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Indians in the Fur Trade

Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Roles as Trappers, Hunters, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660-1870

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 284
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  • Book Info
    Indians in the Fur Trade
    Book Description:

    A classic study of the Assiniboine and western Cree Indians who inhabited southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan between 1660 and 1870. The second edition contains a new preface and an update on all sources.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2345-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction to the 1998 edition: REFLECTIONS ON INDIANS IN THE FUR TRADE
    (pp. xi-xxxii)

    Every book has a story. The story of this book begins with a question posed by my graduate supervisor, Andrew H. Clark (1911–75). In the mid-1960s he asked, ‘Why not study the Métis of Western Canada?’ It started me down a path that led toIndians in the Fur Trade.

    Andrew Clark’s historical geography graduate research seminar at the University of Wisconsin at Madison was legendary. Each year the class tackled a different theme; in 1964–5 it was ethnic groups on the frontier. For my part I chose to explore the subject of people of mixed Aboriginal, African,...

  5. Preface to the 1974 edition
    (pp. xxxiii-2)
  6. 1 Trade rivalries, inter-tribal warfare, and migration
    (pp. 3-26)

    Throughout most of the historical period, the Siouan-speaking Assiniboine and the Algonquian-speaking Western Cree Indians were the principal inhabitants of central and southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and they figured prominently in the fur trade of the Canadian West. Yet, archaeological and historical data indicate that these two groups were probably late immigrants to the area.

    In northern Minnesota and the adjacent portions of Manitoba and Ontario, archaeologists have identified three proto-historic foci which they have termed Blackduck, Manitoba, and Selkirk.¹ The first two of these assemblages are culturally synonymous and have been tentatively associated with the proto-historic Assiniboine, albeit with...

  7. 2 Land and life in the western interior before 1763
    (pp. 27-50)

    The territory occupied by the Assiniboine and Western Cree during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was diverse in its bio-geography. It included three distinctly different types of habitat – the woodland, parkland, and grassland zones–each of which offered a different array of resources to the Indians (Figure 10). Most significant was the difference in the abundance of food resources between the woodlands and the grasslands. Only two large game species were found in the forests, the woodland caribou and the moose (Figure 11). Although historical data suggest that the population densities of these two animals, particularly that of the...

  8. 3 Traders and middlemen
    (pp. 51-71)

    During the early years of the fur trade in western Canada, competition between the English and the French was largely centred on Hudson Bay, and certain key posts such as York Factory changed hands several times. This period of instability ended in 1713 with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht which gave the English permanent control of the Bay. As the English fur trade was re-established in the postwar years under the direction of the Hudson’s Bay Company, two posts quickly emerged as the leading centres of trade for the western interior of Canada–York Factory and Fort Albany....

  9. 4 Arms, brandy, beads, and sundries
    (pp. 72-93)

    York Factory was the most important single source of supply of European trade goods for the Indians of central and southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan because of its pre-eminent position in the early western fur trade and its virtual monopoly of the English trade of the Nelson River basin. By examining the trade data of the post in terms of the changing patterns of trade, it is possible to gain some insights into the types and quantities of goods which the Assiniboine and Cree were taking into the interior for their own use and that of other Indian groups.

    Figures 22...

  10. 5 Migrations, epidemics, and population changes, 1763–1821
    (pp. 94-116)

    During the tumultuous period between 1763 and 1821, population movement continued unabated, but the principal direction of the Assiniboine and Cree migrations changed markedly. Until nearly the close of the eighteenth century, the main course of movement of the Assiniboine had been to the northwest. Thereafter, they began to drift increasingly to the south. In the 1790s Alexander Mackenzie reported that the most western Assiniboine bands were found in the area of Fort George on the North Saskatchewan River. Some occupied the woodlands to the north of the river, but most lived in the grasslands to the south. Even though...

  11. 6 The destruction of fur and game animals
    (pp. 117-124)

    During the fifty-eight-year period between the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and the merger of the Hudson’s Bay and North West companies in 1821 trading rivalries reached their peak in the Western Interior of Canada. This intensive competition favoured a ruthless exploitation of the region’s fur and game animals, and by the end of the period many sections of central and southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan had been nearly depleted of these resources. Although the population levels of the various species fluctuated locally under natural conditions, thereby potentially skewing the picture of the general situation of the country which individual post...

  12. 7 New economic opportunities
    (pp. 125-136)

    Between 1763 and 1821 the character of the Northwest fur trade changed substantially, and these changes strongly inflenced the evolving tribal economies of the Indians of western Canada. Although the Seven Years’ War was concluded with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the trading posts which had been abandoned by the French in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were not reoccupied by the British traders until later in the decade. This delay was partly related to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s continuing policy of relying on Indian middlemen to bring furs down to the Bay. In addition, the attempts of the Montreal-based merchants...

  13. 8 Economic dependency and the fur trade: contrasting trends
    (pp. 137-165)

    In spite of the rapidly rising levels of competition between the Hudson’s Bay Company and its rivals during the period from 1763 to 1821, most of the trading conventions which had been worked out between Europeans and Indians in earlier years remained intact. Yet, in the context of sharp economic rivalries, old, established trading customs served additional functions and, therefore, had different implications for culture change among the Indians. Furthermore, the relative importance of the various modes of exchange shifted over time.

    As had been customary in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gift-giving continued to be an important ceremony...

  14. 9 Land and life: a changing mosaic
    (pp. 166-181)

    Continuing Indian migrations, the modifications of the resource base, and the different responses of tribal groups to the changing nature of the fur trade had a varied impact on the seasonal movements and economic activities of the Assiniboine, Cree, and Ojibwa bands living in the forest-grassland borderlands of western Canada between 1763 and 1821. In the Saskatchewan and upper Assiniboine river areas, the earlier practice of exploiting woodland, grassland, and parkland resources on a seasonal basis persisted among a large proportion of the Indian population in spite of the economic changes under way.

    As an example, journal accounts indicate that...

  15. 10 The changing demographic picture after 1821
    (pp. 182-194)

    Tribal migrations continued unabated after 1821, as Indian groups moved in response to a number of stimuli. In eastern Alberta and adjacent Saskatchewan the general southward movement of Indian populations noted earlier was still under way, but the tempo of that movement quickened. The Assiniboine who had been centred in the middle Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle river valleys, as well as in the prairie portions of the Carlton District, began moving out of these areas and gravitated toward the international boundary. Several factors favoured this movement. American trading posts on the Missouri River were attracting the Indians, and the pull of...

  16. 11 Declining opportunities in a changing fur trade
    (pp. 195-216)

    After a protracted struggle for control of the fur trade, the two chief competitors, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company, joined forces in 1821. This merger marked the end of an era of bitter rivalry and set in motion forces which were to have a profound effect on the lives of the Indians of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Significantly, the merger gave the Hudson’s Bay Company a new, if short-lived, monopoly on the fur trade throughout most of Western Canada, except the boundary region where American traders carried on a clandestine trade north of the border. Although...

  17. 12 End of a way of life
    (pp. 217-231)

    As resources were depleted throughout the West, and as the Hudson’s Bay Company’s policies and practices were changed, Woodland and Grassland Indians alike were forced to make economic adjustments. These adjustments brought about new patterns of activity and interaction. As shown earlier, in southeastern Manitoba the annual large-scale migrations of Indian populations from the woodlands to the parklands had largely come to an end by the early nineteenth century. After 1821, such movements took place only occasionally when the bison herds approached relatively close to the Red River colony. This happened, for example, during the winter of 1823–4, and...

  18. Select bibliography for the 1974 edition
    (pp. 232-242)
  19. Index
    (pp. 243-249)