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Four group so people were involved in the fur trade: French, British, Métis, and First Nations.

I The French - The Early Fur Trade
A. 1500 – 1603
After N. Amer. discovered by Europeans, fishers came yearly from several countries to fish off east coast
and began trade with First Nations. In his journals of 1534 and 1535, Cartier records meetings with the
Mi’kmaq and Stadaconans. Europeans acquired fur pelts from First Nations, giving them items such as
knives, pots, and beads in return.
B. 1603 – 1670
- 1st settlement est. by Champlain in 1608; Montreal est. 1642; both were shipping centres (ships carried
goods in and furs out); economy of New France depended on the fur trade to survive.
- French depended on partnerships with First Nations, esp. the Huron (Ouendat) who were their
“middlemen” (brought the furs from the Great Lakes to Montreal and Quebec).
- Catholic missions est. to convert First Nations; also served to solidify trading partnerships.
- violent conflict resulted between the French and Haudenosaunee(supported by English); Hauds wiped
out Huron in 1649 to disrupt fur trade; a truce (peace) finally reached between Haud and French in
- coureurs-de-bois emerged to replace Huron middlemen; were skilled canoists and businessmen. Were
declared illegal.
- voyageurs were coureurs-de-bois who were given permits and therefore were legal (filled the same
role, bringing furs in canoes from the Great Lakes area).
- French forts built in Great Lakes region.
- more and more people trapping decreased beaver and small game supply, and trappers forced to move

II The Hudson Bay Company (1760 - )
A. Origins: 1677-1670
~ two coureurs-de-bois (Frenchmen), Radisson and Groseillers (known more easily as “Radishes and
Gooseberries”) bring 100+ canoes of furs to Montreal from Hudson Bay area; French authorities seize
furs and fine men for having no permit; so Rad and Gros decide to take their business to the British
~ British sponsor them for a 2nd trip to Hudson Bay; on ship, the Nonsuch, R and G bring back shipful of
~ Prince Rupert (Charles II’s cousin) sees the wealth to be had from furs from Hudson Bay.
~ Rupert obtains Royal Charter from King for all the land surrounding Hudson Bay (drainage basin) in
1670; calls area “Rupert’s Land”.

~ Rupert becomes 1st governor of the HBC; its board of directors make all decisions in England but all
trade takes place in Canada.
B. Forts
~ built posts around Hudson Bay; Moose Factory first in 1673; later, York Factory and Fort Churchill and
~ posts came in all shapes and sizes, some shacks, some palisaded forts.
~ each run by a “factor”, therefore sometimes called “factories”.
~ as HBC moved west, built Cumberland House (Sask.) and Fort Edmonton.
Add HBC forts to map.
C. HBC Employees
~ many men from N. Scotland islands called The Orkneys – “Orcadians”
~ were used to harsh geography and climate; was a saying the “its sons moved to HB to get warm!”.
~ started at about 6Ł a year
~ many married native women; some stayed and their offspring were beginnings of Scottish Métis in

D. Conflict with the French
~ French wanted a share of the wealth of furs around HB; 1696, d”Iberville, captain of Fr. Warship, took
over HBC in the “Battle of the Bay’ at York Factory. Changed hands till 1713, when British took over
again permanently.
~ Southern Rupert’s Land saw constant competition between Brit and Fr. Remember, HBC expected furs
to be brought to them by 1st Nations, while the French travelled to 1st Nations and brought them back
III The North West Company (1783 - 1821)
A. Beginnings
~ whereas the HBC did not build forts inland (because 1st Nations brought furs to their forts), the
French, with 1st Nations partners, travelled further and further inland (west) from Quebec, and
transported furs over very long distances back to Montreal.
~ in 1783, after the British conquered North America, Scottish Businessmen in Montreal formed the
North West Company, uniting the French and 1st Nations into one company.
B. The “Nor’westers” (NWC Employees)
~ the NWC hired voyageurs to transport furs; hardy men who endured great hardship (eg. drowning,
starvation, robbery, even murder) but who helped build a huge commercial empire.
~ NWC built forts on Lake Superior (present-day Thunder Bay) and eventually in Manitoba, Sask., and
~ owned canoes, lake schooners, and ocean ships for transporting furs.
~ the NWC motto was “Perseverance”.

C. Conflict with the HBC
~ the HBC established a settlement in present-day Manitoba called the Red River Colony, which
threatened NWC access to furs.
~ in 1816, violence between HBC settlers and NWC traders erupted along the Red River in the Battle of
7 Oaks. 20 men (mostly HBC) were killed.
D. Merger
~ finally, the 2 companies merged (united into one) in 1821 to avoid further loss of life and business –
called HBC.

IV Role of First Nations and Métis in the Fur Trade
1. What are the origins of the Métis?
a) Francophone (French-speaking) – children of marriages between French fur traders and First
Nations women.
b) Anglophone (English-speaking) - children of marriages between Scottish fur traders (HBC) and
First Nations women.
2. The origins of the Red River Colony:
a) Where is it? Southern Manitoba
b) Who initially tried to settle the area and when? Lord Selkirk (English), 1811
c) By 1836, who had settled there? European settlers and Métis peoples
d) Why was it so important to the fur trade? Central to the fur trade
3. How did First Nations and Métis men help in the fur trade?
They taught European trappers/traders
- where to look for furs
- how to survive harsh winters
- how to use birch bark canoes and snowshoes
- how to trap, hunt, and fish
4. Who did First Nations and Métis women help in the fur trade?
- they taught traders their language and customs to build relationships/partnerships; were
Interpreters (translators)
- women gave traders clothing (eg. snowshoes) and tools to survive
- were excellent guides
- married Europeans to cement trading relationships
- made pemmican (dried meat, fat, and berries)
- prepared hides
- provided medicines for illnesses