The Fur Trade
The Indian an Indispensable Partner
The fur trade could not have existed without the Indians,
who imposed their trading practices and commercial requirements on the
Europeans. To win the Indians as clients, the Europeans had to manufacture
goods of value to the Indian culture. Indians negotiated with merchants
from the various trading posts, from New England and from the
Hudson's Bay Company.
The merchants were all in strong competition with each other and, to
secure the assistance and cooperation of the Indians, they all offered
gifts to the Indians. Smoking the calumet (ceremonial pipe) and exchanging
before commencement of trade was an ancient Indian tradition. Europeans
had to submit to the custom as well, in order to maintain the fur
- Great Chief of the Iroquois
Warriors, by Grasset de Saint-Sauveur. The chief's capot,
manufactured in Montreal, was a gift greatly appreciated.
- Calumet (wood and lead),
- Brooches (silver), masonic type,
and "Louis XV" French medal.
- Measuring cup (copper), France,
- Powder horns.
- Scraper (wood and metal,
leather thong), Naskapi (Nain, Labrador).
- Axe (iron). Indians demanded
smaller axes because they were easier to carry and use during forest
expeditions and canoe travel.
The hides and furs exported to Europe were used primarily to make luxury
items. The Indians' first priority, however, was to trade for useful
items. On average 60% of the trade
goods they received were fabrics, 25% were weapons and tools, 6%
alcohol, 3% trade jewelry, and 2% tobacco.
- Armbands and headband.
- Musket, 1716 model flintlock,
- A Lady of the eighteenth
- Chest carved in sealskin.
- Beaver hat, seventeenth
- Cauldrons, ca.1830.
- Trade capot.
- Arrow sash.
|The meeting of two civilizations always involves an exchange of ideas, objects and ways of doing things that are later adapted to the tastes and needs of each culture. The Europeans adopted Indian customs and inventions essential for survival in the North American wilderness. The Indians utilized European articles and integrated them into their own culture, often giving them a function completely different from that intended by the manufacturers.|
- French-Montagnais dictionary, edited by Jesuit Father Antoine Sylvy, 1678.
- Pipe, decorated with lead shot; Sioux, nineteenth century.
- Indian dress.
- A Tobacco pouch; Iroquois,
- Moccasins, embroidered with
glass beads; Sioux Nez, nineteenth century.
- Musket barrel, transformed into a
- Toboggan (model); Cree.
- Canoe (model), Algonquin.
- Leather jacket.
Date Created: August 19, 1996 | Last Updated: June 30, 2010