The Fur Trade
By Jeff Waugh
Competition between the Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company increased as the H.B.C. pushed further and further into the trading territory previously held by the Northwest Company. In February of 1819 John Clarke, of the H.B.C.’s St. Mary’s post on the Smoky-Peace River confluence, chose Jose Gaubin to lead an expedition with a band of Iroquois to cross the mountains into New Caledonia to see if the natives could be induced to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company. In December of 1819, Ignace Giasson began another H.B.C. push up the Smoky. Colin Robertson (after whom Mt. Rob…son is possibly named) man-in-charge of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s operations in the area, prepared written instructions specifying that the group be accompanied by the yellow-haired Iroquois guide: Pierre Hastination or Tete Jaune as he came to be called. The group was to ascend to the Grand Forks of the Smoky where they were to meet another group of Iroquois, wait until Spring, and then cross the mountains (via Robson Pass) to make friends with the Shuswap Indians of the upper reaches of the Fraser. On June 10, 1820, James McDougal recorded in the Northwest Company’s journal at Ft. St. James that he had heard “a report of there being at the Forks of Fraser’s River one of the H.B.’s Co’s clerks and three men”.
Due to the inability of the Northwest Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company to withstand intense competition they amalgamated under the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company. George Simpson took over from Colin Robertson as man-in-charge of the area.
Since the time Tete Jaune had guided for the Hudson’s Bay Company, he had been hunting and trapping in the area between the Smoky River Post, Jasper and Fort George and had established a fur cache on the Grand Fork of the Fraser (somewhere in the vicinity of the present day viewpoint).
By 1822 Simpson had been appointed Governor of the Northern Department. As he had reports that the area “between the headwaters of the Smoky and those of Canoe and Fraser’s Rivers… abounds with beaver” he suggested the building of a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Tete Jaune’s cache. J. La Roque, with a reputation of being a good quality trader, was dispatched by Simpson to establish this outpost on the Grand Fork of the Fraser. However, after considering organizational and transportation problems, Simpson decided against his own idea and set out with his expert Iroquois canoe men to overtake La Roque. Simpson decided to discontinue fur trading i the Jasper area and transferred La Roque to eastern Canada.
Later, however, Simpson was to change his mind once more, and in 1825 he sent James MacMillan guided by Tete Jaune to survey the Yellowhead Pass area. One year later he ordered the “requisition of 500 Dressed Moose and Deer Hides be provided and forwarded by the Saskatchewan District to Tete Jaune Cache on or before the close of September proxo”. This was the first written message of Tete Jaune Cache.
“Arrived at Tete Jaune Cache, after encountering very hard travel. Three men were nearly exhausted, and one of them died of a vile disease. Tete Jaune Cache is a place where one Iroquois Indian half breed who was fair-haired, had made a fur cache, or a place to store his catch of furs and was known as Tete Jaune or Yellowhead. It is near the meeting of the Grand River – which flows from the base of Mt. Robinson – and the Fraser River” – George McDougal, April 25, 1827
Tete Jaune continued trapping and trading in the area and by 1827 had relocated his cache from the Grand Fork of the Fraser to the vicinity of the Shuswap salmon fishing camp on the Fraser River where the town of Tete Jaune Cache stands today. The relocation was made to facilitate trading with Fort George. Unfortunately, Tete Jaune was not allowed to continue trapping. Sometime in 1828, near the headwaters of the Smoky River, he, his brother, their wives and children were murdered by the Beaver Indians for revenge on the Iroquois for their earlier encroachment into the Beaver’s hunting territory.
Eventually, a pack trail was established through Tete Jaune’s Pass. The leather passed through until 1830, when due to undescribed difficulties with passage through the pass, Simpson ordered the leather to be transported through the Peace River Country, and the Leather Pass fell into disuse.