History

41. Breaking Through the Mountains and Breaking the World

A terrible thing was done between 1793 and 1805. The mountains were broken open from East to West.

Alexander Mackenzie’s Map of the End of the World

The mountains had always been open in the other direction. With Alexander MacKenzie (1793)…

Alexander MacKenzie

The role of a European explorer was not to explore but to yell at his Indigenous and French crew until they did a he demanded. MacKenzie was pretty good at this.

…Simon Fraser (1808) …

Fraser was a Good Yeller at Men, Too

Here he I, armless but still with a head, in New Westminster, on the Ouregon, the Oolichan River, that now bears his name.

…and David Thompson’s (1809) refusal to honour old trading relationships, that saw ceremonial protocols controlling trade along networks that took a year to paddle by canoe all the way to Hudson’s Bay, Cascadia, the protected land to the West was released from bondage to the Sioux, the Shoshone, the Aamsskáápipikani and the Pekuni. Their trading ties to the Hudson’s Bay Company, and mutual trade, vanished with them, in a battle between the English (the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the French (Occupied Quebec, the Northwest Company of Montreal, and the lost lands of New France.)

Montreal in 1805

Note that the only undefended exit as to the sky, which the churches drew down among the houses. Presumably, it pooled between the houses, while the St. Laurent flowed past like the Amazon.

These struggles between people would erupt in nearly continuous war, both cold and hot, until the crushing of the Métis and the breaking of French history in 1885.

Louis Riel, Métis Leader, as a Prisoner after losing The Battle of Batch, and the West

Before that, Canada was an English-and-French-and Indigenous nation. After that, it was mostly English. Before that, Cascadia lived from the energy of the Pacific brought to land in the bodies of millions upon millions of salmon. That wealth, traded East through Indigenous networks, stopped Europeans from breaking Indigenous North America, both in Cascadia and far to the East.

Sacajewea and Her Child

Stripped of identity, she could never go home again. A person of mixed identity, she could only go forward.

But the breakage came. Cascadia’ first non-indigenous resident, Jean Baptiste Boucher “La  Malice” (aka “The Enforcer”) Métis, a catholic from the Anglican Red River Valley Settlement, overwintered in the Peace River Country in 1805. Down south in that year, the American spies Merriwether Lewis and William Clark were struggling through the Nimíipu homeland towards a soggy, venereal-disease ridden winter at Astoria, helped by the diplomacy of a freed slave, the Shoshone woman Sacajawea, who fulfilled the Indigenous purpose of slavery, to act as an emissary and to gentle conflict.

A romanticized Sacajawea Showing the Dashing Lewis and Clark the Way through the Rockies in 1805

For her, it was not a journey of discovery.

Dismal Nitch, Lewis named their last upriver camp. He had a creative flair. The next stop had already been named Cape Disappointment by British fur trader John Meares on April 12, 1788. Melancholy was a thing. The land, no doubt, felt much the same way.

Nkmp Salmon Coming Home After a Long Run Up the N’chi’Wan’a

In 1808, the European adventurer Simon Fraser showed up, a Catholic but not French. He refused to go further without the most capable guide of all, La Malice. The enforcer refused to go without his wife, in old Northwest tradition. La Malice won. So it was, with wives and children and all, in true métis fashion, that the métis paddled and steered Fraser down the river that’s now called the Fraser (and not La Malice), rebuilt his boats when the river wrecked them, translated for him, fed him along the way and ensured he would be known in history as an explorer.

Note Fraser in the Middle of the Boat, Enjoying the Sights Like Any Tourist on a Grand Tour

All of them were Catholic. So was Clark. Together, they had broken the Anglican hold on trade and the Indigenous hold on settlement. Little did they know that they had broken the world. But they had. The French and Indigenous people became powerless, Catholicism was minimized, the salmon were nearly extirpated and culture became settlement rather than trade. To understand what was at stake for Indigenous peoples, let’s go next to The Red River Valley Settlement, Assiniboia in 1811, where Indigenous, European, M´étis, Canadian and American pressures met with hope, much like Sacajawea’s, and trace our story of hope and loss forward from there. Until then, an image of hope:

The Land’s People Trying to Catch Some Salmon and Fulfill Their Treaty Rights Below the Bonneville Dam.

The new culture enslaved the land and the water, and then gave that to us, its children. They figured that the rest of us would disappear.

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