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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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North West Company

The year 1763 saw the end of the Seven Years War between Great Britain, Prussia and Hanover against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and (after 1762) Spain. The Royal Proclamation (1763) was an outcome of the terms of settlement and it granted the Hudson’s Bay Company a monopoly over lands that were previously dominated by French traders. It also preserved territory for Aboriginal tribes.

This was the environment in which The North West Company began in 1779. It was led mainly by a group of merchants (composed of mostly Highland Scots), who migrated to Montreal after 1762 and sought to challenge the monopoly that the HBC held over trade.1 One thing that distinguished the North West Company from the HBC was that their workforce relied heavily on French-Canadians who had settled in the fur country and had developed relations with local Aboriginal tribes. The NWC was controlled mainly by James McGill, Simon McTavish, Isaac Todd, the Frobisher brothers and Peter Pond. They officially incorporated the North West Company in 1783. After three more years they were joined by another group of merchants called Gregory, MacLeod and Company, bringing such people as Roderick and Alexander MacKenzie into the company.

Under the guidance of its new English-Canadian owners, the company economically dominated the trade. However, the workers who formed its core were mostly of the French-Canadian population or of the Great Lakes Métis. The rise of the North West Company in the closing decades of the century marked a pivotal change in trade. The policies of the NWC demanded aggressive pursuit of trade, and they started to become a serious threat to the HBC’s policies and practises.

The HBC soon found that they were forced to pursue a more active approach to trade, using tactics similar to the NWC, when for almost one hundred years they had been content to let the Aboriginal people come to them. The Hudson’s Bay Company had set up posts virtually on the doorstep of their competition. Fort Souris was set up close to Brandon House and Buckingham House, while Fort Edmonton was built by Fort George and Acton House. Eventually competition with the HBC became too strong and by 1821 the NWC was amalgamated by the HBC.

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Liens Rapides


Montreal Peddlers

North West Company

Hudson's Bay Company

Geography and Ecology

The Trade


Buffalo Rope Trade

Company Employment (Wage Labour)

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