The Columbia River Trade Network

Alexander Ross, an American fur trader, provided this description of the Columbia River trade rendezvous in August 1811. He estimated that approximately 3,000 Indians had gathered in the area from all over the region to fish, trade, and socialize. Like Lewis and Clark, who called the ten-mile stretch of the Columbia River from The Dalles to Celilo Falls the “Great Mart of all this Country,” Ross referred to The Dalles-Celilo area as the “great emporium or mart of the Columbia.”

Trade was an important part of the Native economy of the Pacific Northwest prior to white settlement. A network of trade routes—sometimes referred to as the Columbia River trade network—connected major trading and resource procurement sites throughout the region. The most important of these sites was The Dalles-Celilo area, the largest trading center in the Northwest and perhaps in the whole of western North America.

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