The Intermediary

What happens when cultures clash, and one person tries to get them to live together?



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At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. A native Virginian on the run, Craig became a mountain man, married into the tribe, immersed himself in two cultures on a collision course. Craig’s story takes us from his flight from Virginia to his days as a mountain man – exploring and trapping for the Hudson’s Bay Company and celebrating at the fabled rendezvous. He married into the Nez Perce tribe and settled on the banks of the Clearwater River, but his travels didn’t stop. William Craig worked with government appointees, the military and the missionaries as well as major leaders of the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Cayuse, and other Inland Northwest tribes trying to find a way for them all to peacefully co-exist.

Craig understood that for the tribes to resist the westward movement of the whites was futile; he’d seen the harsh results of armed resistance that eastern tribes experienced and he tried to bring reason and common sense to both sides where fear, anger, and often greed prevailed. His efforts were not always welcomed and his journeys between the Clearwater country to The Dalles and the Willamette Valley we often taken at great risk. He continued in his efforts because to stop was to allow an even greater tragedy.

Told here for the first time, Craig’s story mixes bravery, cowardice, courage, deceit, intrigue – and timeless lessons about the challenges awaiting those who would be peacemakers.

Lin Tull Cannell was born in Coeur d’Alene, raised in the Northwest, and earned a degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco. She worked in the legal and library fields and as a senior analyst with Yolo County in California. She and her husband, Merk, and children, Scott, Sandi, and Casey, often explored America’s west. She has written on William Craig for the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Quarterly. Lin lives in Orofino, Idaho.

Cannell said that she is “a native wanting to learn how my little area of north central Idaho got to be how it is. This work is simply an honest effort to capture and share our history.”

She wrote that “I was born and bred in the interior Northwest, but it was not until I had spent almost 30 years working elsewhere and retired back to north central Idaho that I questioned that which I had always accepted. Returning to my childhood home with the “new eyes” of experience, I especially noticed—and puzzled over—the predominance of non-Indian residents (even towns occupied mostly by white people) on the Nez Perce reservation. Curiosity up, I read old treaties between the United States and the Nez Perce Indian tribe: those, and Francis Paul Prucha’s The Great Father, answered many of my questions about how non-Indians could now be living on Indian reservations.

“As I meandered through the hills and canyons around Orofino, I noticed the name “Craig” here and there on the Clearwater River watershed: the village of Craigmont on the Camas Prairie, Craig’s Ferry on a sign along the Clearwater River, and, in the Lapwai Valley, a Highway 195 marker declaring that William Craig, a former fur trapper and a “bluff, jolly good fellow,” had once lived there. But local libraries yielded little information about Craig. There was no Craig biography other than a magazine article by a local historian, and the usually verbose literature of the fur trade offered but scant paragraphs about him.”

His dramatic story turned out to be central to how the Inland Empire region of the Northwest developed.

Fifteen years in the making, the book was published by Ridenbaugh Press, of Carlton, Oregon, a publisher of books on Northwest public affairs and history.

* Paperback: 244 pages
* Publisher: Ridenbaugh Press
* ISBN-10: 0982466838
• ISBN-13: 978-0982466834

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