New OPB Documentary Explores the History of Fort Vancouver

Reconstructed Fort Vancouver and garden

NPS Photo by Junelle Lawry

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News Release Date: May 11, 2018

Contact: Lauren Elkanich, Public Relations Manager, OPB, (503) 977-7751

We are so pleased that Oregon Public Broadcasting is telling the story of Fort Vancouver in an upcoming episode of Oregon Experience. The stories of this national park are many and varied. We are looking forward to this opportunity to share this unique place with new audiences.

You are invited to attend a public screening of "Fort Vancouver" at Kiggins Theater next Wednesday, May 16, at 7pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

- Tracy Fortmann, Superintendent, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

OPB has premiered a new documentary “Fort Vancouver,” which explores the rich history of the national historic site in Washington state and its role in shaping the culture of the Pacific Northwest.
This half-hour Oregon Experience documentary is available to watch online now at, and it airs on OPB TV Monday, May 21 at 9 p.m.
In the early 1800s, Fort Vancouver served as the Western headquarters for the British trading enterprise Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and was home to a unique, multicultural community.
More than just a business, the HBC was an extension of British government, established by royal charter. Its reach included great swaths of North America with employees trapping and trading their way from Hudson’s Bay in Eastern Canada to the Pacific.
The HBC had a unique approach to interacting with others, treating people largely as potential customers. Employees were encouraged to intermarry with native people, and as a result, the village they inhabited that emerged outside the walls of Fort Vancouver was incredibly diverse. More than 30 native tribes were represented in its population, as well as mixed-race Metis people, British, Scottish, French, Irish, Orkney Islanders, Hawaiians and more.
Springing out of this multicultural environment was a language—a jargon—based on the Chinookan native tongue. Called Chinuk Wawa, everyone at Fort Vancouver spoke it and it spread throughout the Pacific Northwest.
American immigrants on the Oregon Trail started arriving at Fort Vancouver in large numbers. The director or chief factor of the Fort, John McLoughlin, was told to discourage American settlement in the area. A sympathetic man, he offered the thousands of beleaguered newcomers credit for goods upon their arrival. In doing so, he incurred the wrath of his superiors and was ultimately forced out of his position.
In 1846, Great Britain ceded control of the region to the United States, marking the beginning of the end of Fort Vancouver. After a difficult period of coexisting with the U.S. Army, the Fort was abandoned by the Hudson’s Bay Company and mysteriously burned to the ground in 1866.
Today, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is run by the National Park Service, which began excavating and reconstructing the Fort in 1947. Each year, more than a million visitors walk through the palisades gates.
OPB’s “Fort Vancouver” uncovers the Fort’s rich multicultural history and and the changes that it brought to the Northwest. It features interviews with:
  • Tracy Fortmann, National Park Service superintendent, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • Doug Wilson, archaeologist, National Park Service Pacific West Region
  • Bob Cromwell, National Park Service chief of interpretation, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
  • Mike Iyall, member, tribal council, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Tanna Engdahl, spiritual leader, Cowlitz Indian Tribe
  • Tony Johnson, chairman, Chinook Indian Nation
  • Dave Harrelson, Cultural Resources Department manager, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde
  • Cheryl Kennedy, chairperson, Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde
  • Amy Kapuanani Antonio-Claussen, Ke Kekui Foundation
The community is invited to attend a public screening event for “Fort Vancouver” at the Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver on Wednesday, May 16 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). The event is free and open to the public and will include a Q&A with Producer Beth Harrington and national park staff. All ages are welcome.
“Fort Vancouver” is available to watch online now at and it airs on OPB TV Monday, May 21 at 9 p.m. The program is written and produced by Beth Harrington and edited by Dan Evans. For more information about “Fort Vancouver,” along with images, visit

About Oregon Experience
Oregon Experience is an OPB original television series that brings to life stories that help us understand this place where we live and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. Co-produced with the Oregon Historical Society, the series draws upon the Society’s skilled researchers and extensive photography and moving-image archives. The program also incorporates OPB’s own film and video resources and the expertise of some of Oregon’s finest historians. Each episode features captivating characters – both familiar and forgotten – who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. This program is supported in part by The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation, Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer, The Clark Foundation, The Holzman Foundation, and The Roundhouse Foundation.
About OPB
OPB is a nationally recognized leader in public media, providing news, information and
entertainment to the Northwest. With award-winning journalists and original series, OPB illuminates the people, places and issues of the region and puts stories into context. OPB creates content and programming that can be accessed anywhere, at any time on OPB TV, OPB Radio, and on a variety of digital and social media platforms. For more information, visit


Last updated: May 11, 2018

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