The Nebraska Fur Trade

During the seventeenth century, Native Americans in Nebraska were starting to trade for European goods, such as glass beads and metal items. One of the first trading establishments in Nebraska was Fort Charles, built in northeastern Nebraska in 1795 by James Mackay as a headquarters for trade with the Omaha tribe. Although the search for the archaeological remains of that post shown on an 1830s map continues, it may have been destroyed by the Missouri River.

Fontenelle’s Trading Post in Sarpy County in eastern Nebraska was excavated by History Nebraska in the 1970s. Named for Lucien Fontenelle, one of its proprietors, the post probably was established in 1822 and continued as a fur trading post until 1832 when it became an Indian agency for the Omaha, Pawnee, Oto, and Missouria tribes until about 1839.

Excavations verified the identity of the post, yielded information on the life of its inhabitants, and provided interpretive material for Fontenelle Forest. Excavations yielded evidence of living quarters, probable warehouses, a blacksmith shop, and a refuse dump. Structural information corresponded favorably with a painting of the post made in 1833 by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer.

The Bordeaux Trading Post on Bordeaux Creek in Dawes County in northwestern Nebraska operated from the 1830s to the 1870s. It was excavated in the 1950s by the Museum of the Fur Trade with technical assistance from the History Nebraska. The log trading house and a log storehouse were excavated and that reconstructed at the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron.

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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