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Precursor: Focus 1899

The Fur Trade Comes to the Northwest


Tipis at St. Augustine MissionThe effects of the European fur trade were felt in the Peace River Country long before the first fur trader, Peter Pond, had established a post near the mouth of the Athabasca River in 1778.  Amerindians had traded between tribes and established trade routes for thousands of years before Europeans arrived bringing new materials and goods.  Europeans introduced manufactured products - metal knives, pots, tools, glass beads, wool cloth, and other products of exotic materials for trade, which were of interest to Natives.  The medium of exchange was furs, especially beaver, the pelt of which provided a superior felt for men's fashionable hats in Europe.

Beaver PeltNatives were shrewd traders, and greatly influenced the type and quality of goods that were traded.  It was a partnership of equals, with expectations on both sides of mutual satisfaction.  Natives did not need the trade goods Europeans had, but the goods enhanced their lifestyle and status.  In return, European traders sought high quality furs that would ensure the best prices overseas.

Group of Metis traders at Lac La Biche The French had started trading with eastern tribes a century before the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) got into the act in 1670, when the company received its charter.  The HBC did not venture very far from the bay itself; instead they expected Natives to come to the shores of Hudson's Bay to trade their furs.  When most of the areas in eastern Canada had been over-trapped, both French and English traders cast a covetous eye toward the Northwest.

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The Beginning of the Fur Trade in the Peace Region
Summary: Who brought the fur trade to the Northwest? Listen to find out!
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Reprinted from "A Sense of the Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace Museums Association and the author.

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