A little more history on Douglas the fur trader

UVic professor weighs in on history aspect of Douglas

Re: Wrong Douglas attributed to fir tree (Letters, July 27)

This letter writer bets that naturalist David Douglas “spent far more time in the bush in these parts than did politician James Douglas.”

Maybe, but it is difficult to say. David Douglas travelled west of the Rockies between 1824 and 1827 and again from 1830 to 1833. He died in Hawaii at the age of 35 in 1834.

Fur trader James Douglas, described in an early employment record as a “Scotch West Indian” because of his Creole mother, not only lived much longer, he spent nearly his whole adult life in “these parts.”

He was 16 when he joined the Northwest Company in 1819, and from 1826 to his death at the age of 74 in 1877 he lived west of the Rockies with his Cree wife and family at such HBC posts as Fort St. James, Fort Vancouver and Fort Victoria. He  crossed the Rockies with fur brigades seven times.

Nor does it seem accurate to describe James Douglas as a “politician.” Although he did serve a short term as an elected county court judge in Oregon, his position as chief HBC official on the coast was with a chartered company, and he was appointed, not elected, governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

An autocrat who was used to giving orders, he was, to say the least, skeptical about democracy and democratic politics.

Hamar Foster

Victoria

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