Dark Storm Moving West

Dark Storm Moving West

Dark Storm Moving West

Dark Storm Moving West

Synopsis

The fur trade was the impetus for much of the exploration and discovery of North America. Like rolling storm clouds, the expanding enterprise of the fur trade moved relentlessly west to explore the furthest reaches of the continent. From Hudson Bay, Lake Superior, and the Mississippi River, European and American explorers and traders followed a web of waterways north to the rich fur region of Lake Athabaska, farther north to the Arctic Ocean, and west to the Rocky Mountains and on to the Pacific Ocean. The essays in Dark Storm Moving West trace three phases of westward exploration: naval and fur trade ventures on the Pacific coast; traders progress along interior rivers and lakes; and the transcontinental Lewis and Clark expedition, which used maps based on fur trade surveys. Author Barbara Belyea poses challenging questions about the rapid expansion, its effects on Native populations, European versus Native cartography, cultural definitions of space, and communication of traditions. Belyea also introduces Peter Fidler as an important documentary source for exploration studies during the fur trade expansion, incorporating into her own study Fidler's journals, maps, and reports, most of which are previously unpublished.

Excerpt

Peter Fidler first saw the Rocky Mountains in November 1792 – a jagged line “stretching from ssw to WbS … similar to dark rain Like clouds rising up above the Horizon on a fine Summers evening.” He used a familiar image to describe this unexplored barrier at the plains’ western limit. Dark clouds, the advancing line of a prairie storm, can be seen from some distance before they rain down on the observer. Economic, political and social conditions attributable to the fur trade were experienced as a similar delayed effect. At first, trafficking with Europeans may have brought benefits to Native people, but before long the trade proved destructive to those who had welcomed it.

The essays in Dark Storm Moving West examine the fur trade’s rapid westward expansion across North America. For a time the fur-trade partnerships between Natives and non-Natives seemed balanced in terms of power and mutual benefit. But the fur business was a capitalist enterprise that needed more and more resources – hence the drive to explore the farthest reaches of the continent. From Hudson Bay, Lake Superior and the Mississippi River, Europeans and Americans followed a web of waterways north to the rich fur region of Lake Athabaska and farther north to the Arctic Ocean, as well as west to the Rocky Mountains and farther west to the Pacific Ocean. the Dark Storm essays trace three kinds and phases of exploration: first, naval and fur-trade probing of the Pacific coast . . .

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