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Mountains of Stone

Winds of Change

  Mountain Men Plains Indian Fur Trade History
O. N. Eddins

The Mountain Man Plains Indian Fur Trade website articles are on the fur trade between Mountain Men, Plains Indian, and Canadian fur traders. The website articles are directed toward the effects of western exploration and expansion on Native Americans. North of present day Mexico, the country was explored, wars were fought, and Indian Cultures destroyed in the pursuit of the Mountain Man Indian Fur Trade.

The first settler family traveled over the Oregon Trail to the Oregon Country in eighteen forty. Forty-six years later the last buffalo hunt was held in Montana's Judith Valley, and the vast majority of free-roaming Plains Indians were on reservations--a way of life gone forever.

Below is a short discussion of the Mountain Man Indian Fur Trade articles:

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 Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. The tribes shown are those involved with the Rocky Mountain fur trade.

                                                      Plains Indians

There have been several emails against the trapping of fur bearing animals. The Mountain Man Indian Fur Trade site is concerned with the history of the fur trade...not trapping. Still, the trapping of fur bearing animals was key to the mountain man and played a significant role in America's western expansion.

The articles not directly related to the Mountain Man and the Plains Indian Fur Trade  were written as background information for my historical novels, Mountains of Stone and The Winds of Change, but prehistoric Indians and the devastation of forest fires should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand and preserve our heritage.

 Prehistoric 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.  The major portion of these hunter-gatherers came by way of Beringia the Bering Strait land bridge, but there is also growing evidence some Native Americans came 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. Prehistoric groups in this area are characterized by agricultural villages and large ceremonial and politico-religious centers. Some of the most complex and advanced early cultures developed in Mesoamerica.

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 is now called Horseshoe Canyon.

Anasazi Indians (Ancestral Puebloans, Ancient Ones, Ancient Enemies) settled in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern United States during the late Archaic Period. The Anasazi Indians and Hohokam-Sinagua Indians built large Pueblos, raised corn, squash, and beans several hundred years before the first 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 system failed, Mesa Verde increased in population. Massive cliff dwellings such as Cliff Place and Spruce Tree House were built. After 1150 A.D., the Mesa Verde area of the San Juan Basin had the largest number of people in the Southwest. With a peak population estimated at twenty-five to fifty-thousand Puebloans. Mesa Verde is now Mesa Verde National Park.

Located in southeastern Utah, Cedar Mesa is home to one of the largest concentration of Anasazi ruins in the southwest. The remote four hundred square mile Cedar Mesa houses Anasazi ruins, rock art, and artifacts in deep sandstone canyons.

Hovenweep National Monument is located near Monument Valley in the Four Corners area. Other outstanding areas connected with Hovenweep are the Holly, Cuthroat, and Cajon sites. Built by Anasazi Indians, the inhabitants of Hovenweep remained in the Four Corners area less than one hundred years.

Monument Valley is located in the Four Corners area south and east of Hovenweep National Monument. The first known pre-historic 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 the western Colorado Plateau and the eastern Great Basin of Utah from 400 A.D. to 1350 A.D. Numerous Fremont Indian pictograph and petroglyph rock art panels are scattered throughout Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

Rock Art of the Fremont Indian Culture is regarded as 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 Trail of Tears resulting from the forced relocation of the American Indian by federal troop resulted in one of the darkest chapters in American 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.

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 have led many people to believe the smallpox virus was deliberately spread among the Indian 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.

Northwest trade guns used during the Mountain Man Indian Fur Trade Era were inaccurate and based on today's standards of poor quality; few Plains Indians could repair even minor problems associated with them. 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. The Spanish horses were the one thing brought to this continent American Indians could reproduce and trade to the fur traders and the Mountain Man. The Indian horse spread out of the Southwest across the Rocky Mountains, the Northwest, the Plains, and to the Cree in Canada through an Indian to Indian horse trading network.

Trade Beads were used as 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.

                                                           Beaver House

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. Robert Stuart's crossing of the Continental Divide at South Pass on what would become the Oregon Trail had a profound effect on the geographical outline of the United States, millions of buffalo, and the Plains Indians.

David Thompson ranks as the premier surveyor of North America. Two Canadians, David Thompson and 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.

                                                            United States 1821

The Mountain Man Rendezvous Article is a large comprehensive article on the history of the North American Fur Trade. During the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Era, the Mountain Man explored the West from the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains to the Oregon Country.

Fur Trappers and traders were the first Americans 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

Fur Trade Facts are short tidbits of information on the United States and Canadian fur trade conducted by the Mountain Man, the Missouri River traders, and the Astorians. Many of these "facts" point out distortion in the history of the Mountain Man Plains Indian fur trade.

Known as the Man of the Mountains, Etienne Provost was a Taos Trapper before becoming involved with the Western Division of the American Fur Trade.  Etienne Provost played an active role from the inception of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade to its demise.

William Ashley. the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri, was not a mountain man. Ashley's only interest in the fur trade was to make enough money to pursue a political career. Ashley participated in the 1825 and 1826 rendezvous, After the 1826 rendezvous Ashley never returned to the Rocky Mountains.      

Thomas "Broken Hand" 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 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, from the southern end of California to the Columbia River. Smith was killed by Comanche Indians on the Cimarron 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, Etienne Provost, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and three Canadians, David Thompson, Alexander Mackenzie, and Peter Skene Ogden.

                      Grand Teton -
Geographical Center of the Fur Trade

The rendezvous sites are pictured with approximate GPS locations. 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 rendezvous were held in Wyoming.

Fort Bonneville on the Wyoming Green River is the creation of post-fur trade historians...not rendezvous participants. Not one journal, biography, or book by rendezvous participants, other than Warren A. Ferris' Life in the Rocky Mountains, mention a Fort Bonneville, a Fort Nonsense, or a Bonneville's Folly. 

America's western expansion over the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails cannot be separated from the fur trade. The Mountain Man discovered, or was shown by Native American Indians, the western routes; the Mountain Man served as  guides for the pioneers to the Oregon Country.

Historical Landmarks, Monuments, and Markers is associated with the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, the Mountain Man Fur Trade, and South Pass

The Oregon Trail pioneered by Robert Stuart in 1812 opened up a new way of life for a great many Americans thirty-one years later. The Oregon Trail article contain historical facts, tidbits of information, and some gross misrepresentations in connection with western expansion.

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 the outline of American western expansion, except for a part of Arizona.

 The Mormon Trail was the route of exodus for the 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 in four months. The second segment from the Missouri River to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847 covered one thousand and thirty-two miles in four months.

The Willey and Martin Handcart Companies 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. A massive rescue effort rescued the snowbound handcart companies.

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.

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 National Forests destroyed by forest fires.

Forest fires are rampant on western federal lands. The advocacy of letting natural fires burn, or in some cases correcting decades of fire-fuel buildup with mismanaged prescribed burns, is a standard practice with the forest service if no structures are involved.

Environmental policies of the Sierra Club and radical environmentalist groups are destroying our National Forests. The influence of environmentalists in the National Parks and Federal Forests result in devastating forest fires. Environmentalist and bureaucratic policies render federal agencies ineffective in managing the National Forests.

The Mule Fire of 2002 is based on firsthand observations from start to finish. The Mule Fire was on North Horse Creek in Sublette County, Wyoming. The next picture is what we should see in our National Parks, not the black burned areas still visible fourteen years after the Yellowstone forest fires of 1988. 

                                Beaver Dam - Grand Teton National Park

A historical novel, Mountains of Stone deals with the clash of European and Indian cultures beyond the Alleghany 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 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.

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.   Winds of Change is footnoted throughout the book. A 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, Winds of Change is an exciting read, as well as, educational.

There are frequent request to link to other internet sites, but I have refrained from linking to them because the sites are not about the history of the fur trade. However, there are some new books on the fur trade. 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 reprinted another good book on the northwest Métis, Children of the Fur Trade by John C. Jackson.

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 is available online at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale.

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. Fur, Fortune, and Empire clearly outlines the search for beaver pelts as the prime motivator for America's western expansion.

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.

The purposes of writing the Mountain Man and Plains Indian articles is for me to learn about a particular subject. My goal is to be as unbiased and historically accurate as possible. There have been some interesting responses to the Indian Smallpox, the Indian Horse and the Forest Fire articles.  If there is a mistake in an article, please point it out and the appropriate correction will be made.

One of life's truths one learns anything by someone agreeing with them.

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, Tetons in Jackson Hole, Monument Valley, Four Corners Area, etc. before the prevailing winds brought West Coast smog. This picture was taken a few miles from my house on New Years day 2006.

                                          Upper Dam - Swift Creek Canyon

New Years day was one of the clearest days in a long time. Even on what appears a clear day, there is always a gray haze on the horizon...look how much clearer the Mount Moran reflection is than the actual image. Captain Lewis recorded in his journal how clear the air was as they approached the Rocky Mountains...not anymore.

The articles on the Mountain Man and Plains Indian Fur Trade site were written by O. Ned Eddins of Afton, Wyoming. Permission is given for material from the Mountain Man Plains Indian Fur Trade site to be used for school research papers.

Projectile points are from a private West Texas collection.

Buffalo head is courtesy of Lou Roberts Horse Creek Daniel, Wyoming.

                       Ned Eddins  
                             P. O 305
                             Afton, Wyoming