The 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.
Natives 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.
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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Beginning of the Fur Trade in the Peace Region
Summary: Who brought the fur trade to the Northwest? Listen to
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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.