Native people of the fur trade
Fur trade with the NWC and HBC, beginnings of the Metis culture for Social Studies 10
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Native people of the fur trade
NATIVE PEOPLES OF
Class notes Feb 5 2014
Early trade relations
• Without First Nations trading partners, there would not have
been a successful fur trade
• Native people had established trading networks before the
arrival of Europeans, which they then used for gathering furs
• Their traditional trading patterns were repeated with the
Europeans – ceremonies were established and respected
• First Nations benefited from the new goods brought from
Europe, and Europeans learned how to survive in the tough
environment of the North West
• Natives were not ‘paid’ for their furs… it was a fur TRADE.
Natives traded their furs for what they could obtain from the
HBC TRADING post. There was no currency (cash, coins,
• Natives had always worked to sustain themselves and their
families. Their culture was not one of ‘getting ahead’ or trying
to become more prosperous by working harder/longer, unlike
the Europeans, many of whom had come from ‘nothing’.
• As European fur traders pushed further inland, many men began
spending the winters (hivernants) in their trading areas, rather than
returning to Montreal (NWC)
• They stayed with local Native families, and often married a
daughter from the family.
• This union of European men and Native women was encouraged, as
the NWC thought it would encourage trading loyalty between the
tribe and NWC. Native women who married fur traders often had
an improved standard of living, with access to more European
Custom of the Country
• Many French traders took First Nations women as wives in a formal
process known as the “custom of the country”.
• The French hoped the union with the Natives would result in their
wives and children adopting French religion, language and culture,
but instead many French traders adopted several Native traditions
and ways of life.
• In time, a new culture and people arose from these unions: the
HBC forbids marriage with Natives
• While the NWC encouraged inter cultural marriages, the HBC
forbade them. The HBC did not want to be responsible for having
to support the families of their employees
• Despite their policy of celibacy, there were several unions between
Baymen (HBC employees living in Hudson Bay) and Native women.
Their children were know as ‘country-born’.
• Eventually the HBC had to acknowledge their policy was
unsustainable as there were many ‘country-born’ families that
settled around the HBC forts.
• Even the Governor of the HBC, George Simpson, had a native wife.
• By 1810, many Metis had settled near the junction of the Red and
Assiniboin rivers in the Red River Valley
• The spoke a mixture of French and Algonkian, today known as
• Mainly Roman Catholic
• Became an agricultural community, with farms reaching the river
banks based on seigneural pattern of farming in New France
• Developed the seasonal tradition of the bison hunt