William O. Douglas Betty Bowen Carl Maxey Chief Joseph Bertha Landes Buffalo Soldier Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Book Store Donate Now
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6872 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

David Thompson records first written description of the Methow Indians and landscape along the Columbia between Nespelem Canyon and the mouth of the Wenatchee on July 6, 1811.

HistoryLink.org Essay 9008 : Printer-Friendly Format

On July 6, 1811, Canadian explorer David Thompson (1770-1857) records the first written description of the Methow Indians and the landscape along the Columbia River from Nespelem Canyon to the mouth of the Wenatchee River (present-day Ferry and Okanogan counties). Thompson embarked from Kettle Falls on July 3 on a historic voyage down the Columbia River to the Pacific. In addition to his work as a geographer, Thompson is the fur agent in charge of the Columbia Department of the North West Company of Canada. He is on a mission to determine whether the Columbia is navigable to the sea and whether it will provide a viable trade route for the fur company. Thompson is the first white man to descend the river and make contact with tribes between Kettle Falls and the mouth of the Snake River, where he intersects the route of Lewis and Clark from five years earlier. His crew includes French Canadian voyageurs Pierre Pareil and Joseph Cote, translator Michel Boulard, and free hunters Michel Bourdeaux and Francois Gregoire. Two Iroquois Indians called Charles and Ignace paddle at the bow and stern.

July 6: Nespelem Canyon to Wenatchee River

Thompson and his voyageurs spent the night of July 5 on the banks of the Columbia near the foot of the long series of rapids known as Nespelem Canyon, near a camp of friendly Nespelem Indians. "July 6th. Saturday. A cloudy rainy morning -- could not embark ‘till 6 1/2 Am. Our hosts found us early & notwithstanding the Rain smoked several Pipes" (Nisbet, MME, 106). The surveyor entrusted three large bags of roots to the custody of the Nespelem chief, then relaunched his canoe. As the river emerged from Nespelem Canyon and turned north, he noted the "high woody Mountains of the Oochenawga (Okanogan) River" ahead, but passed its mouth on the opposite side of the Columbia without stopping.

Around midmorning the Nor'Westers put ashore at an encampment of "Smeeth howes" (Methows) near the mouth of the Methow River in present-day Okanogan County.

"They came forward & sat down in a ring, & began smoking without any ceremony. The Women then advanced all ornamented with fillets & small feathers ... an old Man directed them to sit down all round the Men, on the outside with the Children. Thus placed they smoked with the Men, only the Women were permitted no more than a single Whiff of the Calumet, whilst the Men took from 3 to 6 Whiffs" (Nisbet, MME, 106).

The furmen accepted a gift of roasted salmon and serviceberries, "for the stranger must have a present made to him." Then a Sanpoil couple traveling with the Nor'Westers as interpreters explained Thompson’s plan to open a trade route to the sea and bring merchandise for trade, "which they thankfully received & wished us a good voyage." When Thompson inquired about the nature of the river ahead, the Methows assured him that it was "tolerable" as far downstream as the next tribe, which was as far as their knowledge extended.

When the furmen departed "these friendly people" at noon, the Methow chief and four men met them a short distance downstream at the Methow Rapids with horses to portage the cargo while the voyageurs ran down in the canoe. Thompson paid the men with several inches of tobacco for their trouble, then he and his paddlers beat into a stiff headwind as the Columbia traced a southerly course along the base of the Cascade foothills.

"We could have passed hours in viewing the wild scenery, but these romantic cliffs always indicated danger to us from the stream being contracted and forming whirlpools, very disagreeable companions on a River" (Thompson, Travels ii.242).

Here the party saw their first bighorn sheep of the voyage. One of the men went off in pursuit, but a following wind allowed the animal to escape. Two rattlesnakes that were slow to get out of the voyageurs’ path were not so lucky. They camped that evening "among high Rude lands" on the east bank of the river. 

Sources:
Barbara Belyea, Columbia Journals (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994); Jay Miller, "Middle Columbia River Salishans," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 12 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1998); Gary Moulton, The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Vol. 5 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001); Jack Nisbet, The Mapmaker’s Eye (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2005); Jack Nisbet, Sources of the River (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1994); Jack Nisbet interview with Gene Hunn, Seattle, July 1, 2004; David Thompson, Notebooks 26 & 27, F443, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; David Thompson, Travels, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. See also William D. Layman, “Hawkbells: David Thompson in North Central Washington,” Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History Vol. 5, No. 4 (Winter 1991), 12-19.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Exploration | Environment | Washington Rivers | Northwest Indians |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




Map of Methow River near mouth of Okanogan River, 1881
Map by Thomas Symons, Courtesy Report of an Examination of the Upper Columbia River (1882)


Bighorn sheep, 1829
Etching by John Richardson, Courtesy Fauna Boreali-Americana (London: John Murray, 1829)


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org