Multimedia Presentations

Open Transcript


It involves the changing of America, if you will because, this did change America. It's a point of tension. It's a point of change. It's protected as this little time pocket. That's the melting pot. That's where you're really melting everybody together and trying to see what you can come up with. [BIRDS CHIRPING] My Indian name is Zaa-sha-shee-dish. My grandfathers were here. There's family ties for me that were actually standing on the site at one time. Straight now, a direct descendant. My family and people have lived on this land here forever. Our people came across the Great Prairie and looked upon the Missouri River and said, This is our home. Before the coming of the white man, there was definitely a trade system all over America from coast to coast from North to South. The tribes had centuries of experience. There were far more numerous than the mountain men, so they could bring in the supply that the fur company needed. A beaver hat was all the rage of Europe and the United States. A pound of beaver was bringing over $5. That's tremendous money. It didn't take very long for the traders to realize we will buy the furs from you. The American fur trade came in under the names of Fort Vermilion. Then you would have had Fort Lookout, Fort Pierre, Fort Clark, Fort Berthold, Fort Union. All these different names that came in here and established Forts. So if I'm going to build a whole Fort to trade, I have to have something that you want because otherwise, we're not trading. [MUSIC PLAYING] The Indians we're ready to take the trade goods of Europe. You saw all these things you never saw before mirrors, and knives, and beads. What one offered the other one needed what the other one offered the other one needed. And it happened in peace. The fur trade starts at Fort Union 1828. Two major rivers come together at this location. Supplies of furs could be shipped down the rivers. Fort Union was sending 25,000 hives a year down the Missouri. That's a lot of hives from one part of the West. These Men are good at what they do. They get every single beaver. There's just not the first. Well, that sculpted a buffalo. We learned how to use the gun. More buffalo could be downed at a time. They wanted the muskets. The alternative was trying to chase down these animals that they had shot with an arrow. They all had interdependent needs, benefits, and things to offer. They were building this incredible cross-cultural society. These fur traders who first go up Those immediate immigrants they said, "Oh, you know what? We know somebody is connected to the fur trade go to America." When the European came, they intermarried with tribes. There's a whole new race of people called Métis M-E-T-I-S. My dad spoke basically French. My mom, on the other hand, was Greek, and they get in arguments about, "Are you saying something." They had become close to these people. Yet offered great hope. Fort Union, it was a bittersweet relationship. It had also its share of a lot of negatives. We had smallpox that the traders brought in. The diseases spread through the trade networks decimated many, many thousands of people. It was all about cash. It was all about making a profit. The community began to become more individualized. People selling their own cloth trade items. Our culture changed immensely in those few years. Seems like a long time, but it's not. We weren't ready for what we're about to face. Where did Fort Union go? Where did all of that go? The buffalo populations diminished. The Minnesota uprising brings the military in force into the Northern plains. The gold rush, the railroad is coming. The pioneers aren't stopping. You were dealing with an encroachment into the area. You cannot stay in business. The Fort was no longer a viable commerce. The materials from the original Fort were actually taken. It was just field until you find something. I was here on an archaeological crew in 1968. When archaeologists began digging for the remains of the Fort Union trading post, state and local groups began digging for money. It is this foundation uncovered by archaeologists this summer that will act as the foundation. Many people wanted to reconstruct Fort Union. The reconstruction that exist here today is the key post on the Upper Missouri. [MUSIC PLAYING] It's a story that should not be forgotten in American history. They could build this culture where there was mutual respect. [MUSIC PLAYING] Our ancestors dealt here. They helped build it. We have to have some pride in it. Because this is a place like this that should get people excited about their history. [MUSIC PLAYING] You said, and you feel this place. You feel the spirits that are here. You feel that fur trade, and you can feel it here. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
8 minutes, 42 seconds

Fort Union Trading Post was an epicenter for trade between tribes and European fur traders. Located at the confluence of the Yellowstone and the Upper Missouri river, the fort served as the premier trading post for beaver pelts and buffalo robes.

Where Hides and Beads Changed Hands


The Act of Trade Navigation


People of Fort Union Navigation


Living History Navigation


Museum and Archeology of Fort Union Navigation


Last updated: February 24, 2021

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

15550 Highway 1804
Williston , ND 58801


701 572-9083

Contact Us

Stay Connected