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Voyageurs worked the rivers and trails from New France and the Canadian colonies into the fur trading areas to the north, west, and south. They were also known as coureur de bois and many were from the farms of the St. Lawrence River valley. They were usually hired for work by the French or English trading companies. They signed contracts and became engages or servants to their company.

The voyageurs usually spoke French. Most voyageur work was with other voyageurs and their trading partners of the First Nations. Young voyageurs learning their skills were known as "mangeur de lard" (pork eaters). After a winter in the bush, they could be called "hivernant" (winterer).

Voyageurs and their Métis descendants were the first to settle the western frontier as the fur trade days ended in the late 1800s.

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