The public is invited to the Fort George Brewery and Public House on Thursday, July 28 at 7:00 pm for a presentation about the earliest U.S. settlement in Chinookan territory on the west coast of North America. Speakers will include Chinook Nation Chair Ray Gardner and National Park Service archeologists Dr. Doug Wilson and Dr. Bob Cromwell. The event will be held at the Fort George Brewery, on the site of the original Fort Astoria and Fort George trading post.
An Epic Story
In 1811, representatives of the Astor Fur Company established a trading post on Chinookan lands along the Columbia River. At that time, the Chinookan peoples were the densest population of non-agricultural people in the Americas and possibly the world, with sixty thousand people living along the lower Columbia River. The Chinook owed their wealth and power to a trading network that extended up the Columbia River as far as Montana and along the Pacific Coast to southeast Alaska and California.
The early days of the post were marked by intrigue, politics, and drama, as both nations maneuvered for profit and influence. “The story is epic,” said Mac Burns, Director of the Clatsop County Historical Society and Chair of the Astoria Bicentennial Committee. “It includes drownings, shipwrecks, political marriages, and the brilliant leadership of Concomly, whose genius so impressed the Western world that his head would be stolen from his grave to try to divine the secrets of his leadership.”
Three speakers intimately familiar with the history of the lower Columbia will help bring the story to life. Dr. Doug Wilson and Dr. Bob Cromwell have led or participated in archeological investigations at Middle Village, Cathlapotle and Fort Vancouver. Ray Gardner is the elected chair of the Chinook Indian Nation and a descendent of Willapa Chief Huckswelt.
“Events like this are possible because of peoples’ commitment to history and heritage,” said Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Superintendent David Szymanski. “Thanks to Chairman Gardner, one of the most engaging speakers on the lower Columbia. And thanks to Jack Harris and Chris Nemlowill at Fort George for keeping their property’s history alive.”