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Glossary

Beaver: The largest rodent in Canada, weighing anywhere between 15-35 kg, the beaver had a profound effect upon the exploration, development and history of the Canadian nation. Due to a demand for the beaver pelt as a textile material in Europe beginning in the 18th century, it was the beaver that sparked the extensive exploration of North America and provided the impetus for the establishment of the lucrative fur-trade economy that became the basis of the Canadian nation. The Beaver has, as a result, become a Canadian national symbol.

Fur traders travelling by canoeCanoe: Small boat constructed of birch bark and cedar held together with tree roots and tar. Although it was designed and first used by the native populations of North America, the canoe became a very important means of transportation for early fur traders and explorers as well. The canoe has no standard size and, during the fur trade era, could range in size from 40 foot cargo vessels to smaller, sleeker 2-4 passenger versions which were much more efficient and maneuverable.

Ceintures Flechées: A hand woven sash or belt worn about the waist, typically made of bright colours such as red, yellow, blue, white and black it is also known as the Métis or Voyageur sash. The art of weaving the sash was passed on by French Canadians to the Voyageurs who themselves passed it on to the Métis. Valued for its practicality and versatility, the voyageurs generally wrapped it around their midsection to provide extra back support while portaging or hauling their packs up steep embankments, it could also be used as a rope to pull objects with. Today the sash is worn by members of the Métis nation as a symbol of their pride and nationhood.

Chief Factor: Highest official position within the Hudson's Bay Company fur trade industry. Responsible for the management of several outposts, only Chief Traders could be promoted to this position.

Chief Trader: Hudson's Bay Company officer responsible for the actual fur bartering. Chief Traders were generally promoted to their position after having honed their skills as a Clerk in the service of the Company for at least 15-20 years.

Clerk: The lowest officer of the Hudson's Bay Company and fur trade industry. After a five year apprenticeship, most were placed in charge of smaller fur trading outposts to administer the day to day tasks of trading with the native populations and running the outpost. The Hudson's Bay Clerks provided the workforce from which future leaders, or Factors, were recruited.

Site of a Hudson's Bay Post in the 1920sHudson's Bay Company (HBC): Incorporated in England in 1670 to seek a northwest passage to the Pacific, occupy the lands surrounding Hudson's Bay and carry on commerce and trade in those lands the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) eventually became the most powerful company in Canada, contributing significantly to the political and economic structure of the nation. During the first two hundred years of its existence the HBC engaged primarily in the fur trade industry, setting up fur trading outposts on all of the major waterways in the country in order to trade with the native populations and gaining a monopoly in the industry after 1821. In 1870 the HBC sold its lands, which at this time comprised of virtually all of western Canada, to the government of Canada. Throughout the twentieth century the Company turned more and more to retail merchandising but kept up its northern fur trade operations until 1990. The Hudson's Bay Company is now a major Canadian based department store and has the distinction of being Canada's longest operating corporation.

Made Beaver: One prime beaver skin, flesh removed, stretched, properly tanned and ready for trade. A beaver pelt prepared in such a manner, the Made Beaver, was a unit of currency during the fur trade era. In order to establish a European style system of trade with the North American native population, the Hudson's Bay Company devised the Made Beaver as a unit of currency that could be traded at their posts for various European trade items. The price of all items were set in values of Made Beaver or MB with other animal pelts, such as squirrel, otter and moose quoted in their MB (beaver) equivalents. For example, 2 otter pelts might equal 1 MB. During the later fur trade the Hudson's Bay Company began to issue copper tokens in denominations of Made Beaver.

St Charles Mission, DunveganMissions: When European traders and explorers began to move into North America, as was the case during the colonization of Europe and Asia, there was an immense desire to Christianize the native populations as a means of "civilizing" and helping to ease the natives in to the more preferable, European Lifestyle. The Jesuits were the first to arrive and, generally established their missions around French colonies. The British Conquest in 1760 brought with it the Methodists, Anglicans and Moravians. In western Canada the most active have been the Wesleyan Methodists, the Oblate Priests (Roman Catholics), the Presbyterians after 1860 and, later the United Church.

North West Company: Canadian fur trading company that operated in competition with the Hudson's Bay Company from 1783-1821 when it was amalgamated with the latter. Competition between the two fur-trading companies was very fierce and occasionally resulted in open conflict. The North West Company was staffed and run primarily by Canadiens, or Montreal-based traders, the Nor'Westers, who pooled their resources in hopes of reducing competition amongst themselves and edging out the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly. As a result of their continual skirmishing the British government pressured the two rivals to merge and, in 1821, they amalgamated under the name and charter of the Hudson's Bay Company.

North West Mounted Police Barracks, GrouardNorth West Mounted Police (NWMP): Precursor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Mounties), the North West Mounted Police were a paramilitary force, formed in 1873 to help restore and maintain peace in the newly acquired territories of Western Canada. After the Canadian government purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1869 the unpoliced territories were quickly infiltrated by American whisky traders who were causing great disruptions by trading cheap liquor in exchange for furs with the native population. The original Force consisted of 300 men who traveled west from Manitoba and set up their first post at Fort Macleod in what is now southern Alberta. Once order had been restored the force went on to patrol the borders, maintain peace in the region, oversee the western extension of the Canadian Pacific Railway and help waves of settlers adjust to their new homeland in the west. By 1920 the Force had become national and their name officially became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Making a portage, James Bay region, Ontario. ca. 1907.Portage: A way or path by land at an interruption in a water route. During the fur trade era until the beginning of the 20th century explorers, fur traders, voyageurs and natives all traveled via water routes across North America. When there was a land break between two different water systems, these early travelers would have to "portage" or carry their cargo and boat or canoe by foot across land to the next waterway. On a long portage voyageurs would often use packhorses to carry heavier cargo.

A Red River cartRed-River Cart: System of transportation and shipping invented by the Métis. Similar to a travois, but better designed to suit the travel conditions of the Plains. Rudimentary cart with 2 wheels designed to be attached to one horse. The wheels had bowed spokes and were "off-set" to give the cart's axle a wider track and to absorb some of the shocks delivered to the cart while carrying heavy loads. Enabled the Métis to transport great quantities of freight without having to maintain large horse herds.

Rupert's Land: Territory comprised of northern Quebec and Ontario. Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta and segments of the North West Territory and Nunavut that was granted to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670 by Charles II of England. Named in honour of Prince Rupert, the King's cousin and the Hudson Bay Company's first governor the company was also granted a monopoly on the furs in and complete control of the territory. By 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company had constructed nearly 100 fur trade posts in the territory but, in 1869 the Canadian government purchased Rupert's Land from the Company for 300 000 British pounds.

Trade goods at Fort Whoop-UpTrade Goods: Items housed at each Hudson's Bay Company post used by the Company men to trade with the local native population in exchange for their furs. Typical trade items of the fur trade era included musket balls, guns, coloured beads, knives, tools, smoking pipes, tobacco, liquor, cooking pots, utensils, traps, clothing, textiles, yarn and assorted dry goods. One of the more popular items was the Hudson's Bay Blanket that was developed specifically to entice the natives to trade their anoraks (jackets) made of the much sought after beaver felt without fear of freezing to death during the harsh winters. The Hudson's Bay Blanket remains a popular retail item at Bay stores even to this day and still bears a set of small black lines at the edge of one side which represent how many Made Beaver it's particular size and thickness is worth.

View of Fort Edmonton in the winter, looking west from the flats. York Boat and Red River Cart in foreground. December 1871.York Boat: Large boat used during the fur trade based on an old Orkney (Scotland) design derived from Viking long boats. The York boat was first built at Albany Fort and was flat-bottomed with a pointed bow and a stern that was angled upwards at 45 degrees, making it easy to beach onto and back off of a sandbar. Made generally of spruce or tamarack that could withstand running rapids and repeated beachings, the York boat was rowed by six to eight men. Although much larger and capable of transporting more men and goods cross country than the canoe, the York boat was very difficult to portage where necessary due to its cumbersome size and weight.

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