Fort Union Trading Post was the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri from 1828 to 1867. At this post, the Assiniboine, Crow, Cree, Ojibway, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, and other tribes traded buffalo robes and other furs for trade goods such as beads, guns, blankets, knives, cookware, and cloth.
Today, the reconstructed Fort Union represents a unique era in American history, a brief period when two radically different civilizations found common ground and mutual benefit through commercial exchange and cultural acceptance.
“The Euro-Americans, Indians, and mixed-bloods who lived and traded at Fort Union were participants in a social experiment that expressed what today we would call multiculturalism. What they demonstrated was the possibility that people with radically different ethnic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds could live and work together and merge their cultures in meaningful ways. …It went to pieces because the citizens of the United States and their government were devoted to a unitary culture that refused to accommodate the range of differences visible every day at Fort Union. If a useful civics lesson can be drawn from the post’s history, it may be that people need not necessarily embrace or fully understand someone else’s culture in order to construct common ground or admit humanity with their neighbors.”
-Barton Barbour; Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade, 2001