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Fur Trades

Summary and Keywords

From the 15th century to the present, the trade in animal fur has been an economic venture with far-reaching consequences for both North Americans and Europeans (in which North Americans of European descent are included). One of the earliest forms of exchange between Europeans and North Americans, the trade in fur was about the garment business, global and local politics, social and cultural interaction, hunting, ecology, colonialism, gendered labor, kinship networks, and religion. European fashion, specifically the desire for hats that marked male status, was a primary driver for the global fur-trade economy until the late 19th century, while European desires for marten, fox, and other luxury furs to make and trim clothing comprised a secondary part of the trade. Other animal hides including deer and bison provided sturdy leather from which belts for the machines of the early Industrial Era were cut. European cloth, especially cotton and wool, became central to the trade for Indigenous peoples who sought materials that were lighter and dried faster than skin clothing. The multiple perspectives on the fur trade included the European men and indigenous men and women actually conducting the trade; the indigenous male and female trappers; European trappers; the European men and women producing trade goods; indigenous “middlemen” (men and women) who were conducting their own fur trade to benefit from European trade companies; laborers hauling the furs and trade goods; all those who built, managed, and sustained trading posts located along waterways and trails across North America; and those Europeans who manufactured and purchased the products made of fur and the trade goods desired by Indigenous peoples. As early as the 17th century, European empires used fur-trade monopolies to establish colonies in North America and later fur trading companies brought imperial trading systems inland, while Indigenous peoples drew Europeans into their own patterns of trade and power. By the 19th century, the fur trade had covered most of the continent and the networks of business, alliances, and families, and the founding of new communities led to new peoples, including the Métis, who were descended from the mixing of European and Indigenous peoples. Trading territories, monopolies, and alliances with Indigenous peoples shaped how European concepts of statehood played out in the making of European-descended nation-states, and the development of treaties with Indigenous peoples. The fur trade flourished in northern climes until well into the 20th century, after which time economic development, resource exploitation, changes in fashion, and politics in North America and Europe limited its scope and scale. Many Indigenous people continue today to hunt and trap animals and have fought in courts for Indigenous rights to resources, land, and sovereignty.

Keywords: fur-trade, Indigenous rights, colonialism, gendered labor, cultural interaction, kinship networks, Métis, trappers

European merchants in the North American fur trade approached the enterprise as a primarily economic undertaking. They sought furs for fashion and function, mostly to use for hats, but also to trim garments.1 The depletion of fur-bearing animals in Europe meant that furs obtained from elsewhere in the world would fetch appealing prices, and the search for furs extended into North America and Siberia. North American Indigenous peoples had long exchanged furs in their continental trading networks and, when they encountered Europeans, pelts became an obvious trading commodity for both parties. Each culture incorporated the other into long-standing and wide-ranging trade practices. Europeans and Indigenous peoples interacted closely in the fur trade from the 16th century well into the 19th century. Initially the trade was advantageous for both parties, but at times the trade hurt Indigenous peoples (especially with the introduction of European diseases), and over time the fur trade set the stage for the European colonization of Indigenous peoples in terms of taking territory, erasing Indigenous cultures, and killing Indigenous peoples.

European powers were not alone in the competition for resources and influences on the continent. Rather, they became new actors in the bustling sociopolitical terrain of North American peoples. Both Indigenous and European politics and economies influenced and were affected by the trade in furs. Trade initially flourished outside of crown authority, as individuals freely engaged in exchange for personal benefit. But European crowns soon realized the economic potential. Tangled in the process of colonialism, European monarchs issued fur-trade monopolies to individuals and companies with requirements for settlement and cultivation of the land. Those fur trading companies targeting beaver began to pool resources by the second half of the 18th century to increase their fur returns and penetrate further into the interior of the continent for new supplies. Companies occasionally cooperated with one another, but more often fiercely competed with sometimes violent results. While many fur trading companies were formed between the 17th and 19th centuries, a few became dominant. In what is now Canada, the British crown granted a trading monopoly in 1670 to the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC, which continues as a business today) for all lands draining into Hudson Bay (Figure 1).

Fur TradesClick to view larger

Figure 1. Leo Manning, manager at the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, lists items for exchange. Coppermine, N.W.T., [Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine), Nunavut].

Photograph by Richard Harrington, 1949 (Canada Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Library and Archives Canada, PA-143236).

These lands covered large parts of present-day Canada, particularly the whole of Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, southeastern North West Territories, southern Nunavut, northern Ontario, and northwestern Quebec, and stretched south to the modern states of Montana, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The HBC’s main rivals were independent partnerships based in Montreal, who eventually formed the North West Company (NWC) in 1779, and whose trading area covered the northern Great Lakes, the northern Plains, and the Rocky Mountains to the northwest Pacific coast. By 1821, the chaos and high cost of intense competition led these two large companies to merge as the HBC, which dominated the 19th-century trade in the north. Although smaller than the northern companies, the Pacific Fur, American Fur, and Rocky Mountain Fur companies exploited resources in the southern Great Lakes, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains. Many Indigenous groups dramatically increased their trapping of furs once European companies began to trade. Some groups, such as the Wendat (Huron), Ininew (Cree), and Nakota (Assiniboine) became middlemen, blocking Europeans from trading directly with inland Indigenous trappers, regulating the flow of material goods, and dictating the economic terms of exchange.

After fur trading companies were able to push past Indigenous middlemen to trade directly with interior Indigenous trappers, central economic components to the trade became building an infrastructure and provisioning workers in the interior. Traders built new posts and hired increasingly larger crews to transport trade goods. They hired Indigenous peoples to assist with the construction of forts and canoes and to feed the growing workforce. Country produce became a major commodity, as companies hired large numbers of specialized foragers, especially hunters and fishers. They also purchased food from Indigenous communities. In these ways, Indigenous peoples maintained a central position in the trade, as their skill, labor, and knowledge of the environment were necessary for food and tool production, as well as securing furs. Indeed, the trade would have been impossible without Indigenous knowledge and labor supporting European traders.

Indigenous women frequently formed relationships with European and Euro-descended traders who worked vast distances from their home communities. Indigenous communities often encouraged these unions to cement alliances with new trade partners. In some cases, dual heritage offspring remained in their Indigenous maternal communities; in rare cases these children went to live with their fathers’ families in European colonies or in Europe; others lived and worked in fur-trade spheres and formed distinct cultural identities, many of which converged into the ethnicity of Métis. Thousands of families of mixed descent coalesced around fur trading posts and elsewhere in the North American interior. Such families built communities with distinct cultures and economies based in fur trading, farming in riverine valleys, and hunting bison. When their children and grandchildren intermarried, extensive kin networks and distinctive artistic practices became the cornerstones of an ethnic and political collective, which began fighting for political recognition in the early 19th century, a struggle that continues today.

By the latter half of the 19th century, North American fur sources had been depleted by overhunting and the settler nations of Canada and the United States had constructed and were enforcing political boundaries that interfered with indigenous mobility and trade routes. Fur trading companies slowly went out of business or pivoted to more lucrative business opportunities while the settler nations forced indigenous trade partners onto reservations and reserves where commercial hunting was either forbidden or impossible to sustain. Some indigenous peoples continued to trap animals for personal use and to sell on a small scale.2 But the bulk of the commercial trade moved to the subarctic and arctic. Fur farms began to dominate the global fur trade in the 20th century and continue to do so today (Figure 2).3

Fur TradesClick to view larger

Figure 2. Map created by Ezra Zeitler for the essay “Glass Curtains and Storied Landscapes: The Fur Trade, National Boundaries, and Historians” by Bethel Saler and Carolyn Podruchny, appearing in Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories.

Edited by Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill, 275–302. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

Why Fur?

Animal furs have long clothed humans and, over time, the luxuriously soft pelts of ermine, sable, and mink became status symbols for the wealthy and elite. Paintings and later photographs depict European rulers and elites wearing fluffy, extravagant furs. The small, elusive animals that produced such pelts in Europe were overhunted by the 15th and 16th centuries and became increasingly rare. Those who could afford the expense gained social status by wearing precious fur.4 A second fur-based fashion trend arose in Europe: hatters began constructing men’s felt hats from the short, barbed under-hair of beaver fur. The rapid extinction of local beaver sent traders to other parts of the globe by the mid-16th century.5

Beaver pelts acquired in the North American trade fell into two categories. The first was “coat beaver” (castor gras), which had already been processed and worn for a season by hunters and trappers; these required little work to harvest their felt. Indigenous peoples scraped and rubbed the inner sides of the pelts with bone marrow, sewed the pelts together, and wore them with the fur against their skin. Friction loosened the long outer hair and sweat oiled the skins, making them pliable. Coat beavers were the most prized by hatters because they required little processing. The second category was “parchment beaver” (castor sec), which were sun-dried immediately after skinning. These pelts required laborious processing in Europe. The long outer hair had to be removed before the inner hair could be accessed and transformed into felt. The nearly waterproof hats made of felted beaver fur were functional, durable, and stylish. They were made in multiple shapes and sizes, but initially most wore tricorne (or cocked) hats until the mid-19th century and in the mid-18th century the top hat would become a long-standing symbol of wealth and status among European men.6

On the west coast of North America, seal and otter pelts were hunted and traded for sale in primarily Chinese markets. Seal fur is as soft and luxurious as ermine and was sought by wealthy Asians for clothing and accessories. Sea otters possess thick, dark fur with silver tips that became a popular trim for clothing in Chinese and Russian fashion, and because sea otters do not molt, their skin was in prime condition year-round. In the mid-18th century, when furs were becoming depleted in Siberia, Russian fur traders extended their hunting and trading to the west coast of the continent from what is now Alaska to present-day California, then brought their furs to Asian markets.7

Beaver and luxury furs were not the only hides traded in North America. Traders sought deer pelts, in much smaller quantities, alongside beaver and marten, as well as muskrats and various other small mammals. Deer hides dominated the southeast fur trade where few beavers were found and provided ample resources for European markets in shoes and leather accessories.8 In the mid-1800s, animal skins were needed for the belts used in the machinery of the Industrial Age. Bison (popularly known as buffalo) have particularly tough hides, and so bison belts rarely broke and allowed machines to run longer without belt changes.9 Indigenous peoples had long used bison hides as blankets, robes, and the outer walls of dwellings, such as tipis, and they easily incorporated Europeans in their trade of these skins.10 Bison meat was a key ingredient in pemmican, a high-calorie and high-protein food made from dried bison, berries, and fat (and in some cases tubers such as camas root). Pemmican, the most important of all country produce, became a dietary staple among fur traders and was made and traded by Métis people in the 19th century.11

The global fur trades in North America were largely driven by European fashion industries from the 16th century until the 19th century. Felted hats, fur trim, and leather were a central part of high-status fashion around the world and once Europeans learned how to reach North America, they rapidly began exploiting its fur resources (Figure 3).

Fur TradesClick to view larger

Figure 3. Apsaroke woman scraping hide that is secured to the ground by numerous stakes, tipi in background.

Photograph by Edward S. Curtis, 1908 (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-46967).


Indigenous peoples likely had been trading furs (in addition to a wide range of materials) with one another for millennia before Europeans began settling on the continent.12 They probably traded with any Europeans they encountered in their territories and waters, including Norse in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.13 Those on the northeast coast traded with Portuguese and Basque fishers on the Grand Banks in the 15th century, and when European explorers began traversing the Atlantic with increasing frequency in the 16th and early 17th centuries, coastal Indigenous peoples expected them to want their fur pelts, especially those which had been worn for a long time.14

The arrival of Europeans in North America likely caused a fair amount of interest among Indigenous peoples because of the new technology Europeans brought, especially the abundant amounts of light-weight cloth and forged metal. Indigenous oral traditions have preserved stories about their first encounters with the bearded and pale-faced men in large wooden ships. In her comparison between English written accounts and Ininew oral stories of the meeting between Henry Hudson’s crew and Omushkego (Swampy Cree) in the spring of 1611, Toby Mortantz found that “the English account emphasizes the Cree’s delight with things the English would consider trifling items, while the Cree narration mentions nothing of such goods. Instead, it highlights their amusement with the English desire for their clothes, no doubt trifling items, as well, for the Cree.”15 In her introduction to Omushkego elder Louis Bird’s stories of first encounters with Europeans on James Bay, Jennifer S. H. Brown explains that by

putting the Cree and English tales side by side, we learn how different peoples remembered different aspects of events as worthy of note and learned from them within their own frameworks of knowledge and values. The stories offer clues about what the visitors and their observers thought they saw, looking through a clouded glass into worlds beyond. They also convey from both sides the sensory and emotional experience of contact and near-contact: the sighting of fires, human footprints, sharpened stakes, or sails; the strange taste and appearance of ship’s biscuit; the sounds of distant voices or gunfire or the ring of a steel axe, so different from the duller sound of a stone axe on wood.16

Today, Omushkegowak refer to European-descended colonists as wemistikosiwak, which means people with wooden boats.17 Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) communities became so interested in hearing stories about the establishment of a French village in the St. Lawrence valley in the early 17th century that they sent explorers to investigate.18 Anishinaabeg were keenly interested in new materials and technologies, mainly centered on the manipulation of wood, as the explorers carried wood shavings back to their Great Lakes communities as proof of their new discoveries. Anishinaabeg started calling the French wamitikgoshe, or people who keep things in wooden boxes (and barrels).19 Indigenous peoples in North America welcomed the European fur traders for their new technologies.

Europeans approached North America from all sides and engaged in trading for fur regardless of where they came ashore. On the northeast coast, whalers and fishermen traded their possessions to Indigenous people for furs they could sell for handsome sums when they returned to Europe. Even the Pilgrims relied on trading for furs with their Indigenous neighbors to provide the necessary income to supply their fledgling social experiment on the east coast.20 By the time missionaries arrived to what is now the American southwest in the early 17th century, well-known fur-trade networks reached across the continent, sending objects, news, people, and eventually diseases along them.21 Prior to contact with Europeans, Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region exchanged goods including raccoon skin robes and other processed furs and hides with one another and with communities in farther reaches of the continental trading networks to replace depleted local resources and to introduce different aesthetics to their belongings.22 When Europeans arrived, some Indigenous groups asserted their position as middlemen to direct the new trade, influencing how and when exchange occurred, and who participated in this new global trade.23

On the west coast, Indigenous peoples traded seal and sea otter furs with Russian and English traders who ventured into the Pacific Ocean. In 1778 English Captain James Cook reached the Kenai Peninsula and after his death in 1779, members of his crew entered into the west coast fur trade.24 By the late 18th century, Indigenous peoples on the Pacific coast were accustomed to Russian traders seeking furs and also to the violence that often accompanied trading events.25 Ahtna oral histories note the brutal encounters that occasionally transpired in the process or aftermath of trading furs.26 The northwest coast fur trades with Europeans began several centuries later than those conducted on the Atlantic coast and centered on different animal species, but were also driven by markets on other continents and directed by local Indigenous groups.

The east coast of North America saw Europeans engaging in the fur trade to fund colonial and other resource extraction pursuits like fishing and whaling, and was initially a sideline to the fishery, only becoming a dedicated economic pursuit in the latter half of the 16th century.27 The fur-trade economy was unpredictable: sometimes traders glutted the European market with furs, and other times the industry suffered severe fur shortages due to shipwrecks or poor trading seasons. The HBC fared poorly its first fifty years.28 Only over time did the strong demand for furs in Europe and Asia make the fur trade a profitable enterprise and by the late 18th century Europeans regularly traveled to North America to engage with Indigenous people in the pursuit of furs.

Indigenous Partners

Indigenous knowledge was crucial for Europeans to procure furs successfully. Not only did Indigenous people know where to find specific animals, they knew how to hunt, kill, and prepare the animals most efficiently without significantly damaging the valuable furs and skins. The meaning of exchange between Indigenous peoples and Europeans has been a subject of considerable inquiry. Most scholars agree that the consequences of trade reached far beyond economic exchange.

All over North America, Indigenous peoples traded for a variety of reasons, which included material goods, political alliances, and spiritual power.29 Indigenous peoples incorporated Europeans into their trading practices, teaching them rules, regulations, and rituals for trading events. In the case of the Wendat, Bruce Trigger explains that trade “was embedded in a network of social relations and the exchange of goods was carried out largely in the form of reciprocal gift-giving[,] considered an integral part of a friendly interaction, and ties between individual trading partners were modeled on those between relatives.”30 In the experiences of the Caddoan people of the Mississippi region, Timothy K. Perttula reports that “perceptions of the exchange process changed significantly [over time], such that the value and importance of the European goods increasingly moved from the ceremonial realm towards the economic and secular realm.”31 For Indigenous peoples across North America, trade was an economic, social, and spiritual transaction whose meaning changed over time according to circumstance.

Hunting and trapping animals and processing their furs became a significant exertion of labor for some Indigenous groups. Fur trading post ledgers from HBC districts as far removed from one another as Timiskaming, in what is now northeastern Ontario, and Fort Nisqually, in what is now western Washington state, demonstrate that the bulk of furs collected for sale in European markets were harvested by Indigenous people, who, in the words of Arthur J. Ray, “were adaptable and shrewd clients who encouraged competitive fur buying.”32 In some communities, Indigenous men and women began regularly hunting animals to sell to Europeans and processed those animals into the furs or finished products, like moccasins and clothing, sought by their trade partners.33

Indigenous peoples entered into trade relationships with Europeans intentionally, seeking material and social benefits. They invited European traders into their communities to act as merchants and as political intermediaries with European and other Indigenous groups. Indigenous partners in the North American fur trade negotiated their economic relationships, which were intertwined with social, political, and spiritual interests. For example, Bruce White explains that Anishinaabeg (Ojibwes) developed a story to teach their descendants how to maintain the successful functioning of the fur trade: a young woman married a beaver and witnessed how beavers gave themselves to hunters and trappers in exchange for clothes, tools, kettles, and tobacco. When her husband died and she returned to live with humans, she taught humans that they should never speak ill of beavers and treat the bodies of beavers with great respect or they would never be able to kill any. The story teaches young women that they could develop cooperative relationships with a variety of beings in the world, which could lead to prosperity and continuing good health. Women had the power to cross boundaries and communicate across worlds, which had important implications in the fur trade.34


European empires (and Europeans within empires) competed for resources in North America, as well as for alliances with Indigenous peoples. North America was one of many stages to which global politics expanded in the 16th century, but Europeans also became one of many actors in the existing sociopolitical terrain of the continent’s original inhabitants. As early as 1502, European fishermen were seeking cod off the coast of what is now Atlantic Canada to supply the markets of Catholic Europeans.35 Basque, Spanish, English, and even a few Portuguese fishing crews frequented the Grand Banks and occasionally crews traded furs with Indigenous peoples on an individual basis.36 European interest in trading routes to Asia fueled expeditions such as those of Jacques Cartier, Henry Hudson, and Samuel de Champlain.37 When the explorers reported on the rich North American resources, European rulers shifted their focus to resource extraction for European markets, spreading their empires, and protecting their new investments from other European powers.38 For those whose agendas for a route to Asia and resource extraction were accompanied by a quest to spread Christianity to new souls, missionaries accompanied explorers and traders, and worked together to establish alliances with Indigenous peoples. For example, in 1673 the Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette accompanied fur trader Louis Jolliet’s party in exploring a route from the St. Lawrence valley to the Mississippi River and initiated diplomatic (and religious) relations with the Mamaceqtaw (Menominees) and members of the Illiniwek (Illinois Confederacy).39

In the early 17th century, most European fur-trade activity occurred on the east coast and along the St. Lawrence River as an extension of the fishery. By 1610, the French had established settlements around the various fishing banks and along the St. Lawrence, though most of them failed.40 Most England settlements were also short-lived failures in the same period at scattered sites along the Atlantic coast.41 At the same time, Henry Hudson mapped the Hudson River for the Dutch, and next, while sailing for the English, made his doomed voyage into Hudson Bay in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia; his mutinous crew banished him, his son, and twelve companions to a shallop, which disappeared from history in 1611.42 French colonizer Samuel de Champlain established a habitation on the site of present-day Quebec City in 1608, and in 1613 traveled up the St. Lawrence to Montreal and explored the Ottawa River.43 The English, Dutch, Portuguese, and French competed to find and secure a viable Northwest Passage (connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans), as well as the natural resources encountered on the continent that stood between Europe and Asia. Furs were initially a pleasant surprise for fishermen and whalers venturing beyond the depleted stocks in European waters and explorers in search of a water route to the east, but they soon became the means by which colonial enterprises such as the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth settlements were funded and then became a major focus of European expeditions to North America. European and North American politics became more contentious as the fur trade intensified.

Indigenous political structures prior to Europeans’ arrival were complex and far-reaching. The French, English, and Dutch who came ashore on the northeast coast did so among dozens of distinct indigenous polities, and groups speaking multiple languages and dialects. While political representation and processes varied among regions and communities, indigenous peoples maintained political systems of representation and forms of governance into which Europeans inserted themselves and their politics in their search for wealth.

One of the most powerful indigenous groups in the northeast was the Haudenosaunee (also called People of the Longhouse, Great League of Peace and Power, Iroquoian Confederacy, Five Nations, and later Six Nations), made up of Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk), Onyota’a:ka (Oneida), Onöñda’gega’ (Onondaga), Guyohkohnyo (Cayuga), and Onöndowága (Seneca), who were joined in the 1720s by the Tuscarora. They inhabited the region south of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. No single individual, community, or nation represented the whole confederacy in interactions with the French, Dutch, or English, but many different leaders spoke on behalf of varying groups within the Confederacy during negotiations. Historian Daniel Richter argues that “the Iroquois Great League of Peace and Power was not, in essence, a device for exercising nation-state style central political authority or devising unified diplomatic and military policies. Instead, it existed merely (or, better, sublimely) to keep the peace and preserve a spiritual unity among the many autonomous villages of the Five Nations” who made up the Haudenosaunee confederacy.44 Indigenous groups across North America used varied forms of governmental structures, from confederacies to matriarchies to hierarchical clan authority.

Europeans faced challenges in trying to understand the unfamiliar indigenous political systems, and many tried (and failed) to exploit indigenous peoples for better returns in the fur trade or to create military alliances against enemies. One complicated example is that of Champlain in 1611, who formed a political, economic, and military alliance with an existing indigenous coalition north of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, made up primarily of Wendats (Huron), Omàmiwininiwak (Algonquins), and Innus (Montagnais and Naskapi) (and included other smaller Algonquian-speaking peoples that today are known by the collective term Anishinaabeg), which required that Frenchmen (including Étienne Brûlé) live in the Indigenous communities to learn about geography, diplomacy, and languages. Champlain expected he would become their sole market for furs. His Indigenous allies, however, required more of Champlain than he seemed to understand and were displeased when he failed to join them in their ongoing attacks against the Haudenosaunee.45 Despite his missteps, the political ramifications of Champlain’s willingness to join the enemies of the Haudenosaunee reverberated for nearly a century. Champlain sought an alliance with the Wendat, Omàmiwininiwak, and Innu primarily to exploit their fur resources, but he further complicated the existing political networks in the region. His Indigenous allies welcomed an alliance with the French for military support against the Haudenosaunee.

Monopolies, Companies, and Treaties

Once the lucrative potential of the North American fur trade became evident to Europeans, individual explorers sought out wealthy sponsors and pled with their respective monarchs to issue monopolies, which granted exclusive trade and resource extraction privileges to the holder. Of course, the monopolies only applied to fellow nationals, as English subjects ignored decrees from the French court, and vice versa. Such monopolies were often for a specific yet vaguely identified region of North America and came with requirements, usually to found a farming settlement and establish a religious order on North American soil. Early companies, including the Dutch East India Company, the Company of One Hundred Associates (France), and the Massachusetts Bay Company built fur trading posts in northeastern North America, as did smaller rival companies formed as former members of large companies sought their individual fortunes in furs.46 The economic and political rationales of the fur-trade monopoly were similar—establish a base or “factory” to claim land and resources before competitors could do the same and to defend access to trade against European rivals. European monarchs and governments generated wealth while expanding empires and challenging their European rivals by staking a claim to a region and allowing their representative to collect furs, timber, fish, and other resources, and requiring their representatives to establish posts, homes, farms, and churches, the foundational elements of European settlement.47 Fur-trade monopolies were an expedient tool in European expansionist goals.

By the middle of the 17th century, the European fur trade had penetrated well into the Great Lakes and Mississippi regions and both companies and monarchs were interested in pressing farther into the continent. Two Frenchmen who had spent most of their lives in North America, Médart Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers and his brother-in-law Pierre-Esprit Radisson, proposed exploiting a northerly sea route into Hudson Bay first to the English, switched into service for the French, and then returned to the English.48 Their explorations and machinations contributed to the foundation in 1670 of the HBC, based in London, which quickly became a dominant force in the North American fur trade and the only historic fur trading company to persist continuously to the present.49

South of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, the Massachusetts Bay Company operated north of Cape Cod and the Dutch East India Company maintained forts at New Amsterdam, on the island of Manhattan, and at Fort Orange, near present-day Albany, as well as smaller posts throughout the region. The companies tried to expand their territories of trade and their alliances with Indigenous trading partners, often coming into conflict with one another. On occasion, other European powers attempted to usurp companies’ claims to territory, though rarely did they purchase territory from Indigenous inhabitants. Sweden, however, bought land along the Delaware River in 1638 and established a short-lived fur trading post that was soon forced out by Dutch and English competitors.50 The most heated competition between companies in many ways mirrored European contests for empire in North America.

Because royal authorities made fur trading companies quasi-governmental entities, J. R. Miller explains, “the agreements they forged with First Nations should be understood as treaties.”51 In addition to the compacts that these companies made with Indigenous peoples, systems of alliances that developed in the latter part of the 17th century and flourished in the 18th century, which were created in part through the fur trade, served as another form of treaties between the groups and set the stage for later large territorial treaties.

As 18th-century political animosity between France and England waxed and waned, relationships between fur-trade interests in New France and the English colonies south of the St. Lawrence River followed suit. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht provided context for the ensuing conflicts. It defined French colonial cessions to England, including Newfoundland and the lands around Hudson Bay, as well as Acadia and some territory in the Caribbean, but the treaty also set parameters on the North American fur trade, specifically identifying the Haudenosaunee as English trading partners and allies.52 But the French continued to hold a vast territory associated with the fur trade, extending down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1754, future United States president George Washington and a militia attacked a French patrol along the Ohio River, a region both England and France claimed to control. The French and Indian War (1754–1763) (also known as the Seven Years War) that followed became a contest between European powers, first on North American soil and soon across the globe. Both the French and English relied heavily on their Indigenous allies.53 Fighting occurred throughout the regions occupied and claimed by both European powers, including along the Ohio and St. Lawrence rivers and the shores of Hudson Bay. The battle at the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759, was a significant moment in North American colonial and fur-trade history: British forces led by General James Wolfe defeated French troops under the Marquis de Montcalm, which led to the surrender of Québec. The French lost control of New France (including Montreal) in 1760 and when the war ended in 1763, France surrendered most of its North American possessions to the British.54 The British now controlled what had for more than a century been New France and a region rich in furs, and maintained colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. After the war, the British crown issued the 1763 Royal Proclamation to officially claim British territory in North America. Its specification that settlers could not exert ownership over British-controlled land until the crown extinguished aboriginal title became a cornerstone of Indigenous land claims.

Despite French Canada having fallen to the British, Montreal continued to serve as a focal point for the continental fur trade. British capital and French Canadian labor created rival trading companies that challenged the HBC’s monopoly of Rupert’s Land. The most notable was the North West Company (NWC), founded in Montreal in 1779.55 In the meantime, the British Empire drastically contracted in 1783, when they lost the American War of Independence. Many British Loyalists who moved north to British North American colonies found opportunity in the Montreal fur trade, which stretched westward along rivers north of the Great Lakes and through the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield, stretching thousands of miles across the northern part of the continent.

Efforts to extend the North American fur trade to the west coast of North America expanded at the turn of the 19th century. Alexander Mackenzie of the NWC reached the Pacific Ocean via an overland route in 1793, more than a decade before American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the west coast of the continent on their 1804–6 journey for President Thomas Jefferson.56 Traders from the NWC and HBC traveled overland to the mouth of the Columbia River in 1810, more than 600 miles south of the mouth of Mackenzie’s landing seventeen years earlier. John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company (PFC) established an American fur trading post at Astoria in 1811 and another soon after at the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers.57 American fur trading companies offered new competition for the NWC and HBC west of the Rocky Mountains, but Astor’s companies, the PFC and the American Fur Company (AFC), were the largest organized competition for the HBC in the North American fur trade. William Henry Ashley attempted to challenge the HBC by hiring some of its former employees and ship furs through St. Louis. Ashley sold his business to three mountain men (independent trappers and traders), Jedediah Smith, William Sublette, and David Jackson, in 1826.58 Several former mountain men, Jim Bridger, Milton Sublette, Jean Baptiste Gervais, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Henry Fraeb, created the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1830. Both efforts were mildly successful in reducing the HBC’s profits west of the Rocky Mountains, but they were relatively short-lived endeavors.59 Also actively trading furs on the west coast was the Russian-American Company, which operated out of Saint Petersburg, Russia, between 1799 and 1881, and harvested seal and sea otter furs along the coasts of present-day Alaska and California.60

Despite challenges from the south and from independent traders (who were mainly Métis freemen), the most intensive competition in the fur trade was between the HBC and the NWC and hostilities occasionally broke out. For the first two decades of the 19th century, companies erected posts near one another, sometimes across rivers facing rival posts and even on the same riverbanks, only yards away. In 1821 the NWC and the HBC merged under the latter’s name and new governor, George Simpson, restructured the company to increase profits by closing posts, laying off employees, encouraging far-flung posts to be self-sustaining, and enforcing efficiency.61

Fur trading companies were responsible for the bulk of the furs traded in North America in the 19th century, but freemen and mountain men trapped, traded, and sold furs as individuals to companies and to middlemen for profit. Others acted as middlemen between Indigenous peoples and companies. While some enjoyed the freedom of working without contracts to fur trading companies, many such freemen and mountain men chose to do so because they had married Indigenous or Métis women and wanted to live with their families on their own, rather than at fur trading posts.

Families, Kinship Ties, and Métis People

Indigenous and European partners brought their own understandings of family and kinship networks to the fur trade. Indigenous people often married into distant families or even distant groups to improve or extend trade networks; likewise, European monarchies were prime examples of intermarrying to bring about fortuitous trade and political relationships.62 The fur trade was another circumstance in which people intermarried for political and economic, as well as sentimental, reasons. Marriages helped establish trust and cemented reciprocity through new kin ties. Marriages to Indigenous women also provided traders with access to local environmental knowledge and language interpretation.63 Family and kinship networks opened new trading possibilities for fur traders and Indigenous peoples alike. Many of these wives and their descendants returned to their maternal communities, bringing new ideas and goods with them. In other cases, the intermarriage of Indigenous women and European traders led to the ethnogenesis of new peoples, who coalesced into the ethnicity of Métis. Métis people (also called Métis, Michif, Halfbreeds, Bois-brulés, Country Born, and Mixed Bloods) borrowed elements from both Indigenous and European parent cultures (such as their language Michif, which combined Ininew verbs with French nouns), and also developed new elements that reflected their roots in the fur trade (such as wearing woven belts called ceintures flechées).64 Métis people were involved in European and Indigenous family networks, as well as fur-trade networks. Individual Métis family relationships often depended on the company for which the fathers worked, although after the 1821 merger George Simpson discouraged company support for laborers’ and traders’ families.65 In keeping with their cultural mixing, Métis people have identified with various Christian and Indigenous faith traditions. Material culture for Métis people is also varied, blending European and Indigenous clothing and accessories including leather pants, capotes (a hooded coat made of HBC blankets and belted at the waist), beadwork and quillwork, fringe, and moccasins. The ceinture flechée was an adornment, to tie packs to the body, and tied to belongings to mark ownership, as families and communities wove their sashes in distinct colors and patterns. Métis language, music, dance, and artwork reflected their roots in the fur trade. Fiddle music with jigging, based on both Indigenous and European dances, are common modes of Métis artistic expression, as are beadwork and quillwork in floral patterns.66

Métis culture was in part shaped by the labor they performed in the fur trade, particularly provisioning fur trading posts and travelers with goods and food.67 Métis men on the plains hunted bison and women produced pemmican from the meat, fat, berries, nuts, and root vegetables they harvested. Pemmican was high in fat and nutrients, portable, and could last up to two years, an ideal food for laborers in the mobile fur trade. As a reflection of the mobility inherent in the trade, Métis people labored while moving, hunting bison across the plains, working as tripmen and independent traders in the boreal forests and subarctic, and working as short-term laborers at fur trading posts. Despite the distances involved in their travels, some maintained permanent farming settlements along riverine valleys, such as the Red River settlement (site of present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba).68 Métis farmers followed the land-use patterns set by French colonists along the St. Lawrence River with systems of long, narrow lots extending back from rivers.69 Educated Métis men often worked as clerks for fur trading companies, positions that required literacy and the ability to trade with Indigenous peoples.

As with other Indigenous peoples in North America, the Métis resisted colonial pressures and governments, politically and militarily. In the context of Métis resistance, however, the fur trade was an ever-present context that set their experiences apart from other Indigenous and European peoples. In 1869, the HBC negotiated the sale of Rupert’s Land, the region under its control, to Great Britain, who transferred title to the new Dominion of Canada, which used the lands for westward and northward state expansion, including a transcontinental railway. The HBC, however, had failed to consult with or inform the region’s inhabitants.70 Métis communities called for resistance to the deal to protect their lands, resources, and way of life. In 1869, francophone Métis Louis Riel spoke out against the land transfer. A provisional Métis government was formed in the Red River settlement with Riel at its head and it successfully negotiated the creation of the Canadian province of Manitoba and secured the recognition of Métis claims to land and resources.71

However, the Dominion of Canada did not uphold its agreement with the Métis while Canadian militia and new immigrants poured into Manitoba and across the Canadian prairies, settling on Métis and other Indigenous lands. Over the next fifteen years, many Métis people moved west over the Canadian and American prairies and the Rocky Mountain foothills.72 In 1885, Métis in these regions organized themselves once again to resist Canadian colonization. Métis people living along the South Saskatchewan River (northeast of present-day Saskatoon) formed a provisional government and sent for Riel, exiled in Montana at the time. Canada used its new railway and an armed steamboat to transport 3,000 troops and 2,000 volunteers to Batoche to face off against the roughly 200 Métis men, women, and children, and hundreds of First Nations allies fighting for recognition of their land and resource rights.73 In a series of bloody battles, Canadian forces crushed the second Métis resistance, and captured Riel and the Ininew chiefs Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) and Mistahi-maskwa (Big Bear), who were also leading their people in resistance. The Métis military leader Gabriel Dumont found exile in Montana. Riel was tried and hanged for treason. Today Riel is embraced as a liberator of the Métis and as a symbol of resistance to government oppression.74

The Canadian government recognized Métis as Aboriginal people in the 1982 Constitution Act.75 The U.S. government, however, does not recognize Métis people as a distinct group, though legal battles to attain tribal status have been ongoing since the 1890s. The history of the North American fur trade continues to have consequences for Métis people in Canada and the United States who seek legal recognition as Indigenous people and hunting, fishing, and trapping rights (figure 4).76

Fur TradesClick to view larger

Figure 4. Mistahi-maskwa (Big Bear, c. 1825–1888), a Plains Cree chief, trading.

Photograph by O. B. Buell, 1885 (Library and Archives Canada, PA-118768).

After 1870

The boundary between the United States and British North America west of the Great Lakes was established as the 49th parallel in 1818. In 1846, Britain and the United States signed the Oregon Treaty, extending the border along the 49th parallel through the Rocky Mountains.77 After the mid-19th century, HBC posts south of the border began a slow but steady process of closing, and some relocated to new and consolidated posts north of the international boundary.78 In the decades that followed, American and British settlement of the continent (which became a Canadian enterprise after 1867) expanded rapidly, populating the plains and intermountain regions with non-Indigenous people, cities, and farms.79 Indigenous inhabitants were isolated on reserves and reservations and fur trading posts were slowly diminished and finally abandoned.80

The post-1870 trade generated more wealth than any previous period, but the trade has not received much scholarly attention, probably because it moved to the north and involved fewer participants (hence this article does not deal with this period in any length). The transition to a northern fur trade led to a dwindling of most fur trading companies, even though the industry thrived well into the 20th century. The American fur trading companies had all ceased trading by 1850. In 1871, HBC stockholders, having sold their land title in 1869, began the process of diversification that would keep the company a viable economic enterprise into the 21st century.81 Russian traders continued harvesting sea mammals into the final decade of the 19th century, but declines in animal populations and the American purchase of Alaska in 1867 led to a decrease in Russian trading activity along the west coast of North America.82

A market for furs persists to this day, largely supplied by commercial fur-farm operations and small, independent trappers.83 Some Indigenous peoples, especially in Canada’s north, continue to trap and trade furs for economic sustenance. The HBC still exists as a legal entity, but it no longer functions as a fur trading enterprise. It began shifting to retail sales in 1912 and is now a publicly traded company with department-store holdings in North America and Europe. The NWC was reinvented in 1987 and now runs retail stores in northern Canada.

Discussion of the Literature

North American fur-trade historiography of the early 19th century, including the works of Francis Parkman and Washington Irving, romanticized the actions of European men in the trade and cast Indigenous participants in roles peripheral to what Europeans and Euro-North Americans deemed to be important events in the fur trade.84 Late-19th- and early-20th-century historians including Hubert Howe Bancroft followed their example, valorizing fur traders as European heroes who “conquered” the North American wilderness and the peoples they encountered.85 Biographies of individual fur traders such as David Thompson and Alexander Mackenzie gained popularity in the first decades of the 20th century, as did reissues of their writings, which contributed to depictions of fur traders as explorer-heroes.86 Hiram Chittenden’s work at this time illuminated lives of fur traders and also the workings of fur trading companies operating along the Missouri River and in the Great Basin.87 The influence of Frederick Jackson Turner and American understandings of Manifest Destiny are apparent in much of 20th-century American fur-trade historiography, constructing, in the words of Bethel Saler and Carolyn Podruchny, “fur traders and trappers as ‘precursors’ in an American advance westward that inevitably eclipsed their mobile exchange economies.” American and Canadian historiographies of the North American fur trade diverged in the mid-20th century, with Canadian historians placing more emphasis on the role of the fur trade in shaping the Canadian nation-state, whereas American historians began portraying the fur trade as one of multiple processes in a Turnerian westward expansion of the United States across the continent.88

In the second and third decades of the 20th century, fur-trade historiography expanded with the seminal economic analysis of Harold A. Innis, introducing the staple thesis and the enduring economic theory of Canadian reliance on its export economy.89 Innis’s contemporaries explored the organization and finances of fur trading companies and the European men who managed them.90 By the 1950s, E. E. Rich shifted the focus of fur-trade historiography to the role of the fur trade in British imperial history and began furthering analysis of cultural adaptation in the context of the trade.91

In 1965, historians of the fur trade began meeting for the North American Fur Trade Conference and regularly publishing papers presented there, which introduced academics and fur-trade enthusiasts to new ideas in the discipline.92 Within a decade of the first conference, the historiography began to reflect innovative and diverse avenues of inquiry. In their analysis of economic interactions between fur traders and Indigenous partners in the trade, Arthur J. Ray and Donald Freeman differentiated themselves from their predecessors by expanding economic analysis to Indigenous trade interactions.93 Scholars began thinking beyond the assumption that Indigenous people were dependent on the fur trade and began interpreting fur-trade exchange as multidimensional and reflecting more than simply the economic desires of European interests. While many writers in the 1970s and 1980s were still interested in the biographies of European traders, new scholarship dramatically changed the way fur-trade history was understood by focusing on neglected topics such as laborers.94

In 1980, Jennifer S. H. Brown published her ground-breaking analysis of families formed in the fur trade, examining the lives of women and children in the context of the enterprise and illuminating the family lives of fur traders and their supervisors. The same year, Sylvia Van Kirk published her hugely influential book on the roles of Indigenous and European women in fur-trade society.95 Fur-trade history began to reflect interests in culture and family, and scholars began to study Métis history in earnest.96 In the space of the last thirty-five years, Métis historiography has grown exponentially from examinations of their ethnogenesis as a distinctly North American people to detailed analyses of legal rights and their experiences as a mobile culture.97

Indigenous people have been part of fur-trade historiography from the first histories on the subject, but only in the last decades of the 20th century were Indigenous experiences seriously examined and Indigenous actors in the fur trade afforded agency in fur-trade histories. In 1974, Arthur J. Ray and Charles A. Bishop carefully examined the roles and influence of Indigenous people in the fur trade.98 Ray, Bishop, and Bruce M. White were among the first historians who began to bring Indigenous history to a more prominent role in fur-trade scholarship, a trend that has continued as indigenous peoples share their histories and interpretations of the fur trade.99

Fur-trade scholarship continues to examine the lives of non-indigenous traders, but new avenues of inquiry explore the role of labor and culture, mobility, understandings of exchange, environmental history and the history of science, and the roles of kinship networks and family in the fur trade, among other subjects. Understandings of the fur trade have expanded exponentially since the 1970s; followed the linguistic turn of the late 20th century, with examinations of trader discourses; applied ethnohistoric lenses to Europeans; and assumed a postcolonial focus on subaltern power by centering indigenous voices and actions.100

Primary Sources

The history of the North American fur trade is drawn from environments, oral sources, and material objects, but the largest concentration of research has been drawn from documents, such as the papers of fur trading companies, individual post ledgers and journals, and the correspondence of company elites.101 The largest collection is the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, as the company required its employees to keep detailed records since its inception in 1670, and it includes reports, letters, post journals, account books, and maps.102 In addition to regional archives and libraries, national and provincial repositories contain records that reveal interactions between actors in the fur trade and governments, in the form of licenses, documentation of legal disputes, and other official papers.103

In addition to fur trading company and government documents, the independent papers of fur traders, travelers, missionaries, explorers, and others who encountered the fur trade comprise a significant amount of source materials scattered widely across North America, held in countless archives, museums, libraries, and historical societies.104 Many traders published versions of their travels and experiences in the trade, generating a genre of fur-trade literature, which has provided inspiration in subsequent centuries to construct historical analyses of the trade.105 In written sources left by primarily European men in the fur trade, we can catch glimpses of workers, women, children, and indigenous peoples in recorded speeches, descriptions of actions, and silences.106

We can find the words of indigenous peoples in oral histories, which have been committed to paper in a variety of ways, such as publications of oral traditions by indigenous elders;107 renderings of oral traditions, local histories, and personal stories that have been recorded in the past;108 and oral history projects dedicated to specific communities or topics.109 Some oral histories are available to researchers in archives or online.110

Material objects are a central source of evidence of the fur trade in North America. Museums across the continent contain objects created and traded in the context of the fur trade and archaeological excavations at historical sites contribute to such collections.111 Works of art, photographs, and maps also act as material object sources of fur trade history.112 In recent years with the expansion of environmental history methods, fur trade historians including Theodore Binnema and George Colpitts have utilized the environment as a primary source in their analyses of fur-trade history, following the lead of respected fur-trade scholar Arthur J. Ray.113

Archives of Manitoba. “Hudson’s Bay Company Archives.”

Canadian Millennium Partnership Program, Digital Collections Program, McGill University. “In Pursuit of Adventure: The Fur Trade and the North West Company.”

Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research. “Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture.”

The Museum of the Fur Trade.

Societé historique de Saint-Boniface. “Centre du patrimoine.”

Fashion in Time. “History of Fur in Fashion, 10th to 19th Century.”

Further Reading

Anderson, Dean L. “The Flow of European Trade Goods into the Western Great Lakes Region, 1715‒1760.” In The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991. Edited by Jennifer S. H. Brown, W. J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman, 93–115. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

    Braund, Kathryn E. Holland. Deerskins and Duffels: Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685–1815. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.Find this resource:

      Brown, Jennifer S. H. Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980.Find this resource:

        Bumsted, J. M. Fur Trade Wars: The Founding of Western Canada. Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 1999.Find this resource:

          Dolin, Eric Jay. Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.Find this resource:

            Ens, Gerhard J., and Joe Sawchuk. From New Peoples to New Nations: Aspects of Metis History and Identity from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.Find this resource:

              Francis, Daniel, and Toby Morantz. Partners in Furs: A History of the Fur Trade in Eastern James Bay, 1600–1870. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1983.Find this resource:

                Gibson, James R. Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785–1841. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

                  Hyde, Anne F. Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800–1860. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.Find this resource:

                    Krech, Shepard, III. Indians, Animals, and the Fur Trade: A Critique of Keepers of the Game. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981.Find this resource:

                      Lytwyn, Victor. The Fur Trade of the Little North: Indians, Pedlars and Englishmen East of Lake Winnipeg, 1760–1821. Winnipeg: Rupert’s Land Research Centre, University of Winnipeg, 1986.Find this resource:

                        Martin, Calvin. Keepers of the Game: Indian‒Animal Relationships and the Fur Trade. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.Find this resource:

                          Perry, Adele. Colonial Relations: The Douglas-Connolly Family and the Nineteenth-Century Imperial World. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                            Podruchny, Carolyn. Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.Find this resource:

                              Ray, Arthur J. The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                                Ray, Arthur J. Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660–1870. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.Find this resource:

                                  Ray, Arthur J., and Donald Freeman. “Give Us Good Measure”: An Economic Analysis of Relations between the Indians and the Hudson’s Bay Company before 1763. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978.Find this resource:

                                    Reid, John Phillip. Contested Empire: Peter Skene Ogden and the Snake River Expeditions. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.Find this resource:

                                      Skinner, Claiborne A. The Upper Country: French Enterprise in the Colonial Great Lakes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

                                        Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.Find this resource:

                                          Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.Find this resource:

                                            St-Onge, Nicole, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall, eds. Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012.Find this resource:

                                              Sturtevant, William C., and Wilcomb E. Washburn. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 4, History of Indian‒White Relations. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1989.Find this resource:

                                                Tanner, Helen Hornbeck. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.Find this resource:

                                                  Thorne, Tanis. The Many Hands of My Relations: French and Indians on the Lower Missouri. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.Find this resource:

                                                    Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trader Society, 1670–1870. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1980.Find this resource:


                                                      (1.) Bernard Allaire, Pelleteries, manchons, et chapeaux de castor: Les Fourrures nord-américaines à Paris, 1500–1632 (Sillery: Septentrion, 1999).

                                                      (2.) See, e.g., Megan Wohlberg, “Making a Living on the Trapline,” Briarpatch Magazine, October 30, 2015,

                                                      (3.) For more on the rise of fur farming in Canada, see Arthur J. Ray, The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 112, 113, 117, 119, 121. Also see International Fur Trade Federation, “The Socio-Economic Impact of International Fur Farming,” July 13, 2011,

                                                      (4.) Julia V. Emberley, Venus and Furs: The Cultural Politics of Fur (London: I. B. Tauris, 1997); Mary Ellen Snodgrass, World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence (New York: Routledge, 2015), 267–270.

                                                      (5.) Gilbert F. LaFreniere, The Decline of Nature: Environmental History and the Western Worldview (Corvallis, OR: Oak Savanna Publishing, 2008), 177.

                                                      (6.) J. F. Crean, “Hats and the Fur Trade,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science/Revue canadienne d’Economique et de Science politique 28.3 (1962): 373–386.

                                                      (7.) Todd J. Braje and Torben C. Rick, eds., Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters: Integrating Archaeology and Ecology in the Northeast Pacific (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); James R. Gibson, Otter Skins, Boston Ships, and China Goods: The Maritime Fur Trade of the Northwest Coast, 1785–1841 (Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press, 1992).

                                                      (8.) Kathryn E. Holland Braund, Deerskins and Duffels: Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685–1815 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Tom McHugh, The Time of the Buffalo (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979).

                                                      (9.) Mary Ann Franke, To Save the Wild Bison: Life on the Edge in Yellowstone (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005), 18.

                                                      (10.) Shepard Krech III, The Ecological Indian: Myth and History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 123–150. Also see Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (Boston: South End Press, 1999).

                                                      (11.) On the role of pemmican in the fur trade, see George Colpitts, Pemmican Empire: Food, Trade, and the Last Bison Hunts in the North American Plains, 1780–1882 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

                                                      (12.) Brian M. Fagan, Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005); Helen Hornbeck Tanner, ed., The Settling of North America: The Atlas of the Great Migrations into North America from the Ice Age to the Present (New York: Macmillan Press, 1995).

                                                      (13.) William W. Fitzhugh and Elizabeth I. Ward, eds., Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000).

                                                      (14.) Peter E. Pope, Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 339–340; on trade items, see Laurier Turgeon, “French Fishers, Fur Traders and Amerindians during the Sixteenth Century: History and Archaeology,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 55.4 (October 1998): 585–610.

                                                      (15.) Toby Morantz, “On Merging European and Native Views of Early Contact,” in Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500–1700, ed. Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 48–67, at 49.

                                                      (16.) Jennifer S. H. Brown, “Omens, Mysteries, and First Encounters,” in Telling Our Stories: Omushkego Legends & Histories from Hudson Bay, by Louis Bird ed. by Jennifer S. H. Brown, Paul W. DePasquale, and Mark F. Ruml (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2005), 133–161, at 134.

                                                      (17.) Jennifer S. H. Brown, “Rupert’s Land, Nituskeenan, Our Land: Cree and English Naming and Claiming around the Dirty Sea,” in New Histories for Old: Changing Perspectives on Canada’s Native Pasts, ed. Ted Binnema and Susan Neylan (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2007), 18–40, at 21.

                                                      (18.) Peter D. MacLeod, “The Amerindian Discovery of Europe: Accounts of First Contact in Anishinabeg Oral Tradition,” in The Invention of Canada: Readings in Pre-Confederation History, ed. Chad Gaffield (Mississauga: Copp Clark Longman, 1994), 53–59.

                                                      (19.) Johann Georg Kohl, Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings Round Lake Superior, trans. Lascelles Wraxall (London: Chapman and Hall, 1860), 244–247; Francis Assikinak, “Social and Warlike Customs of the Odahwah Indians,” Canadian Journal of Industry, Science, and Art 3.16 (July 1858). For another example of Innu (Montagnais) naming Europeans after their wooden boats, see Gabriel Sagard, Histoire du Canada et voyages que les Freres, Mineurs Recollets y ont faicts pour la conversion des Infidelles, 4 vols. (Paris: Claude Donnius, 1638), vol. 1, ch. 9, Project Gutenberg Canada,

                                                      (20.) Eric Jay Dolin, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), xv.

                                                      (21.) Colin G. Calloway, One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), 168, 302–303.

                                                      (22.) Bruce G. Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976), 62–63.

                                                      (23.) Arthur J. Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660–1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998); Arthur J. Ray and Donald Freeman, “Give Us Good Measure”: An Economic Analysis of Relations between the Indians and the Hudson’s Bay Company before 1763 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978).

                                                      (24.) James P. Ronda, Astoria & Empire (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 5–7.

                                                      (25.) Katerina G. Solovjova and Aleksandra A. Vovnyanko, The Fur Rush: Essays and Documents on the History of Alaska at the End of the Eighteenth Century (Anchorage: Phenix Press, 2002).

                                                      (26.) James Kari, with Katie and Fred John, “Lazeni ‘linn Nataełde Ghadghaande: When Russians Were Killed at ‘Roasted Salmon Place’ (Batzulnetas),” in The Alaska Native Reader: History, Culture, Politics, ed. Maria Shaa Tláa Williams (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 15–27.

                                                      (27.) Laurier Turgeon, “Échange d’objets et conquête de l’autre en Nouvelle-France au XVIe siècle,” in Transferts culturels et métissages Amérique/Europe, XVIe–XXe siècle, ed. by Laurier Turgeon, Denys Delage, and Réal Ouellet (Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval, 1996), 160–161.

                                                      (28.) Elizabeth Mancke, A Company of Businessmen: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Long-Distance Trade, 1670–1730 (Winnipeg: Rupert’s Land Research Centre, 1988).

                                                      (29.) Calloway, One Vast Winter Count; Fagan, Ancient North America; George R. Hamell, “The Iroquois and the World’s Rim: Speculations on Color, Culture, and Contact,” American Indian Quarterly 16.4 (1992): 451–469; Christopher L. Miller and George R. Hamell, “A New Perspective on Indian‒White Contact: Cultural Symbols and Colonial Trade,” Journal of American History 73.2 (1986): 311–328; Turgeon, “Échange d’objets et conquête de l’autre.”

                                                      (30.) Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic, 64.

                                                      (31.) Timothy K. Perttula, “French and Spanish Colonial Trade Policies and the Fur Trade among the Caddoan Indians of the Trans-Mississippi South,” in The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991, ed. Jennifer S. H. Brown, W. J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman (East Lansing/Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press/Mackinac State Historic Parks, 1994), 71–91, at 87.

                                                      (32.) Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade, xviii.

                                                      (33.) For example, see “Temiskaming Accounting Ledger, ‘Indian Debts Ledger’, 1832‒1838” and “Temiskaming Account Book, ‘Voyagers & Indian Provision Book, Grand Lac,’ 1868‒1869,” F471, Archives of Ontario; Mary-Ellen Kelm and Lorna Townsend, In the Days of Our Grandmothers: A Reader in Aboriginal Women’s History in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 3–92; Bruce M. White, “The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns and Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade,” Ethnohistory 46.1 (1999): 109–147.

                                                      (34.) White, “The Woman Who Married a Beaver,” 109–147.

                                                      (35.) Pope, Fish into Wine, 15. See also Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (repr., Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 384.

                                                      (36.) Pope, Fish into Wine; Selma Huxley Barkham, “The Mentality of Men behind Sixteenth-Century Spanish Voyages to Terranova,” in Decentring the Renaissance: Canada and Europe in Multidisciplinary Perspective, 1500–1700, ed. Germaine Warkentin and Carolyn Podruchny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 110–124.

                                                      (37.) Ramsay Cook, ed., The Voyages of Jacques Cartier (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993); Douglas Hunter, Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009); Samuel de Champlain, The Works of Samuel de Champlain, ed. H. P. Biggar (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1922–1936).

                                                      (38.) Saliha Belmessous, Empire by Treaty: Negotiating European Expansion, 1600–1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

                                                      (39.) Allan Greer, ed., The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000), 186–200.

                                                      (40.) Marcel Trudel, Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (Montreal: Fides, 1963).

                                                      (41.) Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (New York: Penguin Books, 2002).

                                                      (42.) Douglas Hunter, God’s Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal and the Dream of Discovery (Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2007), 8, 161.

                                                      (43.) Conrad E. Heidenreich and K. Janet Ritch, eds., Samuel de Champlain before 1604: Des Sauvages and Other Documents Related to the Period (Toronto: Champlain Society and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), xvi.

                                                      (44.) Daniel K. Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), 7. Also see William N. Fenton, The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

                                                      (45.) Hunter, God’s Mercies, 182–184.

                                                      (46.) Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse, 58.

                                                      (47.) For some examples, see Patricia Seed, Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492–1640 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Karen Ordahl Kupperman, The Jamestown Project (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2009); William J. Eccles, France in America (Markham: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1990).

                                                      (48.) See Germaine Warkentin, ed., Pierre-Esprit Radisson: The Collected Writings, vols. 1 and 2 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press and Toronto: Champlain Society, 2012 and 2014).

                                                      (49.) Donald MacKay, The Honourable Company: A History of the Hudson’s Bay Company (New York: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1936); John S. Galbraith, Hudson’s Bay Company as an Imperial Factor, 1821–1869 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957); E. E. Rich, Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670–1870, 3 vols. (Toronto: Macmillan, 1958, 1960, 1961).

                                                      (50.) Dolin, Fur, Fortune, and Empire, 75–80.

                                                      (51.) J. R. Miller, Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 4 and 5–6.

                                                      (52.) E. E. Rich, “The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Treaty of Utrecht,” Cambridge Historical Journal 11.2 (1954): 183–203.

                                                      (53.) Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000).

                                                      (54.) Phillip Buckner and John G. Reid, eds., Revisiting 1759: The Conquest of Canada in Historical Perspective (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012); Phillip Buckner and John G. Reid, eds., Remembering 1759: The Conquest of Canada in Historical Memory (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012).

                                                      (55.) W. Stewart Wallace, ed., Documents Relating to the North West Company (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1934); Marjorie Wilkins Campbell, The North West Company (Toronto: Macmillan, 1957).

                                                      (56.) Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 3 vols., ed. Elliott Coues (repr., New York: Dover, 1964); Alexander Mackenzie, The Journals and Letters of Alexander Mackenzie, ed. W. Kaye Lamb (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1970).

                                                      (57.) Ronda, Astoria & Empire.

                                                      (58.) Hiram Martin Chittendon, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, vols. 1 and 2 (repr., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986).

                                                      (59.) For further reading on the Rocky Mountain and Missouri River fur trade, see Barton H. Barbour, Fort Union and the Upper Missouri Fur Trade (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001); Barton H. Barbour, Jedediah Smith: No Ordinary Mountain Man (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009); LeRoy Hafen, ed., Mountain Men and Fur Traders of the Far West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965); Dale L. Morgan and Eleanor Towles Harris, The Rocky Mountain Journals of William Marshall Anderson: The West in 1834 (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1967); Paul Chrisler Phillips, The Fur Trade (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961).

                                                      (60.) P. A. Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian-American Company (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977).

                                                      (61.) MacKay, The Honourable Company, 179.

                                                      (62.) Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic, 64.

                                                      (63.) Jennifer S. H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980); Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trader Society, 1670–1870 (Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1980); Susan Sleeper-Smith, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

                                                      (64.) John E. Foster, “Some Questions and Perspectives on the Problem of Métis Roots,” in The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America, ed. Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985), 73–91; Peter Bakker, A Language of Our Own: The Genesis of Michif, the Mixed Cree-French Language of the Canadian Métis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Monique LeBlanc Genest, “Une jolie cincture à flesche”: Sa presence au Bas-Canada, son chemïnement vers l’Ouest, son introduction chez les Amérindiens (Québec: Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 2003).

                                                      (65.) Brown, Strangers in Blood.

                                                      (66.) Daniel Laxer, “Listening to the Fur Trade: Sound, Music, and Dance in Northern North America, 1760‒1840” (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2014); Sherry Farrell Racette, “Sewing Ourselves Together: Clothing, Decorative Arts and the Expression of Metis and Half Breed Identity” (PhD diss., University of Manitoba, 2004); Sherry Farrell Racette, “This Fierce Love: Gender, Women and Art Making,” in Art in Our Lives: Native Women Artists in Dialogue, ed. Cynthia Chavez Lamar, Sherry Farrell Racette, with Lara Evans (Santa Fe, NM: SAR Press, 2010). Also see Lawrence J. Barkwell, Leah Dorion, and Darren R. Préfontaine, eds., Metis Legacy: A Metis Historiography and Annotated Bibliography, vol. 1 (Saskatoon: Pemmican Publications, 2001).

                                                      (67.) Brenda Macdougall, “‘The Comforts of Married Life’: Metis Family Life, Labour, and the Hudson’s Bay Company,” Labour/Le Travail 61 (Spring 2008): 9–39; and Brenda Macdougall, One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwest Saskatchewan (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010).

                                                      (68.) Colpitts, Pemmican Empire; Macdougall, “‘The Comforts of Married Life’: Metis Family Life”; Gerhard Ens, Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996); Gerhard J. Ens and Joe Sawchuk, From New Peoples to New Nations: Aspects of Metis History and Identity from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015); Sylvia Van Kirk, “‘What if Mama is an Indian?’: The Cultural Ambivalence of the Alexander Ross family,” in The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America, ed. Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985), 207–217; Edith Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline, and Conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770–1879 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997).

                                                      (69.) Jacqueline Peterson, “Many Roads to Red River: Métis Genesis in the Great Lakes Region, 1680‒1815,” in The New Peoples: Being and Becoming Métis in North America, ed. Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S. H. Brown (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1985), 37–71; Ens, Homeland to Hinterland.

                                                      (70.) Miller, Compact, Contract, Covenant, 123–149; for a different view, see Kent McNeil, “Sovereignty and the Aboriginal Nations of Rupert's Land,” Manitoba History 37 (Spring/Summer 1999): 2–8.

                                                      (71.) An Act to amend and continue the Act 32–33 Victoria chapter 3; and to establish and provide for the Government of the Province of Manitoba, 1870, 33 Vict., c. 3. May 12, 1870. Online at In 2013, Canada’s Federal Court ruled that Métis and “non-status Indians” are entitled to the same constitutional rights afforded other indigenous peoples in Canada. See Fontaine v. Canada, 2013 ONSC 684.

                                                      (72.) Heather Devine, The People Who Own Themselves: Aboriginal Ethnogenesis in a Canadian Family, 1660–1900 (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2004); John C. Jackson, Children of the Fur Trade: Forgotten Métis of the Pacific Northwest (Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing, 1995); Diane Payment, The Free People/Li Gens Libres: A History of the Métis Community of Batoche, Saskatchewan (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2009); Nicole St-Onge, Saint-Laurent, Manitoba: Evolving Métis Identities, 1850–1914 (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 2004).

                                                      (73.) Charles Eugène Panet, Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament (Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, 1886).

                                                      (74.) Chester Brown, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (Montréal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2006); George F. G. Stanley, Louis Riel (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1985); Blair Stonechild and Bill Waiser, Loyal till Death: Indians and the North-West Rebellion (Calgary: Fifth House, 1997).

                                                      (76.) Nicholas C. P. Vrooman, The Whole Country was … One Robe: The Little Shell Tribe’s America (Great Falls: Drumlummon Institute and Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, 2013).

                                                      (77.) Convention of Commerce between His Majesty and the United States of America, signed at London, October 20, 1818. Online at; Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the Settlement of the Oregon Boundary, signed June 15, 1846. United States National Archives. Online at

                                                      (78.) James R. Gibson, Farming the Frontier: The Agricultural Opening of the Oregon Country, 1786–1846 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985), 203–204.

                                                      (79.) John W. Bennett and Seena B. Kohl, Settling the Canadian-American West, 1890–1915: Pioneer Adaptation and Community Building: An Anthropological History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

                                                      (80.) James W. Daschuk, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (Regina: University of Regina Press, 2012); Roger Nichols, American Indians in U.S. History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014); Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

                                                      (81.) Ray, The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age, 3.

                                                      (82.) Tikhmenev, A History of the Russian-American Company.

                                                      (83.) See Government of Manitoba, “Trapping Guide.” Online at; Fur Information Council of America, “FICA Facts.” Online at For background history, see, e.g., Frank Tough, As Their Natural Resources Fail: Native Peoples and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870–1930 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997); Peter Kulchyski and Frank James Tester, Kiumajut (Talking Back): Game Management and Inuit Rights, 1900–70 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2008); John Sandlos, Hunters at the Margins: Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011).

                                                      (84.) Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, vol. 1, Pioneers of France in the New World, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West, The Old Regime in Canada (New York: Library of America, 1983); Francis Parkman, France and England in North America, vol. 2, Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV, a Half-Century of Conflict, Montcalm and Wolfe (New York: Library of America, 1983); Washington Irving, Three Western Narratives: A Tour on the Prairie/Astoria/The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (New York: Library of America, 2004).

                                                      (85.) Hubert Howe Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States (San Francisco: History Company, 1874); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming (San Francisco: History Company, 1890); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of the Northwest Coast (San Francisco: History Company, 1884); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Oregon (San Francisco: History Company, 1886–88); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana (San Francisco: History Company, 1890); Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of British Columbia (San Francisco: History Company, 1887). Bancroft is known to have relied on the work of many research assistants without attribution.

                                                      (86.) J. B. Tyrrell, ed., David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784–1812 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916); Hume Wrong, Sir Alexander Mackenzie: Explorer and Fur-Trader (Toronto: Macmillan, 1927).

                                                      (87.) Hiram Martin Chittenden, History of Early Steamboat Navigation on the Missouri River: Life and Adventures of Joseph LaBarge, Pioneer Navigator and Indian Trader, for Fifty Years Identified with the Commerce of the Missouri Valley (repr., Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, 1962); Hiram Martin Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West: A History of the Pioneer Trading Posts and Early Fur Companies of the Missouri Valley and the Rocky Mountains and of Overland Commerce with Santa Fe (repr., Stanford, CA: Academic Reprints, 1954).

                                                      (88.) For a detailed discussion of the differences in American and Canadian fur trade historiography, see Bethel Saler and Carolyn Podruchny, “Glass Curtains and Storied Landscapes: The Fur Trade, National Boundaries, and Historians,” in Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, ed. Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 275–302.

                                                      (89.) Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada.

                                                      (90.) MacKay, The Honourable Company. Also see A. S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870–71 (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1939).

                                                      (91.) E. E. Rich, The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670–1870 (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1958–9); Rich, Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670–1870; E. E. Rich, The Fur Trade and the Northwest to 1857 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967).

                                                      (92.) Dale L. Morgan et al., Aspects of the Fur Trade: Selected Papers of the 1965 North American Fur Trade Conference (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1967); Malvina Bolus, ed., People and Pelts: Selected Papers of the Second North American Fur Trade Conference (Winnipeg: Peguis, 1972); Carol M. Judd and Arthur J. Ray, eds., Old Trails and New Directions: Papers of the Third North American Fur Trade Conference (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Thomas C. Buckley, ed., Rendezvous: Selected Papers of the Fourth North American Fur Trade Conference (St. Paul, MN: The Conference, 1984); Bruce G. Trigger, Toby Morantz, and Louise Dechêne, eds., Le Castor Fait Tout: Selected Papers of the Fifth North American Fur Trade Conference (Montreal: Lake St. Louis Historical Society, 1987); W. J. Eccles, Jennifer S. H. Brown, and Donald P. Heldman, eds., The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994); Jo-Anne Fiske, Susan Sleeper-Smith, and William Wicken, eds., New Faces of the Fur Trade: Selected Papers of the Seventh North American Fur Trade Conference (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998); Louise Johnson, ed., Aboriginal People and the Fur Trade: Proceedings of the 8th North America Fur Trade Conference, Akwesasne (Cornwall, ON: Akwesasne Notes Publishing, 2001).

                                                      (93.) Ray and Freeman, “Give Us Good Measure,” 3.

                                                      (94.) Grace Lee Nute, The Voyageur (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987).

                                                      (95.) Brown, Strangers in Blood; Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties. Three other significant works on Métis history were undertaken at the same time: John Foster, “The Country-born in the Red River Settlement, 1820‒1850” (PhD diss., University of Alberta, 1973); Frits Pannekoek, “The Churches and Social Structure in the Red River Area, 1818‒70” (PhD diss., Queen’s University, 1973); Jacqueline Peterson “Ethnogenesis: Métis Development the Influence in the Great Lakes Region, 1690‒1836” (PhD diss., University of Illinois, Chicago Circle, 1977).

                                                      (96.) Peterson and Brown, eds., The New Peoples; Frits Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of 1869–1870 (Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1991).

                                                      (97.) D. N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869–1885 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988); Paul L. A. H. Chartrand, Manitoba’s Métis Settlement Scheme of 1870 (Saskatoon: Native Law Centre, University of Saskatchewan, 1991); Jackson, Children of the Fur Trade; Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, A Gathering of Rivers: Indians Métis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000); Devine, The People Who Own Themselves; Macdougall, One of the Family; Nicole St-Onge, Carolyn Podruchny, and Brenda Macdougall, eds., Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012); Chris Andersen, “Métis”: Race, Recognition, and the Struggle for Indigenous Peoplehood (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2014); Michel Hogue, Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Vrooman, The Whole Country was … One Robe.

                                                      (98.) Charles A. Bishop, The Northern Ojibwa and the Fur Trade: An Historical and Ecological Study (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, 1974); Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade.

                                                      (99.) Bruce M. White, The Fur Trade in Minnesota: An Introductory Guide to Manuscript Sources (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1977); Bruce M. White, “‘Give Us a Little Milk’: The Social and Cultural Meaning of Gift Giving in the Lake Superior Fur Trade,” in Buckley, ed., Rendezvous: Selected Papers of the Fourth North American Fur Trade Conference; Bruce M. White, “A Skilled Game of Exchange: Ojibway Fur Trade Protocol,” Minnesota History 50.6 (Summer 1987): 229–240; Bruce M. White, “Encounters with Spirits: Ojibwa and Dakota Theories about the French and Their Merchandise,” Ethnohistory 41.3 (Summer 1994): 376–381; White, “The Woman Who Married a Beaver,” 109–147; Carolyn Podruchny and Laura Peers, eds., Gathering Places: Aboriginal and Fur Trade Histories (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010); Robert Englebert and Guillaume Teasdale, eds., French and Indians in the Heart of North America, 1630–1815 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013).

                                                      (100.) Elizabeth Vibert, Traders’ Tales: Narratives of Cultural Encounters in the Columbia Plateau, 1807–1846 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000); Carolyn Podruchny, Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006); Nicole St-Onge, “The Persistence of Travel and Trade: St. Lawrence River Valley French Engagés and the American Fur Company, 1818‒1840,” Michigan Historical Review 34.2 (Fall 2008): 17–37; Susan Sleeper-Smith, ed., Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009); Theodore Binnema, Enlightened Zeal: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Scientific Networks, 1670–1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014); Colpitts, Pemmican Empire; Anne F. Hyde, Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West, 1800–1860 (New York: Harper Collins, 2012); Jean Barman, French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2015).

                                                      (101.) “Hudson’s Bay Company Archives,” Archives of Manitoba, online finding aid; “North West Company Manuscripts,” Masson Papers, Rare Books and Special Collections Division MS472, McGill University Libraries, collection online at; Library and Archives Canada, “Masson Collection,” MG19 C1; “American Fur Company records,” Stuart House, Mackinac Island State Park Commission, Mackinac Island, MI. For excellent examples of historical analysis of account books, see Ray and Freeman, “Give Us Good Measure.”

                                                      (102.) Deidre Simmons, Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007).

                                                      (103.) Archives of Ontario, available online at; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales de Québec, available online at; United States National Archives and Records Administration, available online at, e.g., Record Group 46, “Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate at the National Archives, Chapter 12: Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816‒1968,” available at

                                                      (104.) For some archival examples, see Astor Family Papers, New York Historical Society Mss Collection; David Thompson, Journals and Notebooks, David Thompson fonds, MS 4427, Archives of Ontario; “Frontier and Pioneer Life Collection,” State Historical Society of Missouri; “Pierre-Jean De Smet Papers” and “Nicolas Point Drawings,” Jesuit Archives for the Central United States, searchable online at “De Smetiana Series,” In addition to company documentation, such as ledgers and post journals, many letters and documents of individual traders, such as George Simpson’s “character book,” are held in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. The Minnesota Historical Society holds papers of fur traders and others working among fur traders, including those of Peter Pond, Samuel Abbott, and many others, available online at Some of these archival materials have been published, such as Alexander Henry the Younger, The Journal of Alexander Henry the Younger, 1799–1814, ed. Barry M. Gough (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1988); David Douglas, Journal Kept by David Douglas during his travels in North America 1823–1827, together with a particular description of thirty-three species of American oaks and eighteen species of Pinus, with appendices containing a list of the plants introduced by Douglas and an account of his death in 1834 (London: Royal Horticultural Society, 1914); David Thompson, The Writings of David Thompson, 2 vols., ed. William E. Moreau (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press and Toronto: Champlain Society, 2009, 2015); George Nelson, My First Years in the Fur Trade: The Journals of 1802–1804, ed. Laura Peers and Theresa M. Schenck (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002); Harry Duckworth, ed., The English River Book: A North West Company Journal and Account Book of 1786 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990); Lloyd Keith, ed., North of Athabasca: Slave Lake and Mackenzie River Documents of the North West Company, 1800–1821 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001); W. Raymond Wood and Thomas D. Thiessen, eds., Early Fur Trade on the North Plains: Canadian Traders among the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, 1738–1818 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985); and Charles M. Gates, ed., Five Fur Traders of the Northwest (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1965).

                                                      (105.) For some published examples, see Ross Cox, Adventures on the Columbia River: Including the Narrative of a Residence of Six Years on the Western Side of the Rocky Mountains among Various Tribes of Indians hitherto unknown: Together with a Journey across the American Continent (London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1831); Alexander Henry, Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories between the Years 1760 and 1776 (New York: I. Riley, 1809); Alexander Mackenzie, A Narrative, or Journal of Voyages and Travels through the North-West Continent of America: in the years 1789 and 1793 by Mr. Maclauries (London: J. Smeetson, Printer, 1802); Alexander Ross, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1849); Alexander Ross, The Fur Hunters of the Far West: A Narrative of Adventures in the Oregon and Rocky Mountains (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1855); and John Bigsby, The Shoe and the Canoe or Pictures of Travel in the Canadas, 2 vols. (London: Chapman & Hall, 1850). For a broad sampling, see Germaine Warkentin, ed., Canadian Exploration Literature: An Anthology (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006).

                                                      (106.) For discussions of who to read beyond European men’s words, see Jennifer S. H. Brown and Elizabeth Vibert, eds., Reading Beyond Words: Contexts for Native History, 2d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).

                                                      (107.) For example, see Louis Bird, Telling Our Stories: Omushkego Legends and Histories from Hudson Bay, ed. Jennifer S. H. Brown, Paul W. DePasquale, and Mark F. Ruml (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2005).

                                                      (108.) For example, see William Berens, as told to A. Irving Hallowell, Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader, ed. Jennifer S. H. Brown and Susan Elaine Gray (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009).

                                                      (109.) For example, see Flora Beardy and Robert J. Coutts, eds., Voices from Hudson Bay: Cree Stories from York Factory (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996).

                                                      (110.) “Audio Collections,” Oklahoma Historical Society. Online at; “Doris Duke Indian Oral History Program Archives,” University of Illinois Archives. Online at; “South Dakota Oral History Center,” University of South Dakota. Online at; “Indians/Native Americans,” United States National Archives and Records Administration. Online at; “Our Voices.” Online at

                                                      (111.) The Museum of the Fur Trade. Online at; “Hudson’s Bay Company Collection,” Manitoba Museum. Online at; Minnesota Historical Society, available at Multiple United States National Parks Service parks hold collections of fur trade objects, searchable online at

                                                      (112.) Alexander Henry, Map of the North West Parts of America, 1775, Library and Archives Canada, Map Division; Joseph La France, New Map of Part of North America, 1739–1742, Library and Archives Canada, Map Division; “Nicolas Point Drawings,” Jesuit Archives for the Central United States.

                                                      (113.) For examples of environmental fur trade history methodology and source inspiration, see Theodore Binnema, Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004); Binnema, “Enlightened Zeal”; Colpitts, Pemmican Empire; Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade.