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Alberta's Francophone Heritage
Background, People, Culture, Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource and Alberta Lottery Fund

 

Francophone Edukit

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New France, Fur Trade and Exploration
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New France, Fur
Trade and Exploration

The French Fur Trade

The Hudson's Bay Company

Voyageurs

La Vérendrye and Western Exploration

The Métis

Events Abroad

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A trapper on his rounds in the Canadian north-west, 1879.The fur trade enterprise in New France was strictly controlled by royal sanction, and fur trading on an individual basis was discouraged. Despite this understanding, settlers, brought to the colony at great expense, saw the opportunity to make some money and facing a lack of available women, engaged in the fur trade and joined Aboriginal bands where they took wives and stayed. Unauthorized trading became such a great problem that sanctions were imposed on the illegal traders or "coureurs de bois" (runners of the woods), who dared to venture out and collect furs without official permission. Seizure of goods was the usual corrective.

Sanctions against the coureurs de bois were finally lifted by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance who, in 1681, began granting a limited amount of permissions, or "congés", per year to go inland and trade furs. Perhaps 50 such permissions were granted per year—far from enough when only a few years before, it had been estimated that perhaps as many as 300 individuals were trading furs upland from the Saint Lawrence. Although official exploration expeditions had been undertaken, the inland was not well-known. Samuel de Champlain began exploring the area in 1603, and was followed by many others, to name but a few: Étienne Brûlé, Jean Nicollet, Jean de Brébeuf, Pierre Chaumonot, Issac Jogues, Jean de Quen, Claude Allouez, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette.

Occasionally, when reading through the accounts of these exploratory voyages, one notices a comment concerning an employee who has abandoned the expedition to join a band of the indigenous peoples.

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