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Fur traders and Hawaiians (1825)

After the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Hudson's Bay Company started trading furs with the Indians, and the Americans and English soon shared an intense rivalry over the fur trade.

In 1825, the Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post at Fort Vancouver and moved its regional headquarters there. It was built for two purposes – to serve as a trading post for fur traders and establish Great Britain's claim on the Northwest Territory.

Fur traders working for the Hudson's Bay Company traveled an area of more than 700,000 square miles that stretched from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Ships sailed from London around Cape Horn and then to Fort Vancouver via the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Trappers crossing overland faced a three-month journey of 2,000 miles.

The oldest non-native settlement
Today, the city of Vancouver incorporates the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, which is the oldest non-native settlement in the Pacific Northwest. Although primarily a fur-trading post, Fort Vancouver employed more people at agriculture than any other activity. It was a British establishment, but the primary languages spoken were French Canadian and Chinook.

At one point, between 300-400 Hawaiians worked at the fort.

In the 1830s and 1840s, in increasing number of American settlers traveled the Oregon Trail. At the end of the journey, Fort Vancouver offered essential supplies to begin their new settlements.

Hawaiians at Fort Vancouver

In a deal with the king of Hawai'i, the Hudson's Bay Company took on several hundred Hawaiians for three years as indentured servants. They worked as trappers, laborers, millers, sailors, gardeners and cooks.

Along with French Canadians, the Hawaiians lived in a tight-knit community called Kanaka Village. It was built just west of the fort and continued south to the waterfront, where Interstate 5 is now.

Many Hawaiians worked in the sawmill. Lumber was shipped to the islands, along with wheat, potatoes, flour, smoked salmon and other trade goods. In fact, Honolulu and most other major towns in Hawaii were built with lumber from the Columbia River and Puget Sound areas.

For more on Vancouver, see Why Esther Short slapped the French Canadian.

To read more about the Vancouver National Historic Reserve, go to

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Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, Floor 6, Vancouver, WA 98660
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6012 | FAX: (360) 397-6015

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