"Negotiating Fort Nisqually: Reconfiguring the social and environmental landscapes of the South Salish Sea, 1833-1858"

Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The creation of Hudson Bay Company's Fort Nisqually and the shift toward a land-based fur trade strategy in the 1820s and 1830s significantly altered Salish Sea social dynamics, initiated considerable environmental transformation, and eventually shaped American settlement in the region. Hudson Bay Company (HBC) employees negotiated space, resources, and cohabitation with the Squalli-absch community of Sequalitchew. Close personal relationships developed at Fort Nisqually through trade, labor, and familial connections. The fort reorganized regional exchange networks, entwining knowledge, materials, and lifeways. These developments were also closely tied to environmental change across the Salish Sea through the introduction of agriculture and other extractive industries. The establishment of the first Euro-American settlement, however, was not a harmonious middle ground; it instead required continual renegotiation in an ever-evolving social landscape. Contested expressions of sovereignty and justice complicated negotiations and occasionally led violence, which also required mediation. Endemic disease and international geopolitics also destabilized the region. When the first American settlers arrived, they lacked shipping infrastructure and were thus dependent on the HBC and Indigenous residents for supplies. Americans were initially drawn into existing exchange networks but had little leverage. The newcomers aggressively stoked expansionist sentiments and petitioned US politicians for annexation. The creation of Washington Territory in 1853 drastically expanded US economic, political, and military infrastructure. During the ensuing onslaught of immigration, territorial officials and settlers disregarded existing agreements and networks. Initially, the relationships emanating from Fort Nisqually between HBC employees and Indigenous residents mutually reinforced each other's claims. Newcomers used economic coercion to marginalize non-Americans along with physical threats and violence attacks against Indigenous residents. Eventually the United States acquired Native title through the deceptive Medicine Creek Treaty and bought out the Hudson Bay Company claims. While the HBC left and violence continued against Indigenous communities, these networks endured and continued to shape the region.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: III, Joseph E. Taylor
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