Sinixt - History - Fur Trade, Missionaries, and Border Dispute

Fur Trade, Missionaries, and Border Dispute

The Sinixt and their allies had a very close relationship with the Hudson's Bay Company. They wintered near the major trading post at Colville for the first time in 1830-31, led by the Lower Sinixt chief See-Whel-Ken (died 1840). The Sinixt supported the company in its efforts to prevent American trappers and settlers from entering and taking over the territory. As fur traders, the Sinixt were among the most prolific of all the First Nations who traded at Fort Colville.

In 1837, Jesuit missionaries arrived in the area. St. Paul's Mission at Kettle Falls was constructed with the help of Colville and Sinixt labor. According to Reyes, it was in the 1840s that the Sinixt experienced a major die-off, shrinking from about 3,000 to about 400 during the period of chief Kin-Ka-Nawha, nephew of See-Whel-Ken. In addition to suffering diseases and incursions on their land, they found the salmon runs began to diminish because of the development of commercial fisheries at Astoria, Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia River. Some saw the die-off as a failure of the powers of their traditional religion; Kin-Ka-Nawha was among the eventual converts to Catholicism.

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