VANCOUVER, Wash. -- The 40-foot-wide earth-covered land bridge arching over
railroad tracks and Highway 14 will restore the connection between the
Columbia River and the fertile, temperate valley in which the Hudson's Bay
Company established its Northwest headquarters.
Architect Maya Lin, who first gained prominence for her Vietnam Memorial
wall, is participating in the Confluence Project and said of the Fort
Vancouver site: "I hope to mark, as in the other sites, the historic
importance of this place to the Native Americans -- why this place is a
rich part of the culture and making this site much more about the
indigenous and Native terrain than it is now ... pointing up the
reconnection of people to the river and what that meant -- and means."
Once across the land bridge, future tourists will find homes, paths and
fences in the reconstructed village, providing an indication of what life
was like. "We'll have interpretive panels and then enough structures to
show how houses were spaced on the landscape so that people will get a
three-dimensional impression," said National Park Service archaeologist
"Tribes from all around the region -- not only the Chinook but also the
Klickitat, Cowlitz, and tribes from northern California -- came via the
trade routes up through the Deschutes, The Dalles and down into the
Vancouver basin," said Wilson, who is stationed at Fort Vancouver adjacent
to the former Hudson's Bay Company site. "They would come in trade for fish
and probably other materials as well as to dig wapato [Indian potato]."
Wilson said the area that accommodated Fort Vancouver and HBC was also
known as Kannaka Village by white settlers during the 1850s because of the
number of Hawaiians that were brought over to work in the company's
agricultural fields and lumber business.
"In a lot of circumstances, especially in the Pacific Northwest, the tribes
were pretty wealthy and thus there wasn't as much necessity to work,"
Wilson said. "Because there were benefits for marrying into the company,
some of the more elite women did that; but when it came to finding
laborers, HBC found they had to look to Hawaii." Wilson explained that HBC
didn't want to hire only a single group of people with shared ethnicity or
family ties because they could interfere with management decisions.
That said, the HBC site reflects an early multi-cultural mix of tribal,
Hawaiian and French Canadian people. "The land bridge will be a link into
that past," said Wilson. "The heart of a multi-cultural community with
representatives from the Northwest tribes; native Hawaiians; Iroquois that
were brought out as boatmen, Crees, and French trappers. There was just an
amazing diversity of people at the site which was the largest
European-style village of the time between Sitka and San Francisco."
Wilson explained that because the Columbia River was historically the most
important corridor of travel and everyone came to Fort Vancouver and HBC by
river, the land bridge plans are an important reflection of this period of
"The cool thing is that this land bridge is going to provide a way to tell
the story of what it was like when the Hudson's Bay Company post and this
incredible village that was attached to it was here," said Wilson.