Fur trade artifacts at housepit 54, bridge river site

C. Riley Auge, Mary Bobbitt, Kelly J. Dixon, Thomas A. Foor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Fur Trade Artifacts at Housepit 54, Bridge River Site C. Riley Augé, Mary Bobbitt, Kelly J. Dixon, and Thomas A. Foor The fur trade industry dramatically impacted indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical journals written by early explorers, as well as archaeological data, provide documentation of trade interactions that took place between Europeans and indigenous populations during the Fur Trade period from the early sixteenth century to the nineteenth century throughout North America. Information from these sources provides insight into how materials valued by both indigenous and non- indigenous groups moved across the landscape. The interior region of the Pacific Northwest was one of the last areas to become entrenched in the fur trade industry, but Interior Native groups of southern British Columbia had become very familiar with objects of European manufacture by the early nineteenth century. In this chapter, data from archaeological excavations at Housepit 54 are presented alongside historical accounts written by early Europeans in an effort to understand how Euro pean trade goods made it into Housepit 54, and to explore how people at the Bridge River site integrated such objects into their lives. During the sixteenth century (a time when beaver wool hats and caps were worn by members of the upper class in western Europe) Euro pean fishermen along the east coast of North America made contact with Algonquin groups and began to barter for furs. Soon after, word began to spread of the new- found resources in North America. As beaver populations in Quebec and the Great Lakes region declined due to overhunting, demand for the furs was met by moving westward (Gosden 2004). Prior to Euro- American contact, indigenous groups in the Pacific Northwest had strong traditional trading routes that linked the coastal and interior groups (Fisher 1992; Griswald 1954; Teit 1906). Long before the fur trade era, indigenous groups in southern British Columbia were already seen as experienced traders through traditional practices (Brock 2011; Burley and Hobler 1997; Carlson 2006). Ethnographic accounts recorded by James Teit (1906) refer to major trade routes used by the Lower and Lake Lillooet groups who were actively trading with coastal groups. Materials brought inland from the coast were traded between the Upper Lillooet (St’át’imc) and other neighboring bands. The act of exchange and trade was seen as a way of validating relationships among Native groups and ensuring future trade between neighbors (Brasser 2009; Dolin 2010). The use of trade routes in the Pacific Northwest increased dramatically as European traders became more prevalent in the region (Bishop 1987; Fisher 1992; Gibson 1988). These trade routes also played an important role in the social and political economy (Fisher 1992). Through networks of direct and indirect trading, objects of European design and manufacture steadily became components of indigenous material culture. Figure 6.1. Map showing the Bridge River site and fur trade posts in British Columbia. The eight- point stars denote posts owned by the Northwest Company, and the letter H those owned by Hudson’s Bay Company. The five- point star (northeast of Vancouver) shows the location of the Bridge River site (EeRl4). Fur Trade Artifacts at Housepit 54, Bridge River Site 109 Explorers in the Pacific Northwest Beginning around 1780, the Pacific Northwest became a center for maritime commerce grounded in a prominent extractive industry: the fur trade. In 1742, the Vitus Bering–Alexsei Chirikov expedition became the earliest known fur trade–based contact with Native people of the Pacific Northwest. After collecting hundreds of sea otter pelts, the Russian group returned to Kamchatka and, for a very handsome price, turned around and sold the pelts to north China (Gibson 1988). The Russians continued to lead maritime trade in the Pacific Northwest for the next half century. Reaching the Alexander Archipelago in 1774, Captain Juan Pérez of Spain obtained otter pelts from the Haida (Burley and Hobler 1997; Gibson 1988). Spanish interest in the coast was mainly military; it was to remain unexplored and used as a buffer zone against California and Mexico (Gibson 1988). As the Russian and English traders encroached on the Pacific Northwest during the late eighteenth century, Spain outfitted a number of expeditions to protect “New Spain’s northwestern frontier” (Gibson 1988). In 1778 British explorer Captain James Cook reached Nootka Sound; during his visit he and his men traded iron and beads for sea otter skins (Fisher 1992; Gibson 1988).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Last House at Bridge River
Subtitle of host publicationThe Archaeology of an Aboriginal Household in British Columbia during the Fur Trade
PublisherUniversity of Utah
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781607815440
ISBN (Print)9781607815433
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


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