Relive the David Thompson brigade this weekend in Rossland

Relive David Thompson's journey of 1811 down the Columbia, with a film documenting the reenactment of that journey this weekend in Rossland.

  • Tue Feb 21st, 2012 7:00am
  • News

Team Pathfinder

This weekend will be a chance to relive a trip taken 200 years ago by voyagers and explorers. In 1811, the David Thompson brigade set off down the Columbia river. They began their journey near Invermere with the goal of making it to Astoria, Ore. and trading with the locals along the way. The trip took 45 days and spoke of the spirit of adventurism in those days.

Last year a group of about 200 people took part in a reenactment of the trip.

“This was basically a brigade – a collection of canoes that was set up to commemorate the arrival of David Thompson at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811,” explained Jan Micklethwaite, who was part of the brigade.

During the course of the 45 day trip, an accompanying filmmaker took footage and the resulting documentary will be shown this weekend at the Miners’ Hall.

The canoes followed Thompson’s original route, starting at the headwaters of the Columbia in Canal Flats, near Invermere , and following the Kootenay River south. They crossed the border into the U.S. just south of Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.

“The customs officials were kind enough to come down to the river and meet us and we had a little border crossing ceremony there, then we carried on and finally arrived at Libby, Montana, where they had to portage down to Thompson Falls where they joined the Clark Fork River. From there they made there way t Lake Pend Oreille and down the Pend Oreille River. At the closest point to the Columbia River, they portaged around Kettle Falls, Wash.

“That’s actually where David Thompson joined it too, although he had gone to Spokane House and joined the Columbia down there,” she said. “But he realized that Kettle Falls was an aboriginal meeting place and people for hundreds of years had come there to trade and meet other groups.”

The original purpose of David Thompson’s trip in 1811 was to trade goods, the exploration and discovery just came along with the trip.

Micklethwaite said the group was amazed by the way they were welcomed at the communities, most of which celebrated David Thompson.

“Especially in Montana and Idaho, people really knew a lot about David Thompson, there were a lot of people who showed up to meet us wearing the dress of the time, with buck skins and muskets,” she said, adding that there are some individuals still lived the hunting and trapping lifestyle even now.

They set up the journey so as to arrive in Astoria, Ore. exactly 200 years after the David Thompson’s original brigade.

The brigade was made up of 10 canoes. Micklethwaite was a part of the six person Rossland canoe core group, though there were about 20 from Rossland who took part at various stages.

The members of the group that weren’t on paddling duty would help by driving ahead to the next destination to set up camp.

At one point, one of the canoes was even stolen, but luckily they were able to catch up and talk the would-be thieves into returning it.

The presentation at the Miners’ Hall takes place this Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. The film on the brigade is part of a historical double feature and will be followed by a documentary about the man himself, in Shadows of David Thompson.

Cost is $10 at the door.