCE MAY BE IS YET UNCERTAIN,.
. BUT SHALL HOPE FOR THE BEST.
--- WILLIAM TOMISON HUDSON BAY COMPANY 1789"
THOMPSON LEARNED PRACTICAL ASTRONOMY WHILE
RECUPERATING FROM A BROKEN LEG WHEN HE WAS 19.
HE STUDIED UNDER PHILIP TURNOR, THE BEST GEOGRAPHER
IN THE NEW WORLD AT THE TIME.
"BUT IF YOU GO THROUGH HIS JOURNALS, THEY'RE FILLED
WITH ASTRONOMICAL OBSERVATIONS AND TAKEN DOWN
IN THE MOST METICULOUS MANNER.
IT WAS A LABOR OF LOVE FOR HIM.
HE WOULD GET UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO LOOK
AT THE STARS.
I MEAN YOU REALLY HAVE TO BE COMMITTED TO SOMETHING
TO DO THAT.
AND HE WOULD TAKE READINGS AGAIN AND AGAIN, OF A
SINGLE PLACE AND THEN AVERAGED THEM OUT TO TRY TO
PINPOINT THAT ONE SPOT ON THE SURFACE OF THE GLOBE.
IT'S ALMOST SOMETHING IT SEEMS HE WAS COMPELLED
TO DO. " IT'S A VERY SMALL WORLD
OF PEOPLE WHO HAD THIS SKILL, AND THOMPSON, WHO IS
COMING FROM NOWHERE IS IN IT, AND HE CAN DO IT
AS GOOD AS ANYBODY" DENNY DEMEYER IS A LAND SURVEYOR
AND A MEMBER OF THE SURVEYOR'S
HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
"THE EARLIEST DEFINITION OF SURVEYING WAS CALLED
PRACTICAL ASTRONOMY, SO WE WERE ALL PRACTICAL
ASTRONOMERS ONCE UPON A TIME"
DEMEYER COLLECTS 200 YEAR OLD SURVEYING EQUIPMENT.
"THIS IS A 10 INCH LATTICE WORK SEXTANT OF THE TYPE
USED BY DAVID THOMPSON, IT WAS MANUFACTURED IN LONDON.
SEXTANTS WERE USED TO MEASURE THE ANGLES BETWEEN
CELESTIAL OBJECTS AND THE HORIZON TO LOCATE ONES
POSITION ON THE GLOBE.
"THE LARGE PROBLEM EVERYONE HAD WAS ESTABLISHING
LONGITUDE.
LATITUDE WAS FAIRLY EASY TO ESTABLISH AND THEY HAD BEEN
DOING THAT SINCE THE 1500S,
BUT LONGITUDE, HOW FAR EAST AND WEST YOU WERE, WAS
INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TO DETERMINE. "
THOMPSON USED MERCURY POURED INTO A TRAY TO
CREATE AN ARTIFICIAL HORIZON.
OTHER TOOLS INCLUDED A FOUR FOOT ACHROMATIC
DOLLOND TELESCOPE, A WATCH, A THERMOMETER,
THE LATEST EDITION OF THE NAUTICAL ALMANAC, AND OTHER
REFERENCE TABLES.
AFTER THOMPSON'S APPRENTICESHIP, HE
CONTINUED TO WORK FOR THE HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY.
BUT AT AGE 27, THOMPSON ABRUPTLY LEFT THEIR EMPLOY.
AFTER 13 YEARS OF SERVICE, HE WALKED TO THE NEAREST
NORTH WEST COMPANY POST AND SIGNED ON WITH THE
COMPETITION.
"HE FELT HE WASN'T GETTING ENOUGH ENCOURAGEMENT TO GO
ON SURVEYS.
THAT THE HUDSON'S BAY CO.
HAD A MEAN AND SELFISH POLICY, WHERE THE NORTHWEST
CO WERE MORE LIBERAL MINDED. "
"THOMPSON DID NOT GIVE HUDSON'S BAY A YEAR NOTICE
AND THAT WAS CONSIDERED VERY BAD FORM"
"WILLIAM TOMISON WROTE THAT IF HE EVER MET DAVID
THOMPSON, HE WOULD BE TEMPTED TO PULL HIS EARS
OFF, SO THERE CERTAINLY WERE PEOPLE WITHIN THE
HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY THAT WERE VERY ANGRY WHEN DAVID
THOMPSON LEFT."
UNLIKE THE HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY, THAT WAS
CONTROLLED FROM AFAR IN LONDON,
THE NORTH WEST COMPANY WAS BASED OUT OF MONTREAL.
THE PARTNERS, USUALLY SCOTS, SHARED IN THE
PROFITS.
THOMPSON'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT WAS AN AMBITIOUS ONE,.
SURVEYING TRADING POSTS FROM THE GREAT LAKES TO
NORTH DAKOTA.
IN 10 MONTHS HE COVERED 4,000 MILES.
ON THAT JOURNEY, THOMPSON TOOK THE FIRST ACCURATE
LONGITUDE OF AN IMPORTANT MANDAN VILLAGE TRADING
CENTER IN NORTH DAKOTA.
HE INTERVIEWED ELDERS, GATHERING IMPORTANT TRIBAL
KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE UPPER MISSOURI.
" HE'S COMBINING TRIBAL INFORMATION AND
OUTDOOR SKILLS THAT HE'S LEARNED
IN HIS APPRENTICESHIP WITH EUROPEAN STYLE WRITING AND
MAP MAKING AND IT'S QUITE AN ENGAGING MIX.
AND HE GOES BACK AND MAKES A MAP OF WHAT HE CALLS THE
BEND OF THE MISSOURI" THOMPSON'S ' BEND OF THE
MISSOURI' MAP ENDS UP IN THE HANDS OF
THOMAS JEFFERSON.
" JEFFERSON MAKES SOME HANDWRITTEN NOTES ON THIS
MAP OF THOMPSON AND ITS NOW IN OUR LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
THE TWO NOTES THAT JEFFERSON WRITES ON THERE
ARE MR. THOMPSON'S LONGITUDE FOR THESE
VILLAGES IS, AND HE KNOWS THAT'S
IMPORTANT, AND THAT IS WHERE LEWIS & CLARK END
UP SPENDING THEIR FIRST WINTER, IT'S THE PERFECT
STOPPING POINT AND THEN ON THE OTHER SIDE IN REVERSE
IT SAYS THIS MAP BELONGS TO CAPT. LEWIS. "
"ON THIS DAY I MARRIED CHARLOTTE SMALL ...
DAVID THOMPSON, JUNE 10, 1799"
AT 29, THOMPSON MARRIED CHARLOTTE SMALL AT
ILE A LA CROSSE , A TRADING POST
ON THE CHURCHILL RIVER.
OF MIXED BLOOD, CHARLOTTE'S MOTHER WAS NAHATHAWAY CREE
AND HER FATHER, A SCOTTISH FUR TRADER.
"THEY KNEW THAT THESE KINDS OF RELATIONSHIPS THAT THEY
FORMED WITH NATIVE WOMEN, WOULD NOT QUALIFY AS
MARRIAGES.
THERE WERE NO MINISTERS AROUND, THERE WAS NO
CHURCH.
THEY DIDN'T VIEW THEM AS MARRIAGES IN THEIR EYES"
"THE FUR TRADE DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT THEM.
THOMPSON ALWAYS TRAVELS WITH WOMEN.
HE IS DEPENDING ON THEM.
AND HE HAS A MIXED BLOOD WIFE JUST LIKE EVERYBODY
ELSE DOES. " "MY LOVELY WIFE IS OF THE
BLOOD OF THESE PEOPLE, SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE
AND WELL EDUCATED IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, WHICH
GIVES ME A GREAT ADVANTAGE. " "THE TRADERS ALWAYS
RECOGNIZED THAT THESE CONNECTIONS WERE IMPORTANT,
THAT THEY NEEDED CONNECTIONS IF THEY
WERE GOING TO SURVIVE. " "BECAUSE YOUR MOST LIKELY
TO TRADE WITH YOUR BROTHER IN LAW OR YOUR SON IN LAW
THAN YOU ARE GOING TO A COMPETITION WHERE YOU DON'T
HAVE ANY KINSHIP TIES.
" IN FALL OF 1800, THOMPSON AND HIS NEW WIFE,
CHARLOTTE, ARRIVED AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE.
THE POST, BUILT A YEAR EARLIER, STOOD UPSTREAM
FROM A STRING OF POSTS ON THE UPPER SASKATCHEWAN.
ALTHOUGH THE MOUNTAINS WERE BARELY IN VIEW, THE
INTENTION WAS CLEAR.
THE FUR TRADE WAS MOVING WEST, HEADING FOR THE ROCKY
MOUNTAINS.
THE NOR'WESTERS WANTED TO ATTRACT THE TRADE OF THE
KOOTENAI, A TRIBE ON THE WEST
SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS.
"THE KOOTENAI ARE THIS REALLY COMPLEX TRIBE AND
ONE OF THE FEW TRIBES THAT'S LIVING BOTH PLAINS
CULTURE AND PLATEAU CULTURE TOGETHER, WHERE UPPER
KOOTENAI PEOPLE GO BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS. "
THE KOOTENAI ARE AN ANCIENT PEOPLE, WHO'VE LIVED ON THE
COLUMBIA PLATEAU FOR OVER 10,000 YEARS.
" OUR LANGUAGE IS AN ISOLATE LANGUAGE, THE
KOOTENAI LANGUAGE, THERE IS NO OTHER LANGUAGE ON THE
FACE OF THE EARTH THAT IS LIKE IT. "
"WE'RE ALL UPNUCKANICK, THAT'S THE TRUE TERM OF WHO
WE ARE UPNUCKANICK" AT THAT TIME, THE PIEGAN,
BLOOD AND BLACKFEET DOMINATED THE
NORTHERN PLAINS.
"THE PIEGAN FOR GENERATIONS HAVE BEEN SAVVY ABOUT
PROTECTING THEIR INTERESTS".
THEY ACTED AS MIDDLEMEN BETWEEN THE FUR TRADERS AND
TRIBES WEST OF THE MOUNTAINS.
" I WATCHED AS THE KOOTENAIS SWAPPED
THEIR BEST HORSES AND DRESS FURS TO THE PIEGAN FOR OLD
KETTLES AND BROKEN TOOLS.
PETER FIDLER, HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY 1792"
" THE PIEGAN AND THEIR ALLIES THE BLACKFOOT AND
BLOOD DIDN'T REALLY LIKE THE FACT THAT THOMPSON
WANTED TO MOVE THROUGH THEM AND TRADE DIRECTLY WITH
GROUPS LIKE THE SALISH THE KOOTENAI AND ALL THOSE
TRIBES ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS. "
" THEY SEE EUROPEANS IN MUCH THE SAME WAY AS THEY
WERE ACCUSTOMED TO SEEING OTHER FIRST NATIONS, NOT
NECESSARILY AS FRIENDS OR FOES, BUT AS POTENTIAL
THREATS, OR AS POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY. "
WHEN THE KOOTENAI TRIED TO TRADE DIRECTLY WITH THE
EUROPEANS, THE PIEGAN HARASSED THEM AND TRIED TO
STEAL THEIR HORSES.
DAVID THOMPSON JOURNAL: OCTOBER 16, 1800 " I CAN
NOT HELP BUT ADMIRE THOSE BRAVE UNDAUNTED KOOTENAI.
WHEN THE YOUNG PIEGAN MEN SEIZED THE HEADS OF THEIR
HORSES, THEY ALL ACTED AS IF BY ONE SOUL,
BENT THEIR BOWS,.
AND PREPARED TO MAKE THEIR OPPRESSORS QUIT THEIR
HORSES OR SELL THEIR LIVES DEARLY"
THE KOOTENAI WANTED THE FUR TRADERS TO BUILD A TRADING
POST IN THEIR HOMELAND.
ANXIOUS TO TAP THIS NEW SOURCE OF FURS, THE NORTH
WEST COMPANY DECIDED TO EXPAND THEIR BUSINESS
ACROSS THE ROCKIES IN 1806.
THOMPSON, RECENTLY NAMED A PARTNER IN THE COMPANY, WAS
PLACED IN CHARGE OF THE EXPEDITION.
"MR. DAVID THOMPSON IS MAKING
PREPARATIONS FOR AN ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE MOUNTAINS,
PASS THROUGH THE COUNTRY AND FOLLOW THE COLUMBIA
RIVER TO THE SEA.
.. JAMES BIRD, HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY 1807"
THE COURSE WOULD FOLLOW AN ANCIENT KOOTENAI TRAIL, UP
THE SASKATCHEWAN, OVER THE ROCKIES INTO
KOOTENAI COUNTRY.
IT'S TODAY'S HOWSE PASS.
THOMPSON WAS NOW 36, CHARLOTTE 21, WITH THREE
CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF SIX.
THIS EXPEDITION WAS CAREFULLY PLANNED.
AN ADVANCE PARTY, LED BY JACO FINLEY, WAS DISPATCHED
TO IMPROVE THE KOOTENAI TRAIL ACROSS THE DIVIDE.
"IT'S DESCRIBED AS LEADING AN EXPEDITION OVER,
BUT YET THERE'S ALREADY PEOPLE OVER THERE, AND
THERE'S PEOPLE BRINGING UP HORSES BEHIND THEM TO KEEP
THEM SUPPLIED.
IT'S THIS LONG STUTTERED SEQUENCE OF CACHING
MATERIALS AND WAITING FOR THE SNOW TO MELT AND
GETTING THE GUIDES HE WANTED IN PLACE.
IT'S MUCH MORE LIKE AN ASCENT ON MT.
EVEREST WHERE YOU HAVE BASE CAMPS AND YOU HAVE STUFF
COMING UP AND YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHO KNOW THAT THEY
AREN'T GOING TO SUMMIT, BUT THEY'RE PART OF THE TEAM. "
BY THE FIRST WEEK OF MAY, THE ICE WAS BREAKING UP ON
THE SASKATCHEWAN.
EIGHT VOYAGEURS WERE PICKED FOR THE EXPEDITION.
TWO SEPARATE GROUPS TRAVELED TOWARD THE
ROCKIES.
CLERK FINAN MCDONALD WITH FIVE VOYAGEURS, HEADED
UPSTREAM IN THEIR PACKED CANOE.
THOMPSON AND THE REMAINING THREE RODE THROUGH THE
WOODED FORESTS, LEADING A STRING OF PACKHORSES.
CHARLOTTE AND THE CHILDREN, ALSO RODE OVERLAND ALONG
WITH TWO OTHER FAMILIES, TRAILED BY A BUNCH
OF CAMP DOGS.
"AND HIS CREW IS SO STEADY, THAT YOU SORT OF DEVELOP
THIS AFFINITY AND GET THIS FEELING THAT IT'S NOT JUST
THOMPSON.
SO AGAIN, HE'S SORT OF THIS ROLLING TRAVELING CIRCUS. "
THOMPSON'S DAILY WEATHER REPORT SEEMED TO REFLECT
HIS OPTIMISM FOR THE JOURNEY.
"A FINE DAY", "A VERY FINE DAY",
"A DAY WITH FLYING CLOUDS" THOMPSON: "I
HAD A VERY EXTENSIVE VIEW OF THE COUNTRY.
HILLS AND ROCKS RISING ONE BEHIND ANOTHER, HIGHER AND
HIGHER TO THE SNOWY SUMMITS OF THE MOUNTAINS.
NEVER BEFORE DID I BEHOLD SO PERFECT A RESEMBLANCE TO
THE WAVES OF THE OCEAN IN THE WINTRY STORM. "
FOLLOWING JOCKO FINLEY'S MARKED PATH UP THE OLD
KOOTENAI TRAIL, THE PARTY CLIMBED TO
THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE,.
WHICH THOMPSON CALLED THE "HEIGHT OF LAND. "
" THE ROCKIES ARE VERY INTIMIDATING, AND HE'S NOT
A MOUNTAIN GUY.
HE'S CUT HIS TEETH IN THE PRAIRIE.
AND IT'S JUST SO DISORIENTING TO GET UP INTO
HIGH MOUNTAINS. " JUNE 15, 1807 "THE SNOWS
ARE NOW RUSHING DOWN WITH THE NOISE THAT WE CAN
HARDLY PERSUADE OURSELVES IT IS NOT THUNDER - WE HEAR
IT AT LEAST EVERY HOUR. " "IF YOU'VE EVER BEEN IN
THE ROCKIES DURING SPRING RUNOFF, IT'S EXCITING.
THERE'S A LOT OF NOISE, THERE'S A LOT OF STUFF
COMING DOWN, THERE'S A LOT OF WATER RUNNING, IT'S HARD
TO DO ANYTHING.
EXCEPT STAND THERE AND BE IN AWE OF IT"
THE TRAIL UP WAS RELATIVELY EASY, BUT GOING DOWN THE
WEST SLOPE OF THE ROCKIES WAS A DIFFERENT MATTER
ALTOGETHER.
DAVID THOMPSON: "THE HORSES ROLLED DOWN SO OFTEN, AND
RECEIVED SUCH VIOLENT SHOCKS FROM THE TREES AS TO
DEPRIVE THEM FOR A TIME OF MOTION. "
DURING THE STEEP DESCENT, THE NOR'WESTERS WERE FORCED
BACK AND FORTH ACROSS THE RAGING BLAEBERRY RIVER,
WILD WITH RUNOFF.
" AND HE'S GOT VOYAGEURS THAT ARE SWIMMING ACROSS
HOLDING ON TO HORSES MANES OR TAILS, WHO HE'S WORRIED
ABOUT BECAUSE NONE OF THEM CAN EVER SWIM.
HE NEVER MENTIONS CHARLOTTE, HIS WIFE OR HIS
KIDS AGED 5, 3, AND 1.
I MEAN IT'S REALLY HARD TO IMAGINE HOW THEY'RE GETTING
ACROSS WITHOUT BEING IN DANGER.
" THE DENSE TRAIL, POORLY CLEARED BY JACO FINLEY AND
HIS MEN THE SUMMER BEFORE, WAS PRACTICALLY IMPASSABLE.
THOMPSON WAS FURIOUS WITH JACO,
HIS MEN EXHAUSTED.
THOMPSON REPORT: "THE ROAD WAS NOWHERE CLEARED
ANY MORE THAN JUST TO PERMIT JACO AND HIS FAMILY
TO SQUEEZE THROUGH IT WITH THEIR LIGHT BAGGAGE, AND IT
IS OF THE OPINION OF EVERY MAN WITH ME, THAT JACO
OUGHT TO LOSE AT LEAST HALF HIS WAGES"
IN LATE JUNE, THOMPSON'S PARTY REACHED THE BANKS OF
THE COLUMBIA RIVER, NEAR GOLDEN, BRITISH COLUMBIA.
"HE HITS THE COLUMBIA AT A VERY BEAUTIFUL PLACE WHERE
THE BLAEBERRY COMES INTO IT.
IT'S THIS WIDE VALLEY, WITH LOTS OF WETLANDS"
SINCE THE HEADWATERS OF THE COLUMBIA RUN NORTH FOR 300
MILES BEFORE CURVING SOUTH, THOMPSON HAD NO IDEA HE'D
FOUND THE HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER GREAT RIVER OF
THE WEST THE REMAINING LINK
TO A NORTHWEST PASSAGE.
THOMPSON'S FIRST PRIORITY WAS TO FIND THE TRIBES AND
ESTABLISH TRADE.
HE MOVED HIS PARTY SOUTH, UPSTREAM, LOOKING FOR THE
KOOTENAI, BUT THEY WERE NOT THERE TO MEET HIM.
TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, THERE'S NO FOOD, AND THE
BIRCH BARK IS TOO THIN FOR BUILDING CANOES.
"HE KNOWS THE RULES HAVE CHANGED BUT HE DOESN'T
UNDERSTAND HOW.
HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE NEW RULES ARE. "
"CROSSING OVER THE MOUNTAINS, IT'S A DIFFERENT
ECOSYSTEM.
IT'S TIED TO THE PACIFIC AS OPPOSED TO THE ATLANTIC.
YOU'RE NOT DEALING WITH CULTURES DEPENDENT ON THE
BISON OR THE CARIBOU AS HE KNEW. "
THOMPSON JOURNALS: JULY 19, 1807
"THE COUNTRY IS EXTREMELY POOR IN PROVISIONS, NOTHING
LARGER THAN A CHEVERUIL, AND WE ARE IN ALL 17
MOUTHS TO FEED" " AT THE TIME, IF YOU'RE
LIVING ON THE PRAIRIE, THERE'S 50 MILLION BUFFALO
AND 50 MILLION PRONG HORN ANTELOPE.
SO HE HAS A VERY STEEP LEARNING CURVE"
THOMPSON JOURNALS: "THE MEN WERE NOW SO WEAK,
THAT HOWEVER WILLING, THEY ACTUALLY HAD NOT THE
STRENGTH TO WORK. " " I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
SEE THOMPSON FLIPPED FROM THIS THIS HYPER COMPETENT
INDIVIDUAL TO SOMEONE WHO NOW IS FACING STARVATION
ON A REGULAR BASIS.
ALL OF A SUDDEN, NOW HE HAS TO STEP BACK AND BECOME
THE STUDENT ."
A BAND OF KOOTENAI FINALLY ARRIVED.
THOMPSON JOURNALS: "THE KOOTENAI SAW OUR FAMISHED
LOOKS AND ASKING NO QUESTIONS, GAVE EVERYONE A SUFFICIENCY
TO EAT, WHICH WAS MOST GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED. "
THOMPSON BUILT THE FIRST TRADE POST AT THE SOURCE
LAKES OF THE COLUMBIA, JUST ABOVE LAKE WINDERMERE.
HE NAMED IT KOOTENAI HOUSE.
TODAY, PARKS CANADA ARCHEOLOGIST BILL PERRY AND
HIS CREW, DIG FOR 200 YEAR OLD ARTIFACTS AT THE
HISTORIC KOOTENAI HOUSE SITE.
"DAVID THOMPSON WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUR TRADE SO HE
WAS TRADING WITH A LOT OF NATIVES SO WE'RE EXPECTING
A LOT OF NATIVE CAMP SITE ACTIVITIES OVER HERE"
KOOTENAI HOUSE CONSISTED OF THREE BUILDINGS WITH
PALISADE WALLS FOR PROTECTION.
THOMPSON'S JOURNAL: " 30 PIEGAN MEN ARE ON
THERE WAY HERE.
" THEY HAVE IT IN THEIR POWER TO BE VERY
TROUBLESOME TO US AND EVEN TO CUT US OFF;" THE PIEGANS
ARE HIGHLY JEALOUS OF THE KOOTENAIS HAVING A POST FOR
TRADE AMONG THEM. " "THE LAST THING THE PIEGANS
WANT TO HAVE IS GUNS IN THE HANDS OF THE KOOTENAI.
WHEN THOMPSON STARTS LOOKING TO CROSS THE
MOUNTAINS AND TRADE GUNS DIRECTLY TO THE KOOTENAI,
THE PIEGAN SEE HIM AS AN ARMS DEALER.
YOU ASKED A MOMENT AGO, WHY DIDN'T THEY KILL HIM, THEY
THOUGHT ABOUT IT, DON'T THINK IT DIDN'T
CROSS THEIR MINDS, BUT IT IS A COMPLICATED
SITUATION YOU SEE, BECAUSE THE PEOPLE THAT
EMPLOY THOMPSON ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT PROVIDE
THE PIEGAN WITH THE BLANKETS AND THE COPPER
POTS AND THE GLASS BEADS AND THE GUNS "
IN TRUTH, THOMPSON TRADED FEW GUNS AND NO ALCOHOL
WEST OF THE MOUNTAINS.
"BECAUSE HE KEEPS TRACK OF EVERYTHING.
HE'S ALWAYS COUNTING WHAT HE HAS.
AND IF YOU LOOK AT THOSE TRADE LISTS THERE ARE
HARDLY ANY FIRE ARMS INVOLVED.
I MEAN THERE ARE JUST TINY NUMBERS BECAUSE THEY ARE SO
HEAVY TO CARRY AND HE HAS TO CARRY EVERYTHING FROM
LAKE SUPERIOR.
MOST OF THE TRADE GOODS WERE DIRECTED TOWARD WOMEN;
AWLS FOR PUNCHING HOLES, FLINT AND STEEL FOR
STARTING FIRES, COPPER POTS, SEWING NEEDLES, WOOL
BLANKETS AND LINEN SHIRTS.
IN EARLY FALL, 1807, THOMPSON WAS READY TO
EXPLORE, OR WHAT HE CALLED, "GOING ON DISCOVERY".
"THE ELDERS THAT HE'S DEALING WITH, THEY SAY YOU
CAN'T GO.
WELL, HE SAYS, WHY CAN'T I GO, YOU'VE GOT TO WAIT FOR
UGLY HEAD FOR HE'S THE GUIDE WITH THE POLITICAL
SKILLS AND THE LANGUAGE SKILLS AND THE INTEGRITY TO
SHOW YOU AROUND.
I MEAN, YOU CAN'T JUST GO FROM ONE NATION TO ANOTHER. "
UGLY HEAD, IS A KOOTENAI CHIEF, SO NAMED BECAUSE OF
HIS UNUSUAL HEAD OF CURLY HAIR.
"THERE ARE ALL THESE DOORS AND UGLY HEAD IS THE GUY
THAT HAS ALL THE KEYS AND IS GOING TO OPEN THE DOOR
THAT HE WANTS TO. " "THEY'RE GIVING HIM
INFORMATION ON A PIECE BY PIECE BASES, A LITTLE BIT
AT A TIME, HE HAS TO EARN THAT TRUST"
CHIEF UGLY HEAD AND HIS WIFE TOOK THOMPSON ON HIS
FIRST REAL "DISCOVERY" OF THE AREA.
" AND THEY START RIDING UPSTREAM ON THE COLUMBIA,
AND THEY RIDE ACROSS THE CANAL FLATS PORTAGE, WHICH
IS A ONE-MILE PORTAGE THAT TAKES YOU TO KOOTENAY
RIVER, AND THOMPSON IS JUST SORT OF BLOWN AWAY.
IT'S FABULOUSLY BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY AND THEY GO DOWN TO
THE ST. MARY'S RIVER, AND UGLY HEAD GOES
"WELL I LIVE IN BONNERS FERRY
I WANT TO TAKE THIS SHORT CUT OVER THE MOUNTAINS TO GET
THERE, LET'S GO"...
AND HE POINTS TO THESE MOUNTAINS THAT ARE ALREADY
COVERED WITH SNOW AND SAYS IT WILL JUST TAKE A FEW
WEEKS.
THOMPSON IS INTIMIDATED BY THE MOUNTAINS FOR SURE.
HE'S WORRIED ABOUT CHARLOTTE AND THE KIDS BACK
AT KOOTENAI HOUSE BECAUSE SO FAR THERE HAVE BEEN MORE
BLACKFEET THAN KOOTENAIS AT KOOTENAI HOUSE
THOMPSON RETURNED TO SPEND HIS FIRST WINTER ON THE
WEST SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS AT KOOTENAI HOUSE.
" BOTH CANADIANS AND INDIANS OFTEN INQUIRED OF ME WHY I
PASSED WHOLE NIGHTS WITH MY INSTRUMENTS LOOKING
AT THE MOON AND STARS.
I TOLD THEM IT WAS TO DETERMINE THE DISTANCE AND
DIRECTION FROM THE PLACE I OBSERVED TO OTHER PLACES,
NEITHER THE CANADIANS NOR THE INDIANS BELIEVED ME;
FOR BOTH ARGUED THAT IF WHAT I SAID WAS TRUTH, I
OUGHT TO LOOK TO THE GROUND, AND OVER IT; AND
NOT TO THE STARS "NOT ONLY NATIVE PEOPLE
BUT HIS OWN FRENCH-CANADIAN EMPLOYEES WOULD COME TO
HIM AND ASK HIM TO SOMEHOW CONTROL NATURE FOR THEM.
RAISE A WIND FOR US, MAKE THE GAME COME TO US.
THEY ALL THOUGHT THAT WHAT HE WAS DOING WHEN HE WAS
OBSERVING THE SKIES WAS SOMEHOW SEEING WHAT WAS
HAPPENING FAR AWAY, OR SEEING INTO THE FUTURE"
THOMPSON FOUND TIME TO WORK ON HIS MAPS DURING THE
WINTER.
HE'D DRAW NUMEROUS SMALL CHARTS, USING COORDINATES
AND COMPASS COURSES FROM HIS SURVEY NOTEBOOKS.
LATER THE CHARTS WERE LINED-UP AND CONNECTED,
FITTING TOGETHER LIKE TILES ON A FLOOR.
THOMPSON'S FIRST YEAR WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS WAS
CLOSE TO BEING HIS LAST.
THE SMALL NUMBER OF FURS COLLECTED CAST DOUBT ON THE
COMMERCIAL VALUE OF THE COLUMBIA.
THOMPSON, FRUSTRATED, WROTE LETTERS BACK TO HIS
PARTNERS SAYING THE KOOTENAI DID NOT UNDERSTAND
COMMERCIAL LEVEL TRAPPING.
"TO HIM, HE WANTS EVERY FAMILY TO GET A PACK OR TWO
PACKS OF FURS, THAT'S BETWEEN 60 AND OVER 100
BEAVER, EVERY WINTER FROM NOW ON FOREVER.
THEY CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT.
THAT'S ONE OF THOSE CULTURAL DISJUNCTS THAT
DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE.
WHY WOULD YOU TRAP THAT MANY BEAVER? "
THE PLATEAU TRIBES TRADITIONALLY GAMBLED,
DANCED AND SPIRITUALLY RESTORED THEMSELVES
IN THE WINTER.
"HE IS ALWAYS GOING CRAZY HARANGUING THEM TO GO TRAP,
IT'S WINTER, THE PELTS ARE PRIME, WHY AREN'T YOU
TRAPPING?
AND THEY GO, OH WE CAN'T.
WE HAVE TO SPIRITUALLY RESTORE OURSELVES, THIS IS
WHAT WE DO IN THE WINTER.
WE WORK ALL YEAR SO THAT WE CAN NOW DO THE THINGS THAT
ARE IMPORTANT TO US.
AND HE SEES THIS DEEP SPIRITUALITY AS AN
ESSENTIAL PART OF THEIR CULTURE. "
IN SPRING 1808, THOMPSON AND FOUR VOYAGEURS RETRACED
HIS SHORT TRIP OF THE PREVIOUS FALL AND CONTINUED
SOUTH, DOWN STEAM ON THE KOOTENAY RIVER.
THIS TIME, THOMPSON RODE IN A CANOE WITH A COMPASS,
RECORDING EACH SMALL CHANGE OF DIRECTION WHILE
ESTIMATING THE DISTANCE IN FRACTIONS OF MILES.
THE PARTY CROSSED THE 49TH PARALLEL IN WHAT IS NOW
NORTHWESTERN MONTANA.
TO BRING IN MORE BEAVER PACKS, THOMPSON PLANNED TO
RENDEZVOUS WITH A GROUP OF KOOTENAI GUIDES, THEN MOVE
SOUTH TO OPEN TRADE WITH THE FLATHEAD IN MONTANA.
BUT WHEN HIS GUIDES DID NOT APPEAR, THE NOR'WESTERS
CONTINUED DOWNSTREAM ALONE, CROSSING OVER THE STEEP
DANGEROUS PORTAGE OF KOOTENAI FALLS.
23 YEAR OLD DAN BLACKBURN, A PROFESSIONAL KAYAKER,
GREW UP ON THE KOOTENAI RIVER.
"WHEN I STARTED KAYAKING THAT WAS MY MAIN GOAL IS TO
GO OVER KOOTENAI FALLS, BECAUSE I HEARD PEOPLE
COULD DO IT.
IT'S A MILE AND A HALF OF WORLD CLASS WHITE WATER"
TODAY, KOOTENAI FALL'S WATER LEVEL IS CONTROLLED
BY LIBBY DAM, IN MONTANA.
BUT IN THOMPSON'S DAY THE WATER WAS FREE FLOWING;
MUCH STRONGER THAN IT IS TODAY
THREE HUNDRED FEET ABOVE THE RIVER, OVER SHARP
ROCKS, BLACKBURN WITH A FRIEND PORTAGE KOOTENAI
FALLS, FOLLOWING THE SAME TRIBAL TRAIL THAT
THOMPSON'S PARTY USED SO MANY YEARS AGO.
DAN BLACKBURN: "WE'RE BASICALLY SEEING
THE SAME THINGS, IT'S A REALLY COOL FEELING TO
THINK BACK THAT FAR, PRETTY HUMBLING. "
THOMPSON: MAY 6, 1808 "OUR HEIGHT AT TIMES WAS
ABOUT 300 FEET ABOVE THE RIVER,
THE LEAST SLIP WOULD HAVE BEEN INEVITABLE DEATH.
EACH MAN HAD TWO PAIRS OF SHOES ON HIS FEET, BUT THEY
WERE CUT TO PIECES. " THAT MAY, THE NOR'WESTERS
ARRIVED AT BONNER'S FERRY, IDAHO; THE HOME OF
UGLY HEAD'S PEOPLE.
IN THE SUMMER OF 2008, TRIBAL LEADERS AND
HISTORIANS SET UP AN ENCAMPMENT NEAR THE SPOT
THE KOOTENAI AND THOMPSON SHARED IN THE SPRING OF
1808.
"I HAD THIS VISION ABOUT AN ENCAMPMENT AND THE
INFLUENCE THAT DAVID THOMPSON HAD ON THE
KOOTENAI PEOPLE AND VICE VERSA, AND HERE WE ARE. "
TIM RYAN AND OTHER TRIBAL MEMBERS SHARE THEIR
KNOWLEDGE.
"THE NATURAL WORLD OUT THERE, THE FORESTS ARE KIND
OF LIKE OUR CHURCHES. " RYAN MAKES ITEMS USED BY
HIS NATIVE ANCESTORS WITH THE SAME MATERIALS
AND HAND-MADE TOOLS.
" MY PRIORITY IS TO LEARN THESE SKILLS AND ASSURE
THAT THESE SKILLS ARE STILL PRESENT WITHIN OUR CULTURE
AND THAT THEY'RE STILL PRACTICED"
THOMPSON USED BONNER'S FERRY AS A BASE AND PADDLED
NORTH TOWARD KOOTENAY LAKE, THE HOME OF THE
FLAT BOW BAND.
"KOOTENAY LAKE USED TO BE THE HEARTBEAT OF OUR
PEOPLE, THE FLAT BOW AND ALL THE STREAMS AND RIVERS
THAT FLOWED INTO KOOTENAY LAKE, IT WAS LIKE ARTERIES"
FOR GENERATIONS, WAYNE LOUIS'S FAMILY HAS LIVED
NEAR KOOTENAY LAKE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA.
" WHEN IT USED TO FLOOD, IN THE OLD DAYS BEFORE
DAMS WERE PUT IN, THIS USED TO BECOME ONE BIG DELTA, THIS
WHOLE VALLEY.
THIS WHOLE VALLEY ONE BIG DELTA
TO NAVIGATE THE DELTA, THE KOOTENAI DESIGNED THE
DISTINCTIVE STURGEON-NOSED CANOE.
"THE ELDERS USED TO SAY WHEN YOU GOT TO THIS STAGE
THIS RESEMBLED A SKELETON OF A STURGEON.
IT DOES BECAUSE THE SNOUTS THERE, HERE'S RIBS AND
BONES.
AT HIGH WATER TIME WHEN THE BULL RUSHES WERE UP, THESE
CANOES USED TO BE ABLE TO NAVIGATE THROUGH THE
BULL RUSHES. " THOMPSON ADMIRED THE
STURGEON-NOSED CANOES.
"WHEN DAVID THOMPSON CAME UP HERE, HE CAME UP HERE IN
MAY.
THAT WAS THE HIGH WATER TIME,.
..AND HE TRAVELED THE ROUTE UP HERE, THE RIVER, AND HE
WENT ALL THE WAY UP TO THE HISTORIC WATER LEVEL, IT'S
CALLED KOOTENAY LANDING. " NEAR THAT POINT, THE
KOOTENAY RIVER HEADS WEST JOINING THE COLUMBIA.
THOMPSON DID NOT INVESTIGATE FURTHER, BUT
INSTEAD HURRIED BACK TO A FLOODED BONNER'S FERRY
HOPING TO TRADE WITH A GROUP OF FLATHEAD WHO WERE
SUPPOSEDLY ON THEIR WAY TO THE KOOTENAI ENCAMPMENT.
MAY 17, 1808 "HERE WE RECEIVED THE DISAGREEABLE NEWS
OF THE FLAT HEADS BEING UNABLE TO COME HERE ON ACCOUNT OF THE
FLOODING OF THE COUNTRY,
THUS ALL MY FINE HOPES ARE RUINED"
IN A LETTER, THOMPSON EXPRESSED HIS FRUSTRATION
AT BEING CUT OFF FROM THE TRIBES BY WINTER SNOW AND
SPRING FLOODS.
THOMPSON JOURNAL MAY 17, 1808: "THE FLATHEADS
WERE ONLY 12 DAY'S MARCH FROM US LAST WINTER AND THE
LAKE INDIANS ONLY 6 DAYS AND YET BOTH ARE COMPLETELY
SHUT UP BY MOUNTAINS AS IF THEY WERE ON
THE OTHER SIDE, AND THE WATERS RISING IN
THE SUMMER HAVE NEARLY THE SAME EFFECT.
THOMPSON COULD WAIT NO LONGER FOR THE FLATHEADS.
HE HAD A LONG TRADE RUN TO MAKE BACK TO LAKE SUPERIOR.
AFTER RECROSSING HOWSE PASS, HE DROPPED CHARLOTTE
AND THE KIDS OFF WITH RELATIVES AT BOGGY HALL,
AND THEN CONTINUED DOWN THE SASKATCHEWAN.
PERHAPS BECAUSE OF THE PIEGAN THREAT, CHARLOTTE
NEVER AGAIN TRAVEL WEST OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1809, THOMPSON DECIDED TO BUILD A
TRADE POST MORE CENTRALLY LOCATED TO THE PLATEAU
TRIBES.
HE CLOSED UP KOOTENAI HOUSE AND MOVED HIS ENTIRE PARTY
DOWN THE KOOTENAI RIVER, SOUTH OVER THE GREAT
ROAD TO THE FLATHEADS,.
TO A LARGE TRIBAL ENCAMPMENT ON
LAKE PEND OREILLE.
THOMPSON JOURNAL: SEPTEMBER 9, 1809 "THEY ALL
SMOKED, 54 FLAT HEADS, 23 POINTED HEARTS, AND
4 KOOTANAIS - IN ALL ABOUT 80 MEN.
THEN THEY MADE US A HANDSOME PRESENT OF DRIED
SALMON AND OTHER FISH WITH BERRIES"
"THEY TAKE HIM TO THIS AMAZING MIXED TRIBAL
ENCAMPMENT NEAR HOPE, IDAHO WHERE EVERYBODY IS, ALL THE
FLATHEADS AND KOOTENAIS AND KALISPEL, BUT ALSO OKANOGAN
AND SANDPOINT AND COEUR D'ALENE AND NEZ PERCE, I
MEAN EVERYBODY'S THERE" THE ENCAMPMENT WAS LOCATED
AT A PLACE CALLED INDIAN MEADOWS ON THE BANKS
OF LAKE PEND OREILLE.
THOMPSON BUILT KULLYSPELL HOUSE, NAMED AFTER THE
KALISPEL PEOPLE THAT LIVED THERE.
THE KALISPEL WERE ALSO CALLED THE PEND OREILLE BY
THE TRADERS.
THE KALISPEL, ARE ONE OF MANY SALISH SPEAKING
TRIBES.
" THE ENTIRE NORTHWEST CONSISTS OF THE SALISH
SPEAKING PEOPLE, WHO OUR ELDERS SAY CAME FROM ONE
LARGE GROUP AT ONE TIME.
THOSE DIFFERENT BANDS THAT ARE LOCATED IN OTHER AREAS
ARE OTHER TRIBES NOW.
WE REFER TO THEM AS THE KALISPEL, THE SPOKANES, THE
COEUR D'ALENE, THE OKANOGANS, SUSHWA"
DAVID THOMPSON JOURNALS: " I SPENT MUCH OF THE DAY
TRADING WITH THE INDIANS WHO BROUGHT ABOUT
130 SKINS.
SIXTEEN CANOES OF POINTED HEARTS PASSED US AND CAMPED
WITH OTHER FLATHEADS".
BUSINESS WAS BOOMING.
AT TIMES, ENTIRE DAYS HAD TO BE SET ASIDE FOR
TRADING.
IN THE MIDST OF ALL THIS ACTIVITY, THOMPSON DECIDED
TO 'GO ON DISCOVERY' AND TRACE THE PEND OREILLE'S
COURSE TO THE COLUMBIA.
HE RODE WEST, FOLLOWING THE PEND OREILLE RIVER TO A
KALISPEL VILLAGE, NEAR CUSICK, WASHINGTON.
" THE OLDEST MAN ACCORDING TO CUSTOM MADE A SPEECH AND
A PRESENT OF 2 CAKES OF ROOT BREAD,.
" THE ROOT BREAD WAS MADE FROM CAMAS OR EETOWOY.
ON HIS LATER MAPS, THOMPSON LABELED THIS AREA EETOWOY
PLAINS.
TRYING TO FIND A SUITABLE TRADE ROUTE TO THE COLUMBIA
PROVED DIFFICULT.
THOMPSON BORROWED A KALISPEL CANOE AND HEADED
DOWN RIVER,.
..ONLY TO BE STOPPED BY THE STEEP CLIFFS OF BOX CANYON.
" AND THOMPSON INSTEAD OF PUSHING ON THROUGH AND
GETTING TO THE COLUMBIA, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN A
COUPLE DAYS WALK, TURNS AROUND AND GOES BACK. "
THOMPSON LEFT A CREW TO WINTER AT
KULLYSPELL HOUSE, THEN FOLLOWED THE CLARK
FORK RIVER UPSTREAM TO THE OPEN COUNTRY WHERE MANY
SALISH BANDS WINTERED.
THERE HE BUILT SALEESH HOUSE, NEAR THOMPSON FALLS,
MONTANA, AND SPENT THE WINTER.
" AND IT'S REALLY A REMARKABLE WINTER, THAT'S
WHEN HE DOES HIS SALISH WORD LIST"
THOMPSON DEVOTED 26 PAGES OF HIS JOURNAL LISTING
1,000 ALPHABETIZED ENGLISH WORDS HE WANTED TO LEARN IN
SALISH.
"THEY TELL A LOT MORE ABOUT THOMPSON THAN THEY TELL
ABOUT THE SALISH INDIANS.
JUST IN THE "A"S, ITS LIKE ABANDONMENT, AMBUSH,
ANXIETY, ANXIOUS.
IT'S A VERY FUNNY LIST THOMPSON WAS ABLE TO GATHER
400 SALISH EQUIVALENTS.
IN MAY 1810, THOMPSON DISPATCHED JACO FINLEY TO
BUILD A NEW POST AMONG THE SPOKANE PEOPLE.
SPOKANE HOUSE WOULD COMPLETE A CIRCLE OF TRADE
IN WHAT THOMPSON CALLED THE BETTER PART OF THE COUNTRY.
LEAVING FINAN MCDONALD IN CHARGE OF SALEESH HOUSE,
THOMPSON TOOK THE FURS TO LAKE SUPERIOR, EXPECTING TO
REMAIN IN THE EAST FOR A YEAR.
THOMPSON LETTER TO SIMON FRASER: DECEMBER 21,
1810 " MY DEAR FRASER.
I AM GETTING TIRED OF SUCH CONSTANT HARD JOURNEYS; FOR
THE LAST 20 MONTHS I HAVE SPENT ONLY BARELY TWO
MONTHS UNDER THE SHELTER OF A HUT, ALL THE REST HAS
BEEN IN MY TENT, AND THERE IS LITTLE LIKELIHOOD THE
NEXT 12 MONTHS WILL BE MUCH OTHERWISE"
"HE'S BEEN IN THE WOODS FOR A LONG TIME NOW AND HE'S
HOPING TO TAKE A YEAR OFF, WHICH IS WHAT YOU ARE
ALLOWED AS A PARTNER AND GET UP WITH HIS FAMILY AND
JUST RELAX. " BUT, THOMPSON DID NOT
GET HIS SABBATICAL.
THOMPSON LETTER TO FRASER: DEC. 21, 1810,
"THE AMERICANS, IT SEEMS, WERE AS USUAL
DETERMINED TO BE BEFOREHAND WITH US IN THE
COLUMBIA IN SHIP NAVIGATION.
THE AMERICAN WAS JOHN JACOB ASTOR, A NEW YORK
ENTREPRENEUR.
HE'D STARTED THE PACIFIC FUR COMPANY, AND WAS TRYING
TO ENTER THE WESTERN FUR TRADE.
HIS SHIP, THE TONQUIN, WAS SAILING AROUND THE HORN TO
THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA, WHILE A SECOND OVERLAND
PARTY WAS RETRACING LEWIS AND CLARK'S ROUTE TO
THE WEST.
"JOHN JACOB ASTOR IS LIKE DONALD TRUMP.
HE'S GOT BUSINESS DEALS ALL OVER WITH EVERYBODY.
INCLUDING THE NORTH WEST CO."
A YEAR EARLIER, ASTOR HAD OFFERED THE NORTH WEST
COMPANY, ONE THIRD INTEREST IN HIS PACIFIC VENTURE.
" AND IT SOUNDS LIKE A PARTNERSHIP BUT IT'S SO,
CONVOLUTED THAT YOU CAN TELL IT MIGHT NOT WORK"
WITH THE AMERICANS INVOLVED, THOMPSON COULD
WAIT NO LONGER TO COMPLETE HIS EXPLORATIONS DOWN THE
COLUMBIA RIVER AND DETERMINE WHETHER IT WAS
NAVIGABLE TO THE SEA.
HE NEEDED TO GET BACK WEST.
BUT THE PIEGAN HAD OTHER IDEAS.
THEY HAD SET UP A BLOCKADE AT HOWES PASS.
"THE PEIGAN THREATENED DURING THE BLOCKADE, THAT
THEY'RE GOING TO KILL ANY WHITE MAN THEY FIND WEST OF
THE MOUNTAIN, AND THEY'RE GOING TO MAKE DRIED MEAT
OUT OF THEM.
BELIEVE ME, THE HUDSON'S BAY CO, THE NW CO.
TOOK THAT THREAT SERIOUSLY" ALEXANDER HENRY - ROCKY
MOUNTAIN HOUSE: " THIS AFFAIR OF HIS CANOES
BEING STOPPED BY THE PIEGANS HAS INDUCED HIM
TO ALTER HIS ROUTE AND ENDEAVOR TO
OPEN A NEW ROAD.
AND IN SUCH RUGGED COUNTRY THE BLACKFEET INDIANS WOULD
NEVER DARE TO ENTER.
ALEXANDER HENRY-ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE-1811"
THOMPSON HAD BEEN SEEKING AN ALTERNATE ROUTE ACROSS
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS FOR SOME TIME.
HE'D HEARD PROMISING REPORTS OF A CROSSING AT
THE HEADWATERS OF THE ATHABASCA RIVER.
BUT A WINTER CROSSING OVER ATHABASCA PASS, WOULD BE
DIFFICULT,.
REQUIRING DOG SLEDS AND SNOWSHOES.
"THE PROBLEM FOR HIM REALLY IS THAT BY GOING FROM THE
SASKATCHEWAN TO THE ATHABASCA HE'S IN A NEW FUR
TRADE DISTRICT AND THE VOYAGERS WHO HE TAKES WITH
HIM AREN'T USED TO WORKING FOR HIM.
SO ALL THE OLD FAMILIAR NAMES AND THE GUIDES HE'S
GONE BACK AND FORTH WITH ALL THESE YEARS ARE NO
LONGER WITH HIM.
AND THESE NEW GUYS THINK THAT HE'S CRAZY, AND NONE
OF THEM HAVE BEEN ACROSS THE PASS BEFORE, AND
HE WORKS THEM TOO HARD, AND HE'S MAKING
A WINTER CROSSING.
SO THERE ARE ALL THESE REASONS FOR THINGS TO
GO WRONG" THOMPSON JOURNALS:
"DU NORD THREW HIS LOAD ASIDE , SAYING HE WOULD NOT
HAUL IT ANY MORE ALTHOUGH HE HAS ONLY 80 POUNDS
AND TWO GOOD DOGS, IN MY OPINION HE IS A POOR
SPIRITLESS WRETCH. " "THESE GUYS ARE SCARED AND
THERE'S A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF SNOW, AND THE
TEMPERATURE WARMS UP FROM 30 BELOW TO 30 ABOVE
IN ABOUT 36 HOURS.
THE SLEDS START TO SINK, THEY CAN'T FIND ANY FOOD,
THE VOYAGERS ARE BEATING THE DOGS TO DEATH."
THOMPSON JOURNALS JANUARY 14, 1811 -: "THE
COURAGE OF PART OF MY MEN IS SINKING FAST.
THEY SEE NOTHING IN ITS PROPER COLOR, FEAR GATHERS
ON THEM FROM EVERY OBJECT."
CANADIAN OUTFITTER WENDY BUSH HAS BEEN DRIVING DOG
TEAMS IN THE BACK COUNTRY MOST OF HER LIFE.
"SLED DOGS," BUSH SAYS, "ARE A STRONG PART OF HER
CANADIAN HERITAGE. " " EVERY FAMILY HAD A DOG AND
THEY HOOKED THAT DOG UP AND PULLED THEIR TOBOGGANS WITH
FIREWOOD OR WHATEVER CHORES THEY HAD TO DO SO IT WAS A
VERY CANADIAN THING TO DO FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS,
TO USE YOUR SLED DOG" IN THOMPSON'S TIME, DOG
DRIVERS DIDN'T RIDE, BUT RAN BESIDE THE DOGS,
HELPING TO DIRECT THE TOBOGGAN OVER SNOW AND ICE.
" SO HE MADE HIS OWN SNOW SHOES AND HIS TOBOGGAN.
THAT'S PRETTY TOUGH GOING TO BUILD YOUR OWN GEAR"
TO CELEBRATE THE CENTENNIAL OF CANADIAN
NATIONAL PARKS, BUSH, USING HER OWN SLED
DOGS, RETRACED THOMPSON'S HISTORIC 1811 CROSSING
OF ATHABASCA PASS.
"WE HAD BEEN TRAVELING IN THE BACK COUNTRY OF JASPER
NATIONAL PARKS FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS SO WE WERE IN GOOD
SHAPE AND OUR DOGS WERE WELL TRAINED AND WE HAD
LOTS OF MODERN EQUIPMENT.
THOUGH REGARDLESS OF MODERN EQUIPMENT, THERE ARE
HAZARDS OUT THERE AND YOU CAN STILL FALL IN THE WATER
IF YOU MAKE A MISSTEP AND DRAG YOUR DOG TEAM WITH YOU"
THOMPSON JOURNAL: "THE DESCENT WAS SO STEEP
THAT THE DOGS COULD NOT GUIDE THE SLEDS, AND OFTEN
CAME ACROSS THE TREES WITH SOME FORCE, THE DOGS ON ONE
SIDE AND THE SLED ON THE OTHER"
BY THIS TIME, FOUR OF HIS MEN HAD PLAINLY HAD ENOUGH
OF THOMPSON, AND THE FEELING
WAS MUTUAL.
THOMPSON JOURNAL: "DU NORD WITH THE
FORT DE PRAIRIE MEN, HAVING LONG
BEEN DISPIRITED AND USELESS AS OLD WOMEN, TOLD ME HE
WOULD RETURN, AND I WAS HEARTILY TIRED OF SUCH
WORTHLESS FELLOWS" " EARLY HISTORIANS
REPRESENTED THAT AS A MUTINY AND
EVERYBODY LEAVING.
BUT IN HIS JOURNAL, WHICH HE'S KEEPING AT THE TIME,
HE SAYS, I'M GLAD TO BE RID OF THESE GUYS, I DON'T LIKE
THE WAY THEY TREAT THE DOGS, THEY'RE EATING TOO
MUCH, THEY'RE JUST A PAIN.
GIVE ME THESE GUYS THAT ARE DEPENDABLE"
THOMPSON JOURNAL: "ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE
MOUNTAINS THE TREES WERE SMALL,
THERE WE WERE MEN, BUT ON THE WEST SIDE
WE WERE PIGMIES, IN SUCH FORESTS WHAT COULD WE DO
WITH AXES OF TWO POUND WEIGHT?
THOMPSON, AND HIS REMAINING THREE MEN, DUG IN FOR
WINTER AT THE TOP BEND OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER; AT A
PLACE THOMPSON NAMED BOAT ENCAMPMENT.
FROM THIS VANTAGE POINT, THOMPSON COULD HAVE
TRAVELED DOWNSTREAM TO THE PACIFIC.
BUT, HE HAD A LARGE LOAD OF TRADE GOODS TO DISTRIBUTE
TO HIS POSTS ON THE COLUMBIA PLATEAU.
"SO HE SPENDS SIX WEEKS BUILDING A NEW KIND OF
CANOE THAT IS SPLIT CEDAR PLANKS SEWN TO A REGULAR
FRAME WITH SPRUCE ROOT WATAP, AND HE JUST DOES A
BEAUTIFUL JOB OF IT. " AT HIS HOME OVERLOOKING
LAKE PEND OREILLE, BOAT BUILDER BILL BRUSSTAR IS
BUILDING A REPLICA OF DAVID THOMPSON'S CEDAR
PLANK CANOE.
ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE MOUNTAINS, THE NOR'WESTERS
HAD STRUGGLED TO BUILD CANOES, BECAUSE THE BIRCH
BARK WAS SO THIN.
BUT THOMPSON DESIGNED SOMETHING NEW.
" BUT HE STARTED OUT WITH A BOTTOM BOARD, THE KEEL
BOARD, THAT WAS 17 INCHES WIDE.
HE WANTED TO BUILD THE WHOLE BOAT IN ONE BOARD
ALMOST, 17 INCHES WIDE IS REALLY WIDE AND HE BROKE IT
IN HALF.
FOR TWO DAYS AFTER THAT THERE IS NOTHING BUT
NUMBERS, THAT'S ALL HE DID WAS TOOK NUMBERS AND HELD
IT INSIDE.
DAVID THOMPSON: " WE WORKED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CANOE,
BUT SPIT IN TWO LIFTING IT UP BEING TOO THIN TO
SUPPORT IT'S OWN WEIGHT AND WAS THUS SPOILT. "
"HE ENDED UP WITH A BOARD SIX INCHES IN THE MIDDLE
AND HE NARROWED IT DOWN TO THE BOW AND STERN TO TWO
INCHES AND HE CURVED THAT BOW ALL THE WAY UP TO A
TWO FOOT ARC.
A TWO FOOT ARC FOR THE BOW AND A TWO FOOT ARC FOR
THE STERN.
SO, HE USED ONE SINGLE BOARD.
HE HAD TO SPLIT THE ENDS OF THEM IN HALF, SO HE HAD A
TWO INCH BOARD LIKE THAT AND HE CUT IT IN HALF, SO
IT WOULD TAKE THAT BEND. " BRUSSTAR SEEMS TO BE
LEARNING AS MUCH ABOUT THE MAN AS THE CANOE.
"YOU GET A MUCH CLOSER IDEA OF WHAT ACTUALLY WAS
GOING ON IN THOSE DAYS, 'CAUSE THE PROBLEMS I HAD,
HE HAD THE SAME. " OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS,
THOMPSON WOULD BUILD AT LEAST NINE CEDAR PLANK
CANOES, CONTINUALLY IMPROVING ON HIS DESIGN.
MEANWHILE, A THOUSAND MILES DOWNSTREAM, THE SAILING
SHIP THE TONQUIN WAS ANCHORED AT THE MOUTH OF
THE COLUMBIA.
ASTOR'S MEN HAD ALREADY STARTED BUILDING FORT
ASTORIA.
MARK WEADICK, AND HIS GROUP OF FUR TRADE RE-ENACTORS,
PADDLE AROUND THE CONFLUENCE OF THE LITTLE
SPOKANE AND SPOKANE RIVERS.
BETWEEN THE TWO RIVERS, ON THIS FLAT, TRIANGLE SHAPED
PENINSULA, SPOKANE HOUSE WAS BUILT BY JACO FINLEY
IN 1810.
BY THE TIME THOMPSON ARRIVED, THE POST HAD BEEN
UP AND RUNNING FOR A YEAR.
FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, THE SPOKANE HAD GATHERED HERE
TO CATCH AND DRY FISH.
"SPOKANE HOUSE WAS ON THE MIDDLE SPOKANE PEOPLES
CAMPGROUND, IT WAS IN THERE AREA, AND IT WAS WITH THEIR
PERMISSION THAT JACKO FINLAY AND HIS CREW IN 1810
WERE ABLE TO CONSTRUCT THE FIRST SPOKANE HOUSE.
THERE WAS IN THOSE DAYS A TREMENDOUS CHINOOK SALMON
FISHERY THAT CAME UP THE FALLS"
THOMPSON CALCULATED THE LONGITUDE OF SPOKANE HOUSE
AND RECORDED IT IN HIS JOURNAL.
IT WOULD BE THE FIRST EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT IN THE
STATE OF WASHINGTON.
AFTER A TWO MONTH DETOUR, THOMPSON WAS FINALLY FREE
TO EXPLORE THE MIDDLE AND LOWER COLUMBIA.
HIS PARTY TRAVELED NORTH ON THE ILTHKOYAPE ROAD, TO
KETTLE FALLS ON THE COLUMBIA RIVER, WHERE A
LARGE NUMBER OF THE ILTHKOYAPE OR COLVILLE WERE
FISHING.
THOMPSON JOURNALS: "THE SALMON ARE FROM 15 TO
30 POUNDS WEIGHT HERE, THEIR FLESH IS RED AND THEY
ARE EXTREMELY WELL MADE. " AFTER YEARS OF EFFORT,
ON JULY 3RD, 1811 THOMPSON WITH HIS CREW
AND TWO SANPOIL SET OFF FROM KETTLE FALLS ON THEIR
VOYAGE DOWN THE COLUMBIA TO THE SEA.
DAVID THOMPSON TRAVELS: "IMAGINATION CAN HARDLY
FORM AN IDEA OF THE WORKING OF THIS IMMENSE BODY OF
WATER UNDER SUCH COMPRESSION, RAGING AND
HISSING, AS IF ALIVE. " "IGNUS, THE IROQUOIS,
WHO HE HIRED TO BE THE STEERSMAN GOT BOUNCED
RIGHT OUT OF THE CANOE.
IT WAS THAT POWERFUL, AND NONE OF THESE GUYS
CAN SWIM.
SO THEY DO THIS CRAZY FRENETIC RESCUE AND GET
IGNUS ON SHORE AND SQUEEZE ALL THE WATER OUT OF HIM"
AT THE TIME, ABOUT THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILES OF
THE COLUMBIA HAD BEEN CHARTED.
BY THE END OF THE SUMMER, THOMPSON WILL HAVE SURVEYED
THE REMAINING NINE HUNDRED MILES.
DAVID THOMPSON: "THE COLUMBIA PRESENTED
MUCH STEEP ROCK, OFTEN IN STEP LIKE STAIRS OF 20 TO
30 FEET PERPENDICULAR. " TRAVELING WITH THE CURRENT,
IT TOOK THOMPSON JUST TEN DAYS TO GET TO THE PACIFIC.
"IT'S ABOUT 700 RIVER MILES.
HE STOPS AT EVERY VILLAGE ALONG THE WAY AND DOES HIS
LITTLE RAP, I'M COMING TO TRADE YOU KNOW.
YOU SHOULD TRAP BEAVER, I'LL BUILD A TRADE
HOUSE HERE.
HE SAYS THAT AT EVERY VILLAGE THAT HE COMES TO
AND HE STILL MAKES IT IN 10 DAYS. "
THOMPSON MET 150 FAMILIES OF SANPOIL,.
NEAR THE SANPOIL RIVER.
"THEY ALL, FORMED A LINE IN AN
ELLIPSIS; THEY DANCED WITH THE SUN IN A
MINGLED MANNER, ALL THEIR DANCES ARE A
KIND OF RELIGIOUS PRAYER" HE MET METHOW,
JUST BEYOND THE OKANAGAN RIVER,
AND, 120 FAMILIES OF SINKAUSE, AT ROCK ISLAND
NEAR WENATCHEE.
"THE WOMEN ADVANCED ALL ORNAMENTED WITH FLLETS AND
SMALL FEATHERS, THEY SMOKED
WITH THE MEN" THOMPSON SMOKED WITH 62
SAHAPTIN SPEAKING MEN, THE WANAPUM, NEAR
PRIEST RAPIDS.
AND THERE WERE THE YAKIMA.
THOMPSON JOURNAL: "THESE PEOPLE, ARE MAKING USE
OF THE SEINE NET, WHICH IS WELL MADE FROM WILD HEMP,
WHICH GROWS ON THE RICH LOW GROUNDS. "
AT THE DALLES CULTURE PATTERNS CHANGED FROM
PLATEAU TO COASTAL.
THE THREE HUNDRED FAMILIES CAMPED THERE WERE SPEAKING
BOTH SAHAPTIAN AND CHINOOKAN LANGUAGES.
DAVID THOMPSON JOURNAL: "THE CHIEF CAME AND INVITED
ME TO HIS HOUSE,.
THE INSIDE CLEAN AND WELL ARRANGED HAD SEPARATE BED
PLACES FASTENED TO THE WALLS THAT RAISED ABOUT 3
FEET ABOVE THE FLOOR" THOMPSON FELT STRONGLY THAT
THE LANDS OF THE COLUMBIA THAT HE HAD SURVEYED
BELONGED TO GREAT BRITAIN.
WHAT THOMPSON CALLED A 'SATISFACTORY BOUNDARY' FOR
CANADA, INCLUDED MUCH OF TODAY'S AMERICAN NORTHWEST.
THOMPSON JOURNAL: "HERE I ERECTED A SMALL
POLE WITH A HALF SHEET OF PAPER WELL TIED AROUND IT,
...KNOW HEREBY THAT THIS COUNTRY IS CLAIMED BY GREAT
BRITAIN AS PART OF ITS TERRITORIES"
ON JULY 15, 1811, THOMPSON'S PARTY ARRIVED AT
THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER, AT FORT ASTORIA.
ALEXANDER ROSS, A SCOT CLERK FOR THE PACIFIC
FUR COMPANY "WE WERE RATHER SURPRISED
AT THE UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF A NORTH WEST
PROPRIETOR AT ASTORIA.
MR. THOMPSON.
HE CAME DASHING DOWN THE COLUMBIA IN A LIGHT CANOE
MANNED WITH EIGHT IROQUOIS AND AN INTERPRETER. "
THE ASTORIANS FOUND THEMSELVES IN AN ODD
SITUATION.
THOMPSON CLAIMED THEY WERE PARTNERS, BUT TO THEIR
KNOWLEDGE, NO JOINT AGREEMENT HAD TAKEN PLACE.
THEY DANCED AROUND EACH OTHER NOT KNOWING WHETHER
THEY WERE FRIEND OR FOE.
LATER, THE PARTNERSHIP DID INDEED FALL APART.
BY THE END OF THE SUMMER, THOMPSON HAD SURVEYED THE
ENTIRE COLUMBIA RIVER FROM ITS HEADWATERS TO
ITS MOUTH.
ONE OF HIS MOST MEMORABLE CONTRIBUTIONS.
PADDLING HARD ON LAKE SUPERIOR, THE 2008 DAVID
THOMPSON BRIGADE WILL SOON COMPLETE THE FINAL LEG OF
THEIR JOURNEY TO FORT WILLIAM.
THOMPSON TOO, RETURNED EAST, CROSSING THE ROCKY
MOUNTAINS FOR HIS FINAL TIME, AND RETIRING FROM THE
FUR TRADE IN 1812.
FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS, THOMPSON WORKED ON HIS MAPS
OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA.
IT WAS AN ENORMOUS UNDERTAKING, USING HIS
SURVEYS AND DISCOVERIES FROM THE LAST 20 YEARS.
"HE STARTS WORKING ON HIS GREAT MAPS.
SORT OF MAGNUM OPUS TO SHOW IN ONE GRAND CANVAS WHAT
HE'S BEEN DOING WITH ALL OF HIS LIFE. "
ONE OF THOMPSON'S WALL SIZE MAPS WAS HUNG IN THE DINING
ROOM AT FORT WILLIAM TO BE USED BY TRAVELERS HEADING
WEST FOR THE NEXT FOUR DECADES.
"HE LIVED DURING A TIME THAT REALLY SAW THE
TRANSFORMATION OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA.
SO WHEN HE WAS BORN IN 1770, EUROPEAN PEOPLE KNEW
VERY LITTLE ABOUT WHAT WAS SOUTH AND WEST OF
HUDSON'S BAY.
BY THE TIME HE DIED IN 1857, THE WEST WAS BEING
PREPARED FOR EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT.
SO, HE'S A FIGURE WHO EXPERIENCED ALL THAT, AND
IN SOME SENSES WAS THE AGENT OF THAT. "
HIS EXPLORATIONS OPENED WHAT WOULD BECOME THE
PRIMARY TRADE ROUTE ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO THE
PACIFIC.
THIS INLAND NORTHWEST PASSAGE WAS THE LAST LINK
OF A FUR TRADE HIGHWAY CONNECTING A CONTINENT FROM
SEA TO SEA.
HIS TIRELESS MAP WORK REALIZED THE DREAM THAT HE
EXPRESSED IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND AFTER HIS FIRST
WINTER AT THE SOURCE LAKES OF THE COLUMBIA.
DAVID THOMPSON'S LETTER: I WISH TO HEAVEN YOU COULD BE
TRANSPORTED BY SOME GENIIS TO SEE HOW THIS COUNTRY IS
FORMED.
♪ ♪