Etienne Lucier (Lussier, Lewis) was a French fur trapper who worked for the three principal fur companies in Oregon. He first arrived after traveling overland in 1811 as part of the Pacific Fur Trading Company, and helping found Astoria. When PFTC was forced to sell out to North West Company in 1813 Etienne continued working as an independent fur trader, and later continued his advocation with Hudson’s Bay Company which took over the fur trade in Oregon after 1820. Etienne then retired from HBC in 1827 and first began farming on the east side of the Willamette, across from Ft. Vancouver.
Etienne’s settlement in “the Clearing” what is East Portland today (Union and E. Morrison) is then the first settlement in Portland before Sauvie Island is incorporated. Etienne reportedly became lonely living so far from other people and moved to French Prairie where there were plenty of travelers moving through the area trading with tribes and fur trapping. It highly likely that Etienne already was familiar with the Champoeg people which would help him make his claim. John McLoughlin chief Factor of HBC at Fort Vancouver influenced many fur trappers to settle down into farms and out of the fur trade business, to eliminate future competition.
His land was situated between Champoeg and St. Paul at the bend of the river. In 1851 he was able to get over 627 acres under the Donation land claim act. He died in 1853 but his family was able to keep the land together for some time afterward.
Etienne married twice the first marriage to Josephte Nouite, a native woman from Vancouver Island (Josette Nouette, Kwakwakawakw village of Nahwitti at Cape Sutil, in Jette 2015: 48), with which he had six children and who died in 1840, and a second marriage to Marie Margarette Chinook, a Lower Chinook woman from the area of Astoria, who lived until 1863. They had at least two children, two boys, named Pierre and Etienne Stephen.
Etienne was one of three men who arrived with the Pacific Fur traders and remained prominent in Oregon politics of the fur trade, helped write the Oregon Organic acts, and aided in the exploration and settlement of Oregon. Etienne was a rare French-Canadian who sided with the American settlers in requesting the United States make the area an official territory of the country.
Etienne Lucier’s sons, from Marie Margarite remained off of a reservation. They are listed as part of the rolls of the Lower Chinook peoples in the early 20th century, but there their native heritage history ends in public records (McChesney rolls). Those people who had enough wealth from their parents and grandparent’s settlements were not forced to go to reservations despite the fact that they were half-blooded natives. There were many such people in French Prairie whose wealth and marriage status shielded them from removal. Most of the Lower Chinookans do not appear to be removed anyway from their lands. They signed the 1851 treaties, but the treaties were never ratified and no other attempt was made to sign a treaty with them. Some of these people removed with their cousins to Quinault in later years, a few people became orphaned and placed on reservations, like at Grand Ronde, but the vast majority of Lower Chinookans appear to have remained as members of the Lower Columbia communities.
Etienne is also credited with founding the name for Pudding River. He and Gervais another fur trapper killed an elk on the river and made blood pudding from its blood. His grandson G.J. Lucier noted that the original Kalapuyan name for the Pudding River was Hons-u-cha-chac (ODJ April 26,1921 pg 6; also in McArthur, Oregon Geographic Placenames). The Kalapuyan name for the tribe in French Prairie is Ahantchuyuk which is a closely related word to the river name.
Etienne’s land-claim created a still noticeable outline in the road and field system in French Prairie today.
Ethnohistory Research, LLC | David G. Lewis, PhD
PhD Anthropology (UO 2009) and Native history researcher. Member of the Grand Ronde Tribe, Takelma, Chinook, Molalla, and Santiam Kalapuya ancestry. Owner of Ethnohistory Research LCC, professional consultant and project researcher.
I teach at local universities and colleges and take contracts with tribes, local governments and nonprofits. I have experience in archival organization, museum development, exhibit curation, traditional cultural property nomination, tribal ethnohistoric research, tribal maps, traditional ecological knowledge, and presentations to large and small gatherings. Contact me for consultation about any of these projects.