The Mountain Men


The colonization of the area where I live started with the fur trade in the mid-1820s to early-1840s. By the early 1800s the fur trade had long been an important political tool in the colonization process. Prior to the 1820s, fur companies traded with Native Americans. The standard practice was to cheat the Native Americans and trade alcohol for pelts. When a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol to Native Americans was passed, the trading companies started to hire Whites as trappers. The first Whites, known as "mountain men," who came to area worked as trapper and trader for the fur companies.

I live in Cache Valley, which is named after the trappers' practice of "caching" the pelts of the beavers they killed in the valley, along with other commodities, until they could be traded at the rendezvous, annual exchange events sponsored by the trade companies. Many of the trappers working this area were with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company based out of St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to Cache Valley, the area is called "Bridgerland" after Jim Bridger, one of the trappers who worked this area under, and later became part owner of, the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.

The fur trade was extremely profitable. For instance, John Jacob Astor of the American Fur Company is just behind John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt as the fourth wealthiest American of all time. However, by the early 1840s most of the beaver had been trapped nearly out of existence, and companies like the Rocky Mountain Fur Company closed down. But by this time the U.S. government's policy of Manifest Destiny allowed trappers like Bridger to become guides for settlers and the U.S. military as they spread White supremacy across North America.

The statue of the "mountain man" above stands in front of Utah State University's College of Natural Resources building. I think it's a fitting reminder of the exploitative legacy of capitalism, colonialism, White supremacy, patriarchy, and human supremacy that still pervades environmental and natural resource policy in the U.S.

Re: The Mountain Men

i dont think the person who made the statue or the people who placed it there intended it to mean all the things that you think it stands for but i like how you've twisted it to fit your own agenda

Anonymous, I want to know more

Anonymous, I want to know more about you and what prompted the backlash against this post. I am curious to know which part is most offensive so that we could have a conversation about that.