Fort Union Trading Post was the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri from 1828 to 1867. At this post, the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and other tribes traded buffalo robes and other furs for trade goods such as beads, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, and cloth.
Fort Union Trading Post was established in 1828 by the American Fur Campany. It was not a government or military post, but a business, established for the specific purpose of doing business with the northern plains tribes. This trade business continued until 1867 making it the longest lasting American fur trading post.
The fort had visits from various people who became well known during the fur trade period. Names like, George Catlin, Karl Bodmer, John James Audubon and prince Maximilian. Tribal leaders came from many of the nations that traded here at Fort Union as well. A variety of jobs by skilled workers made up many of the duties done at here.
The jointing of the two rivers, the Yellowstone and Missouri was a place that many came to see, from the tribes in the area to Lewis and Clark and then until the military came the confluence continued to see its share of visitors. Also during the stay of prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer in the 1830s the location of what is now commonly known as Bodmers overlook where Karl Bodmer painted Fort Union became a place to see where the artist did his rendition of Fort Union during its historical period.
Upper Missouri Fur Trade
The fur trade on the Upper Missouri for the American Fur Company began in 1828 with the building of Fort Union Trading Post. The trade lasted until 1867, making Fort Union the longest running American fur trading company in history.
The river was a main source of travel for the fur traders. Keelboats were a source of travel until 1832 when the first steamboat, the Yellowstone landed at here. Mackinaw boats were another form of travel made by the workers of the fort, bull boats were constructed by the tribes which were made out of a green buffalo hide and willow.
Native American ties to the fur trade
The history of the tribes to the area goes back a long ways. Evidence to this is even displayed just north of Fort Union at an area called, writing rock. Their story is one that can not be told in a day but could learned over time. At least 10 Upper Missouri tribes came to Fort Union to trade with the primary trading partner being the Assiniboine.
The people who came to Fort Union had a variety of backgrounds and reasons to visit over its history.
Artists, naturalists and adventurers are pretty common people when thinking about who came to Fort Union. Names like George Catlin, Prince Maximilian of Wied, Karl Bodmer and John James Audubon. All coming to see and study the west and Upper Missouri frontier.
The work force at Fort Union was divided in various stages, managers or bourgeois ran the fort, employed the workers, did the trading and recieved a cut in the profits. The names associated with management are Kenneth MacKenize, Alexander Culbertson, Edward Denig, James Kipp and Charles Larpenteur. Clerks assisted the bourgeois helping with counting the goods coming in and going out as well as doing the trading when the bourgeois needed him. There were hunters, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, language interpreters, tailors and engages who did the labor work.
A number of tribes came to Fort Union to trade and establish ties to the area. The fort was built on the request of the Assiniboin but traded with up to 10 different Upper Missouri Northern Plains Tribes.
The history of the tribes to the area goes back a long ways. Evidence to this is even displayed just north of Fort Union at an area called, writing rock.
The weather on the Northern Plains can change very rapidly, please be aware of current weather before coming out to the site. Summer days can be very hot so plan on bringing plenty of water and sun screen if you need it, there is also water available at the visitor center.
Mosquitos are also a seasonal problem, They are very active from mid-June to early August. Be sure and bring bug repellent and protect yourself according.
Just off North Dakota State Highway 1804, 25 miles southwest of Williston ND and 24 miles northeast of Sidney MT. From Williston ND, Take US 2 West to 1804, turn left, follow 1804 past Fort Buford and 1.5 miles past Hwy 58 to the entrance.
Fort Union Trading Post is open daily year around with the visitors center located in the Bourgeois House. The trade house is open seasonally.
Fort Union Rendezvous June 16-19, 2011
Indian Arts Showcase August 6 & 7. 2011
Living History Weekend September 3-5, 2011