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Intermarriage and Mixed Families


Metis family from Southern Alberta, GlenbowThroughout the fur trade era in Western Canada it was common for fur traders to marry Aboriginal women. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC) during the 18th and 19th century both employed numerous men, most of them from Europe and most of them single. Men who were not single were instructed to leave their wives and families at home because it was believed that "white" women would be an unnecessary burden on their fur trading husbands and, in turn, the companies. Fur trade life was harsh and demanding, living conditions at the forts were primitive, men were frequently away traveling and there was always the threat of conflict or attack by the native tribes; this was an environment seen as definitely unsuitable for European women (although there are cases of European women moving with their fur trading husbands to Canada). Aboriginal woman, on the other hand, grew up in this environment and were familiar with the methods of surviving it. Therefore, she became the ideal wife of the fur trader and an important part of fur trade society.



  • Millar, Nancy.  Once Upon a Wedding.  Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 2000.

  • Van Kirk, Sylvia.  Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur Trade Society, 1670-1870.  Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Publishing, 1980.



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