Saturday, April 5, 2014
I am working on a series of illustrations exploring a time in Oregon history that few people know about. This is the period between 1806-1840. We learn about Lewis and Clark and then the history books skip straight to about 1840's with the flood of pioneers coming in on the Oregon Trail. I have found this time in between to be quite interesting. Specifically the fur trade and the people who were part of it. Without getting into any detail, it's safe to say that the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley already had a very diverse, rich and culturally significant Native American population. Add to this the influx of British, American, French-Canadian, Scottish, Hawaiian, and other Native Americans from Eastern tribes, all whom were employed by John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company and Later the North West Company and later still the Hudson's Bay Company. This time period is short in the grand scheme of history but I find it to be an intriguing period in American history that deserves more exploration. My plan is to create a series of illustrations that attempt to recreate scenes from day-to-day life of these native tribes, fur trappers, traders and laborers.
It was common for many trappers to be married men who travelled with their families on trapping expeditions. The wives played a very significant roll in the business. They were responsible for preparing the beaver pelts for shipment, tanning hides, setting up camp, preparing meals, making and repairing clothing and moccasins so everyone in the party could survive the cold, wet winter weather. These women came from various Native American tribes and had intermarried with trappers who were French-Canadian, British, Scottish, American, Hawaiian, etc.