North West Company, an early Canadian fur-trading partnership. Its members explored much of the Canadian and United States Northwest. In 1778 Peter Pond reached Lake Athabasca. Alexander Mackenzie followed the Mackenzie River to its mouth in 1789 and in 1793 reached the Pacific Coast. Simon Fraser established posts along the river that now bears his name. David Thompson explored the Columbia in 1811.
The company is usually dated from an agreement in 1783, but it absorbed similar groups formed before and after that date. Its operations centered at Grand Portage on Lake Superior and after 1805 at Fort William.
During the War of 1812 the company took over John Jacob Astor's post of Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River. The Earl of Selkirk, heading the Hudson's Bay Company, established the Red River Settlement as a direct challenge to North West Company expansion. In the "Pemmican War" that followed, Robert Semple and 20 colonists were killed in the Seven Oaks Massacre, 1816, and Selkirk took Fort William. In 1821 the North West Company was absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company.