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Lesson Four

The French in Michigan

UNIT THREE: THE HISTORY OF MICHIGAN

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The BIG Ideas


About 500 years ago explorers from the continent of Europe
were looking for trade routes to China.
Explorers from the country of France began exploring in the
Great Lakes region.

The French and American Indians interacted in many ways. For


example, they traded with each other, they sometimes married
each other, and they learned from each other.
Fur-trading between the French and the American Indians
grew.
The country of Britain became interested in the fur trade.

A River Ran Wild

Recall the arrival of the pale-skinned trader.

Although this book refers to events in another state, it similar to


events that happened in Michigan.
Similar traders appeared in Michigan; and as a result, American
Indian cultures experienced significant changes.
We will discuss who these traders were and where they came from.

Looking Back
Do you remember how you located things

you owned that came from other places as


a result of international trade.
Trade between countries is not a new

thing.
Over 500 year ago countries were trading

goods.

continent

one of the seven large land masses on the


Earth
Example: Europe and North America are
both continents.

Europe and China


Goods like silk and spices from
China had reached the countries of
Europe long ago.
China is a country on the continent
of Asia.

Europeans liked these goods very


much, but they were scarce in
Europe since China was so far away.
Therefore, some people in Europe
decided to try and go to China to get
more of these goods.

It was a long way from


Europe to China across
land.
Was there another way
people from Europe could
have gotten to China?
Some people decided that
since the Earth was round,
they could sail to China.
They could sail west
around the world and end
up in China.

explorer
someone who travels in order to discover
something

Example: Explorers from France came


into the region of the Great Lakes.

The first person to try this was the


explorer, Christopher Columbus.
S o o n e x p l o r e r s f r o m m a n y c o u n t r i e s i n E u r o p e d e c i d e d t o t r y

to reach China by sailing west.


L i k e C o l u m b u s , t h e s e e x p l o r e r s f o u n d s o m e t h i n g w a s i n t h e i r

w a y.
C a n y o u i d e n t i f y t h e b a r r i e r w a s i n t h e i r w a y.
T h e c o n t i n e n t s o f N o r t h a n d S o u t h A m e r i c a w e r e u n k n o w n t o

Europeans and the European explorers were trying to reach


China.

Instead of sailing to China, these explorers began to

explore North America.


Some eventually sailed all the way to the Great

Lakes. Following these explorers, came the paleskinned traders.

France
a country on the continent of Europe
Example: Explorers from France came to
the Great Lakes region

France
Explorers from France came up with an interesting
idea.
They thought it would be possible to travel from river
to river in North America, and in this way sail across it
and on to China.
They began to sail down St. Lawrence River.
They kept going farther and farther and eventually got
as far as the Great Lakes.

The French
The French never did find a water route across
North America, but they found something else,
that was very valuable.

What do you think was the valuable item French


explorers discovered in the Great Lakes region?

Beaver is a furbearing animal


with teeth that
can cut down
small trees.

Why would the


French believe
beaver to be so
valuable?

Fur clothing,
(especially beaver
hats), was very
popular in Europe at
this time.
Beavers had pretty
much been hunted to
extinction in Europe.
There were not enough
of them to make all the
hats people wanted.
What economic
concept does this refer
to?
Scarcity

beaver
a small animal whose fur was popular in
Europe for hats

Example: The French traded American


Indians for beaver furs.

scarcity
not enough natural resources

Example: There was a scarcity of beaver


furs in France.

The Fur Trade System


The fur trade system began between American Indians of the Great

Lakes region and the French.


Native Americans killed the beavers and other fur bearing animals.

They traded the furs to the French for guns, knives, cloth blankets,
cooking pots, and other goods. How did this system benefit both
sides? (both groups got goods they needed and wanted).
At first the French fur traders would go to Native American villages

to trade. Later the French built trading posts. The largest one was
located near the Straits of Mackinac. Why do you think the main
trading center was located there? (It was in the middle of the Great
Lakes system).

The Fur Trade


LETS PLACE IT ON THE TIMELINE!

THE FUR TRADE BEGAN


ABOUT 400 YEARS AGO.

French explorers were looking for a sailing route to China.


These explorers began to explore the Great Lakes region.
They did not find a route to China. However, they did find the
region was rich in fur-bearing animals.
A fur trade began between the Indians of the Great Lakes region
and the French.
The British also became interested in the fur trade.

voyageur
the people who moved the furs through the
Great Lakes region
Example: Voyageurs traveled by canoes.

Voyageurs
The voyageurs were the people, almost all men, who transported the furs
through the Great Lakes to Montreal, Canada where they were shipped to
France.
They used canoes to transport the furs. They learned this method of travel
from Native Americans.
They paddled up to 18 hours a day and then stopped along the shores each
night.
At times they had to portage. This meant they had to carry their canoes, furs,
and supplies over land because of rapids or a waterfall.
Their most common food was pemmican, a mixture of meat, grease, and
berries.
They sang songs as they paddled to make the time pass, and at night they
were known for telling tales filled with exaggeration.

Sometimes historical fiction can help


us gain a better picture of the past.

The Voyageurs Paddle


MAKE A PREDICTION
WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS BOOK WILL BE
ABOUT?

The Voyageurs Paddle


Who were the main characters of the book?
How had Maries people helped Edouard when he

first came to the area?


What challenges did the voyageurs face?
What was it like at the trading post?
How did they travel in the winter?
What was it that Jacques wanted to do?
Why do you think songs were such an important part
of voyageur life?
What happened at the end of the book?

Story Elements - The Voyageurs Paddle

Main Characters

Setting

What is the story


about?

What does this


story describe?
How does this
story help us
learn about the
past?

Story Elements - The Voyageurs Paddle

Main Characters

Setting

Edouard, the father who is a voyageur,


Jacques, the son
Marie, the mother who is an Ojibwe American Indian

The Great Lakes region during the time of the French fur trade

What is the story


about?

The book tells the story of a French voyageur and his family.

What does this story


describe?

What life was like for a voyageur and his family


What a trading post looked like
How voyageurs traveled and collected furs

How does this story


help us learn about
the past?

The story helps us understand what life was like for a


voyageur and his family during the times of the French fur
trade in the Great Lakes region.

When two different groups of people like the

American Indians and the French come together,


they can interact in different ways.
Can you identify different types of interaction that

were described in the book?

American Indians and French people married each other, they


traded with each other, and they shared ideas.

Trade Goods
The worth of all trade goods was based
on the value of beaver furs. Beaver furs became the currency., or money,
during the fur trade.
The Value of American Indian
Goods and Services

American Indian Goods:


1 sack of wild rice = 3 beaver furs
100 white fish = 6 beaver furs
15 pounds of bear grease = 4 beaver furs
American Indian Services:
For dressing 6 deerskins = 2 beaver furs
For lacing 4 pairs of snowshoes = 2 beaver
furs

The Value of French Goods


French Goods:
1 looking glass = 1 beaver fur
1 hatchet = 1 beaver fur
1 blanket = 3 beaver furs
1 cotton shirt = 3 beaver furs

Problems to Solve
An American Indian laced 8 pairs of snowshoes. How many beaver furs would
this be worth?
If an American Indian family wanted to trade for 1 looking glass, 1 blanket, and
1 cotton shirt. How many beaver furs would they need?
An American Indian brought a sack of wild rice and 100 white fish to the
trading post. How many beaver furs were his goods worth?
If an American Indian laced four pairs of snowshoes, would he be able to trade
for a blanket? Explain your answer.
If an American Indian brought in a sack of wild rice to trade could he trade for a
cotton shirt? Explain your answer

Problems to Solve
Answers
An American Indian laced 8 pairs of snowshoes. How many beaver furs would this be worth?
2 + 2 = 4 beaver furs
If an American Indian family wanted to trade for 1 looking glass, 1 blanket, and 1 cotton shirt. How
many beaver furs would they need?
1 + 3 + 3 = 7 beaver furs
An American Indian brought a sack of wild rice and 100 white fish to the trading post. How many
beaver furs were his goods worth?
3 + 6 = 9 beaver furs
If an American Indian laced four pairs of snowshoes, would he be able to trade for a blanket?
Explain your answer.
No, because lacing 4 pairs of snowshoes was only equal to 2 beaver furs.
If an American Indian brought in a sack of wild rice to trade could he trade for a cotton shirt?
Explain your answer
Yes, because a sack of rice was equal to 3 beaver furs and a cotton shirt was equal to 3 beaver furs.

missionary
someone who travels to a new place to
teach their religion to people
Example: Father Marquette was a
missionary and explorer.

Missionaries
Some other French people followed the explorers

and traders.
They were religious people called missionaries who

wanted to tell Native Americans about their God.


Father Marquette, a famous missionary, was also an

explorer.

He founded a mission at Sault Ste. Marie in 1668, which


became the first European settlement in Michigan. He moved
his mission to St. Ignace in 1671, which became the second
settlement.

Human/Environment Interaction

What were some ways


the French used the
environment of ?

What were some ways


the French adapted to
the environment of ?

What were some ways


the French changed
the environment of ?

Human/Environment Interaction
They used rivers and lakes for travel.

What were some ways


the French used the
environment of ?

They used trees for many different things including houses and canoes.
They used beaver furs for hats.

They learned to adapt to the four seasons of Michigan.

What were some ways


the French adapted to
the environment of ?

They built houses using the natural resources around them.


They learned how to use rivers and lakes as highways.
They cleared land to create forts and trading posts.

What were some ways


the French changed
the environment of ?

They cut down trees to make things like houses and canoes.
They were responsible for the removal of a large number of animals
especially beavers.

timeline

a diagram that shows the order in which


events happened
Example: You can make a timeline of
important events in your life.
1998

2000

2005

modifying the environment

when people change the environment to fit


them
Example: People in Michigan modified
the environment by cutting down trees to
clear land for farming.

American Indians

The first people to live on the land which


became the United States
Example: American Indians are also
known as Native Americans.

adapting to the natural environment

when people change to fit the environment


Example: People in Michigan wear warm
coats, hats, and mittens to fit the
environment in winter.

Britain
a country on the continent of Europe
Example: British people from Britain
became interested in the fur trade.

The French were exploring the Great Lakes region,


people from another country in Europe -- Britain -were exploring and claiming land along the Atlantic
coast.
T h e F re n c h a n d t h e B r i t i s h h a d b e e n l o n g t i m e

enemies.
T h e F re n c h a n d t h e B r i t i s h we re v e r y

competitive.
T h e B r i t i s h l e a r n e d t h a t t h e F re n c h we re

making a lot of money on the fur trade in the


G re a t L a k e s re g i o n .

What do you think will


happen next?

Teacher Resources
Visit the White Oak Society Website, which is filled

with information about the fur trade. It is located at


the following address: <www.whiteoak.org >.
Share information from the October 2004 Issue of

The Mitten, which was about the fur trade.


Share information from the Fall 2001 Issue of

Michigan History for Kids, which was about the


French in Michigan.

Map

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