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Trade and Early Contact

Blackfoot Women

Each of Alberta's First Nations has its own history and distinctive cultural characteristics, so the experience of early contact and trade varied from group to group. For example, the peoples who lived in the boreal forest and parklands regions were usually experienced trappers, and most quickly incorporated trapping fur-bearing animals such as beaver and muskrat into their subsistence strategies. Plains peoples relied more heavily on buffalo and other large game hunting, and they were more likely to become suppliers of provisions to the fur traders than furs. Most posts were located in the northern half of the province - north of the North Saskatchewan River - until the mid-19th century. Indeed in southern Alberta much of the contact was with traders based on the Missouri River. As a result, First Nations in the northern part of Alberta were drawn into the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies trading systems, while the Blackfoot, Peigan and Bloods were less likely to have regular contact with traders until much later. When they did trade it was often with American companies. Nevertheless, the fur trade either directly or indirectly had a profound impact on all of Alberta's First Nations. As one man said to the trader and explorer, David Thompson: "We shall never be again the same people."

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