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Field Division of Education
History of Glacier National Park
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The area now known as Glacier National Park and its immediate surroundings was for many years one of the least known regions of the Far West. Supposed to be, as it in fact was, one of the richest beaver regions of the Rockies, it was an El Dorado from which the fur traders and trappers were barred by the persistent hostility of the Blackfoot Indians. Although some daring parties may have penetrated the region at an early date, no record survives, and many of those who attempted an entry never returned.

The early history of Glacier National Park is primarily the history of fur trade expansion and efforts to tap this rich source of beaver. East, north, west, and finally, south, the tide of western expansion swirled up to the borders of Blackfoot territory but left it an island of unknown lands until mid-nineteenth century explorers visited it. French traders, the Hudson's Bay Company, the North-west Company, American Fur Company, and Rocky Mountain Fur Company, to mention only the better known and best organized efforts, all came near these "Shining Mountains." None entered or knew their character.

The rise and growth of the fur trade and the formation of the great companies has no real place in the history of Glacier National Park except incidentally as events and policies affected the explorations and efforts to penetrate the area commercially. For convenience in treatment, the early history can be divided into three movements, two major and one, the first, minor. The first minor thrust westward toward the Glacier region was that of the French fur traders. Out of this grew the English fur trade, first the Hudson's Bay Company as a competing movement, then the Scotch-English successors of the French, exemplified by the Northwest Company, and finally the new Hudson's Bay Company, formed of the merger of all these efforts. The other major movement was the latest, that of the American fur traders. Stimulated by the discoveries of Lewis and Clark, the St. Louis traders, the Missouri River Fur Company, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and the American Fur Company, as well as transient "opposition" companies followed in rapid succession. The latter need not be considered in detail.

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