Kamloops is probably the only location in Canada that was established by American interests.
How this happened is an important part of the history of the Canadian West and emphasizes Kamloops' importance in the development of B.C.
Near this location in 1812, two forts — one American and one British — competed for the fur trade in Secwepemc territory.
The Secwepemc (Shuswap) people of Tk'emlúps had a large village across the river from the forts. The American-backed Pacific Fur Company post was built in the fall of 1812. Shortly after, Joseph Laroque of the North West Company built a fort "alongside" the Astorian post. The fur trade with the Secwepemc and other First Nations was lucrative.
When the War of 1812 broke out in the east, the Americans and British in the West were potentially at war. But news travelled slowly and before it reached the Pacific Fur Company headquarters in Astoria in present-day Oregon, the two companies had made a pact. The Pacific Fur Company would sell its possessions, including Fort Kamloops, to the North West Company.
In 1813, Laroque joined John George McTavish in his descent of the Columbia River and takeover of Fort Astoria from the Pacific Fur Company.
Accordingly, in the fall of 1813, the American outpost at Kamloops was turned over to the British; the Star-Spangled Banner was lowered and the British flag raised.
When the war ended in 1814, the peace treaty stipulated that all captured lands and possessions be returned.
However, Pacific Fur Company founder John Jacob Astor had given up on the fur trade. After another treaty in 1818, British and American trade in the disputed region known as Oregon Country was permitted under "joint occupancy."
Yet the North West Company dominated the trade until the Hudson's Bay Company took over the NWC in 1821.
The HBC domain incorporated the entire Oregon Country — now B.C., Washington and Oregon — and small segments of Idaho and Montana. Eventually, American settlers ventured west along the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. This settlement resulted in negotiations between the American and British governments over how the Oregon Country should be divided.
Finally, in 1846, the boundary was fixed along the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Coast. Kamloops was firmly in British territory.
The fur trade gradually dwindled and, by the 1860s, settler populations invaded B.C. and what was once the sole territory of the Secwepemc and other First Nations.
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Ken Favrholdt is executive director/curator of the Osoyoos & District Museum and Archives and co-ordinator of the travelling exhibit The War of 1812 in the West: The Oregon Country Legacy, on display at the Kamloops Museum and Archives.
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WHAT: The War of 1812 in the West, The Oregon Country Legacy — a temporary museum exhibit on loan from Osoyoos Museum and Archives
WHERE: Kamloops Museum and Archives, 207 Seymour St.
WHEN: Until Jan. 4, 2014. Museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
ADMISSION: $3/adults, $1/children
DETAILS: For many, the War of 1812 happened in Eastern Canada, far away from present-day B.C. While no battles were fought here, the war had great impact on the settlement of Western Canada and the eventual location of the international boundary.
In 1812, two trading posts competed for the local fur trade in Kamloops. One was owned by the American-owned Pacific Fur Company, the other by the Northwest Company of Montreal. As a result of the war, the Americans decided to sell their trading post in 1813, ending their presence in the Canadian west.
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CEREMONY MARKS HISTORIC HANDOVER
Kamloops Museum and Archives holds a public event in Riverside Park (near the flagpole) on Thursday, Oct. 17, commemorating the handover of the Pacific Fur Company Fort to the 'Norwesters' of Montreal. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Flags will be raised and lowered, a new historical plaque will be unveiled and period music played. Deputy Mayor Nelly Dever, MP Cathy McLeod and other officials will be present.
The museum is also hosting a free reception and lecture from 5 to 7 p.m. featuring historian Ken Favrholdt. The event is by donation.
For more information, call the museum at 250-828-3576 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.