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Arctic

Lesson Plan 6 - Fur Trade Game

LEARNING OBJECTIVE Students will develop an understanding of the complexity of the fur trade
system through participating in an historical role play representing different
groups in18th Century eastern Canada.

TIME REQUIRED one to four hours

LEARNING OUTCOMES Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of lifestyles in the


settlements in the Hudsons Bay area (fur traders) and in New France (e.g.
settlers, seigneurs, fur traders, missionaries).
Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of some of the
problems faced by Aboriginal groups, explorers, missionaries, and settlers in
the initial settlement era.
Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the role of
competition in the fur trade (e.g. Hudsons Bay Company and Northwest
Company).
Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the economic
concept of supply and demand.
Students will be able to demonstrate skills of decision making and problem
solving.
Students will be able to demonstrate skills of cooperation, conflict resolution
and consensus building.

MATERIALS Five research objects:


(PROVIDED) 1 tin cup (Muse2003.11)
1 tobacco tin (Muse2003.16)
1 fork (Muse2003.17)
1 tin kettle (Muse2003.12)
2 Northwest Company Tokens (Muse2003.19)
set of Trading Cards (Muse2003.10)
Fur Trade Prices sheet (to be copied)
Modifications of the Beaver Hat (illustration)
Teacher information summaries package
Curriculum resource list
Questionnaires for each of the four groups represented (to be copied)

MATERIALS copies of the Fur Trade Prices sheet


(TEACHER SUPPLIED) copies of the Trading Cards, if this lesson was downloaded
Curriculum resources for student research
Copies of the questionnaires

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010


BACKGROUND The fur trade greatly impacted Canadas early history by creating the need for
population growth, which spurred immigration from Europe. It also drastically
altered Canadian Aboriginal ways of life. To participate effectively in this
historical role play activity, students will require background information to
grasp the complexity of this system of bartering, trading, and purchasing. The
prices of goods were set in accordance to changing criteria:
The need in Europe for beaver and other pelts.
The need in Canada for European goods.
The availability of the beaver and other animal pelts.
The availability of European goods.
Trade relations between different groups.
See the enclosed information sheets for more background information.

SUGGESTED PROCEDURE 1. Before this lesson, assign as homework or send students to a computer lab
to find out: What role did beaver pelts play in the 17th and 18th Century
Canadian fur trade? Then review student responses together as a class, here
are the salient points:
Fur traders traded many different goods (e.g. tin cups, blankets) for
beaver and other animal pelts provided by First Nations hunters.
Beaver pelts were the most valuable item to trade because in Europe,
people made hats out of beaver pelts and most people wore hats at
that time. (You can show students the HBC illustration of beaver hats
to demonstrate how the beaver pelts were used in military and civilian
hats.)
Beaver pelts or made beavers set the price of a good by how many
of the very best beaver pelts could buy it. (e.g. One gun was worth
fourteen made beavers in 1720.)
Beaver pelts became the currency of the fur trade.
2. Review the economic concept of supply and demand. Provide students with
a modern example of the concept. For example, discuss a recent concert that
sold out quickly. The band was likely very popular, meaning that there was
not enough suppy (tickets) to meet the demand. Tickets to this concert were
probably very expensive because of projections for high demand. Tickets to a
concert of a less popular band would probably be much cheaper because the
demand would be lower.
3. Divide students into four groups: Hudsons Bay Company traders, North
West Company traders, Ouendat traders, and Haudenosaunee traders. Have
them research and fill out the questionnaires provided using the suggested
curriculum resources for their groups.
4. Pass around the Northwest Company tokens (Muse2003.19). Tell the students
that eventually the major fur trading companies (e.g. Hudsons Bay Company
and the Northwest Company) issued currency. The tokens were equivalent to

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the value of a made beaver, and were called Made Beaver tokens. Forts would
give Aboriginal hunters coins for the beaver pelts they brought in. There were
benefits and challenges for Aboriginal peoples forced to use this system:

benefits challenges
Aboriginal hunters were able to Tokens were only accepted at the
save up the tokens to purchase forts belonging to the company
a more expensive good. (e.g. a that produced them. (i.e. an HBC
gun) token could not be used to buy
goods at a NWC fort)
Hunters were able to save the
Aboriginal hunters were forced to
tokens to buy goods later when
trade with one company.
they needed them (rather than
immediately, as a direct trade). Inter-tribal trade was reduced.

5. Explain to students that they are going to participate in an historical role


play that simulates the fur trade during the 1700s. Pass around the tin cup
(Muse2003.11) and the tin kettle (Muse2003.12) and ask students how much
they would pay for each object. Encourage students to justify their price (e.g.
a student could say This cup is very useful and, therefore, I would pay a high
price for it or This kettle doesnt have any fancy decoration, so I wouldnt
pay very much for it). Collect the students rationale on the board as a mind
map of factors affecting price. (e.g. material cost, popularity, difficulty in
making it, usefulness)
6. Repeat process with the tobacco tin (Muse2003.16) and the fork
(Muse2003.12). Students should come to the conclusion that these objects
would be worth a bit more since their materials are more complex, and the
objects are rarer.
7. Once the mind map is developed, explain to students that the pricing system
in the fur trade system was similar (roughly, supply and demand):
The need in Europe for beaver and other pelts.
The need in Canada for European goods.
The availability of the beaver and other animal pelts.
The availability of European goods.
Trade relations between different groups.
The amount of work needed to manufacture a good. (e.g. Woven cloth
was more difficult and costly to make than fish hooks and, therefore, a yard of
cloth was worth 3 made beavers and 20 fish hooks were only worth 1 made
beaver.)
8. Collect the tin cup, tobacco tin, tin kettle, fork and Northwest Company
tokens. Then split the class into two groups, with two sub-groups each:
a) The Fur Traders:
i) The Hudsons Bay Company Traders (English)

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ii) The North West Company Traders (French)
b) The First Nations:
i) The Haudenosaunee Nation (Iroqouis)
ii) The Ouendat Nation (Huron)
9. Divide the Trading Cards between the four groups, making sure the
European-made goods cards are with the Fur Traders and the made beaver
cards are with the First Nations to begin. Each student should have one card.
The cards should be shuffled before hand so that the distribution of cards
within each group is random. Though each individual student will have a card
in his/her hand, the mass of cards belongs to each of the two main groups.
10. The cards that the Fur Traders have should be displayed so that the First
Nations groups can see what objects the Fur Traders have to trade.
11. Explain to students that the object of the game is for the Fur Traders to end
up with the First Nations cards and the First Nations to end up with the Fur
Traders cards. Then have the Haudenosaunee and Ouendat meet with the
rest of their group members and decide by consensus which goods they want
to obtain from the Fur Traders. Each group should also decide which trading
company they wish to trade with. The Ouendat and Haudenosaunee groups
should also have the opportunity to trade with each other, with the Ouendat
trading their furs for European trade items from the Haudenosaunee.
12. Before trading, each group must elect one representative that changes
for each trade interaction. All students should get the opportunity to act as a
representative for their group. Students will need to be told when a new trade
interaction should start. The First Nations groups will take turns trading, so the
entire class can observe each interaction.
13. After the First Nations representatives inform the Fur Traders what they
want to purchase, the HBC and NWT and the Haudenosaunee, when it is the
Ouendats turn to trade, should take a moment to discuss amongst themselves
how many beaver pelts they are going to accept for that item (this will
change according to the scenario, detailed below). First Nations will have the
opportunity to discuss, barter, and negotiate with the Fur Trader representative,
then accept or reject the Fur Traders offer.
14. Play the game with several different scenarios, acted out in any order. It is
advised that the students complete scenario 1 first:
1) Prices set as in 1720. Teacher should distribute a few copies of the Fur
Trade Prices list to each group. Additional price information is available
here: http://www1.canadiana.org/hbc/stories/produits2_e.html
2) A quota has been set by the headquarters of both the HBC in London and
the NWC in France. Each company must bring back 20 beaver pelts that
month (by the end of the scenario) or face being fired.
3) There has been a harsh winter and many beavers have died. Take away

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half the made beaver cards from the game.
4) One of the NWCs ships, carrying many European goods intended for
trade, was lost at sea. Take away half the Fur Traders goods cards from the
NWC group.
5) All groups speak different languages. Attempt to trade (using the first
scenarios prices) without speaking to each other.
6) A smallpox epidemic kills half of the First Nations population. Teacher
numbers Haudenosaunee and Ouendat group members either 1 or 2.
Each 2nd student must sit out for a few minutes. Discussion: What happens
when there are more Fur Traders than First Nations people?
7) In a paperwork glitch in London, HBC headquarters sends twice as many
European goods as normal. Give each of the HBC group members an extra
card. HBC headquarters tells the Fur Traders to trade the extra supplies as
fast as possible.
8) Haudenosaunee and Ouendat groups, along with some other tribes,
merge to form the Six Nations. Haudenosaunee and Ouendat pool
resources together, then redistribute them amongst all tribe members so
everyone has an equal amount. note: After this scenario is completed, split
the group into the original two subgroups again.
9) Haudenosaunee warriors attack the Ouendat camp. Take half the
Ouendats total cards and gives them to the Haudenosaunee.
15. Collect all of the Trading Cards and gather the class together for a class
discussion:
1) What could have motivated aboriginal groups and fur traders to trade
with each other?
2) What could have motivated the Aboriginal groups to offer more or fewer
made beavers of goods?
3) What could have motivated the fur traders to accept more or fewer made
beavers for goods?
4) How could this lack of stability in price have led to a lack of stability in
either groups quality of life?
5) How could this instability in price and quality of life affect the relations
between the groups?
Please ensure that all of the Trading Cards are returned (consult Inventory Card
for accuracy).

CONTINUING THE Rather than all at once, the game could be played over a week with one
JOURNEY scenario per day. Add additional scenarios to those given.
Have students research one of the items portrayed on the Trading Cards and
teach the class what they have learned about the objects role in the fur trade
system. A useful website for this extension activity is:
http://www.canadiana.org/hbc/intro_e.html

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010


Page 1 of 4

Resource List

Curriculum resources are marked with a (*).

Fur Trade Prices

Millward, Robert. How Could a Beaver Start a War? History Teacher


43, no.2 (2010): 275-282. http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/
login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&
db=ehh&AN=48317549&site=eds-live&scope=site
Muller-Schwarze, Dietland and Lixing Sun. The Beaver: Natural History of
a Wetlands Engineer. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates, 2003.
Northwest Territories Department of Education, Culture and Employment. Fur
Trade Edukit: New FT3. Social Studies Grade 4 Curriculum. Accessed June
30, 2011. http://www.ece.gov.nt.ca/divisions/kindergarten_g12/4.Fur%20
Trade%20Edukit/Fur%20Trade%20Kit%20final/5.%20Fur%20Trade%20
Card%20Activities/FT3-Stuff%20of%20the%20fur%20trade/new%20FT3.pdf
Ray, Arthur J. Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and
Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660-1870. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Smith, Wallis. The Fur Trade and the Frontier: A Study of an Inter-Cultural
Alliance. Anthropologica New Series, 15, no. 1 (1973): 21-35. http://www.
jstor.org/stable/25604894

The Importance of the Beaver

Crean, J.F. Hats and the Fur Trade. The Canadian Journal of Economics and
Political Science/Revue canadienne dEconomique et de Science politique 28,
no.3 (1962): 373-386. http://www.jstor.org/stable/139669
Farnham, Katherine. Beaver, Beads and Pemmican: Canadas Fur Traders.
Edmonton: Canadian Social Sciences Services Ltd., 1987. *
Hilfiker, Earl L. Beavers: Water, Wildlife and History. Interlaken, NY:
Windswept Press, 1991.
Livesey, Robert and A.G. Smith. The Fur Traders. Markham, Ont: Fitzhenry
&Whiteside, 2005. *
Millward, Robert. How Could a Beaver Start a War? History Teacher
43, no.2 (2010): 275-282. http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/
login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=
48317549&site=eds-live&scope=site
Nault, Jennifer. Hudsons Bay Company. Calgary: Weigl Educational
Publishers Ltd., 2007. *

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Hudsons Bay Company

Carlos, Ann. The Causes and Origins of the North American Fur Trade
Rivalry: 1804-1810. The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 4 (1981): 777-
794.
Farnham, Katherine. Beaver, Beads and Pemmican: Canadas Fur Traders.
Edmonton: Canadian Social Sciences Services Ltd., 1987. *
Hudsons Bay Company. Our History: Timelines. HBC Heritage: Our History.
Accessed July 4, 2011. http://www2.hbc.com/hbcheritage/history/ *
The Fur Trade and Hudsons Bay Company. Canadiana. Accessed July 4,
2011. http://www.canadiana.ca/hbc/intro_e.html *
Nault, Jennifer. Hudsons Bay Company. Calgary: Weigl Educational Pub
lishers Ltd., 2007. *
Ruperts Land. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed July 4, 2011. http://
www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1AR
TA0007006

North West Company

Carlos, Ann. The Causes and Origins of the North American Fur Trade
Rivalry: 1804-1810. The Journal of Economic History 41, no. 4 (1981): 777-
794.
Farnham, Katherine. Beaver, Beads and Pemmican: Canadas Fur Traders.
Edmonton: Canadian Social Sciences Services Ltd., 1987. *
Livesey, Robert. The Fur Traders. Markham, Ont: Fitzhenry &Whiteside,2005.*
Nault, Jennifer. North West Company. Calgary: Weigl Educational Publishers
Ltd., 2007. *
The North West Company. About Us: History. The North West Company.
Accessed July 4, 2011. http://www.northwest.ca/aboutus/history.htm *
Podruchny, Carolyn. Unfair Master and Rascally Servants? Labour Relations
Among Bourgeois, Clerks and Voyageurs in the Montreal Fur Trade, 1780-
1821. Labour/Le Travail vol. 43 (1999): 43-70.
Smith, Wallis. The Fur Trade and the Frontier: A Study of an Inter-Cultural
Alliance. Anthropologica New Series, 15, no. 1 (1973): 21-35. http://www.
jstor.org/stable/25604894
Strezewski, Michael. These Indians Appear to Be Wealthy: Economy
and Identity during the Late Fur-Trade Period in the Lower Great Lakes. in
American Indians and the Market Economy, 1775-1850, edited by Lance
Greene and Mark R. Plane. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama
Press, 2010. 19-32.

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First Nations in the Fur Trade

Eccles, W.J. The Fur Trade and Eighteenth-Century Imperialism. The William
and Mary Quarterly Third Series, 40, no.3 (1983): 341-362. http://www.
jstor.org/stable/1917202
Hudak, Heather. Fur Traders. Calgary: Weigl Education Publishers Ltd.,2007.*
Ray, Arthur J. Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and
Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660-1870. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1998.

The Haudenosaunee

Bial, Raymond. The Iroquois. New York: Benchmark Books, 1999. *


De Capua, Sarah. The Iroquois. Tarrytown, NY: Benchmark Books, 2006.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=FLPKMIn2xmIC&lpg=PP1&dq=iroquois&pg
=PP6#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Englar, Mary. The Iroquois: The Six Nations Confederacy. Mankato, Minn:
Capstone Press, 2003 .http://books.google.ca/books?id=eCv-tHuNRdYC&lp
g=PP1&dq=iroquois&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Gaines, Richard M. The Iroquois. Edina, Minn: ABDO Publishing Co, 2000.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=008atlh62ssC&lpg=PP1&dq=iroquois&pg=
PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Iroquois. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed July 5, 2011. http://
www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1AR
TA0004060
Kalman, Bobbie. Life in a Longhouse Village. New York, St. Catherines, Ont.,
and Headington, Oxford: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001. *
Levine, Ellen. If You Lived With the Iroquois. New York: Scholastic, 1998. *
Press, Petra. The Iroquois. Minneapolis, Minn: Compass Point Books, 2001.
http://books.google.ca/books?id=AdsxlE-H4ogC&lpg=PP1&dq=iroquois&pg
=PT5#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Ridington, Jillian & Robin. People of the Longhouse: How the Iroquoian Tribes
Lived. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1982. *
Takacs, Stefanie. The Iroquois. New York: Scholastic, 2003. *
Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. New York:
Checkmark Books, 2006. http://books.google.ca/books?id=WxomdGVLjZ0C
&lpg=PP1&pg=PR2#v=onepage&q=huron&f=false *
Wallace, Anthony F.C. Origins of Iroquois Neutrality: The Grand Settlement of
1701. Pennsylvania History, 24, no. 3 (1957): 223-235.

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Wilcox, Charlotte. The Iroquois. Minneapolis, Minn: Lerner Publications


Company, 2007. http://books.google.ca/books?id=GKeWFs_o96kC&lpg=PP
1&dq=iroquois&pg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Wolfson, Evelyn. The Iroquois: People of the Northeast. Brookfield,
Connecticut: Millbrook Press, 1992. *
Yenne, Bill. The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Tribes: A
Comprehensive Study of Tribes from the Abitibi to the Zuni. Wigston, Leicester:
Magna Books, 1995. *

The Ouendat

Bial, Raymond. The Huron. New York: Benchmark Books, 2001. *


Gray-Kanatiiosh, Barbara A. Huron. Edina, Minn: ADBO Publishing Company,
2004. http://books.google.ca/books?id=GFB4P6gMMqsC&lpg=PP1&dq=hur
on&pg=PA2#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Heidenreich, Conrad E. and Arthur J. Ray. The Early Fur Trade: A Study in
Cultural Interaction. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1976.
Huron. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed July 5, 2011. http://
www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1AR
TA0003920
King, David C. The Huron. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark,
2007. http://books.google.ca/books?id=hPLGhF0_OKoC&lpg=PP1&dq=huro
n&pg=PA2#v=onepage&q&f=false *
Ridington, Jillian & Robin. People of the Longhouse: How the Iroquoian Tribes
Lived. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1982. *
Smith, Wallis. The Fur Trade and the Frontier: A Study of an Inter-Cultural
Alliance. Anthropologica New Series, 15, no. 1 (1973): 21-35. http://www.
jstor.org/stable/25604894
Strezewski, Michael. These Indians Appear to Be Wealthy: Economy
and Identity during the Late Fur-Trade Period in the Lower Great Lakes. in
American Indians and the Market Economy, 1775-1850, edited by Lance
Greene and Mark R. Plane. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama
Press, 2010. 19-32.
Trigger, Bruce G. The Huron: Farmers of the North. New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. New
York:Checkmark Books, 2006. http://books.google.ca/books?id=WxomdGVL
jZ0C&lpg=PP1&pg=PR2#v=onepage&q=huron&f=false *
Yenne, Bill. The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Tribes: A
Comprehensive Study of Tribes from the Abitibi to the Zuni. Wigston, Leicester:
Magna Books, 1995. *

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

Goods and Prices in the Fur Trade

The made beaver was the primary currency used in the fur trade. A made
beaver constituted one large, good quality beaver pelt that had been cleaned,
stripped of its outer fur, and stretched. Other animal pelts could be combined
to make the equivalent value of one made beaver. In 1703, one made beaver
could be comprised of:
1 otter
1 black bear
2 foxes
2 woodchucks
4 raccoons
8 pairs of moose hooves
5 lbs. of goose feathers
moose hide (i.e. one moose hide was worth two made beavers)

Adjusted for todays currency and for inflation, a fur trader venturing into the
interior regions to trade may be carrying up to $80,000.00 worth of goods
in from his companys warehouse. In exchange for about $7,000.00 worth of
merchandise per family, a trader could expect to receive up to $15,000.00
worth of furs. Andrew Graham, an 18th-century fur trader, gave an example of
a typical Aboriginal familys yearly shopping list and the price of each item on
the list:
Gun: 1 (14 made beavers)
Hatchets: 2 (2 m.b.)
Ice chisel: 1 (1 m.b.)
Brazil tobacco (lbs.): 7 (10 m.b.)
Knives: 4 (2 m.b.)
Fishing net: 1 (4 m.b.)
File: 1 (1 m.b.)
Mirror: 1 (1 m.b.)
Powder (lbs.): 6 (6 m.b.)
Shot: 20 (5 m.b.)
Powder horn: 1 (1 m.b.)
Cloth (yds.): 4 (12 m.b.)
Comb: 1 (1 m.b.)
Bayonet: 1 (1 m.b.)
Awls and firesteels: 6 (1 m.b.)
Kettle: 1 (6 m.b.)
Burning glass: 1 (1 m.b.)
Scissors: 1 (1 m.b.)

The picture given by the list above is not completely accurate as traders at
trading posts typically charged more than their companys official rate. This

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

Goods and Prices in the Fur Trade (continued)

The picture given by the list above is not completely accurate as traders at
trading posts typically charged more than their companys official rate. This
could have been due to several factors, including pressure from a company to
get more furs for less, greed, or the need to feed ones family in hard times.
However, it is difficult to assign any one clear reason for these mark-ups.
Unofficial prices were generally about fifty percent higher than official prices.
The furs traded for these items were then marked up in turn. When the furs
were sold to European fur merchants, they were often marked up by almost
one thousand percent.

European-made goods often went through Aboriginal middlemen before they


were traded to other First Nations groups. Middlemen would trade for these
goods at trading posts, use them for one or two seasons, and then trade the
used goods for furs with groups further away from the posts. The following list
compares trading post prices with the prices charged by middlemen from Cree
groups:
Gun: HBC price: 14 m.b., middlemans price: 50 m.b. (357% markup)
Hatchet: HBC price: 1 m.b., middlemans price: 6 m.b. (600% markup)
Kettle: HBC price: 8 m.b., middlemans price: 20 m.b. (250% markup)
Knife: HBC price: 1/3 m.b., middlemans price: 4 m.b. (1200% markup)

Due to the high demand for European-made goods, fur traders were usually
able to inflate the price of goods considerably, as discussed above. However,
supply ships would occasionally deliver a surplus of goods to trading posts.
When this occurred, traders were often forced to take a financial loss in their
trades. This was one important reason for trading companies to try to establish
monopoliesso that they could set the price of goods regardless of supply.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Beaver and Its Importance

Between 1534 and 1542, Jacques Cartier explored the mouth of the St
Lawrence River. It was in Chaleur Bay, between Quebec and New Brunswick,
that Mikmaq First Nations first offered furs in return for the Europeans supply
of beads and knives. This casual trading continued in areas such as the coast
of Newfoundland into the late 16th century, and proved to be especially
desirable for the Europeans with the growing scarcity of fur-bearing animals in
Europe in that century.

In Europe, beaver pelts were used to fashion items of clothing in the 17th and
18th centuries. Military hats were the initial primary use of beaver pelts due to
the pelts resistance to water. However, the hats quickly became fashionable
in Europe in the early and mid-seventeenth century. During the Thirty Years
War (1618-48), Swedish international power rose in Europe, resulting in
the popularity of Swedish fashion throughout the continent, including Britain.
Swedish cavalier hats made of beaver felt became popular. The beaver felt
hat became so popular that in 1638 King Charles I of England decreed that,
nothing but beaver stuff or beaver wool shall be used in the making of hats.
Beaver felt was considered very valuable because it is waterproof, can be
shaped easily, and is durable. In France and England, fur came to define
status. Wealthy men wore beaver felt hats, and wealthy women wore beaver-
trimmed coats, beaver collars, and beaver muffs.

The abundance of streams, ponds, and rivers in North America meant that
the continent provided the perfect habitat for the beaver to prosper, and
the perfect transportation system for fur traders, especially voyageurs. In
northwest North America, beavers have thicker, darker coats than beavers
in the southern regions. This meant that northwestern beaver pelts were more
desirable to fur traders than pelts from the south.

Due to their massive popularity in Europe, beaver felt hats not worn by most fur
traders in Canada. They may have been worn by wealthy chief factors at some
trading posts, but most traders would wear hats made of other materials.

Although North America provided the ideal environment for the fur trade, the
use of beaver fur gradually declined in Europe. Because the pelts had a long
way to travel to make it into European furriers hands, beaver pelts were very
expensive. . This expense was increased by the fact that the quantity and
quality of beaver pelts were not constant, and thus the cost to the hatter varied.
The increased use of mercury to felt fur between 1720 and 1740 meant that
rabbit and hare felt, of poorer quality, but far cheaper than beaver felt, began
to be used much more frequently. The use of beaver felt declined further in the
mid-18th century when silk velour was discovered and used to make hats.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Hudsons Bay Company

The North American fur trade spanned almost 200 years, from the mid-
seventeenth until the mid-nineteenth century. The fur trade was the main
economic activity in the Canadian west until the 1890s.

The Hudsons Bay Company was established in 1670 by English investors.


It was managed and controlled by a board of directors in London. Twice a
year, cargo ships sailed from England to North America with supplies for the
trading posts and items for trade, and sailed back with furs and reports on the
trading posts. New HBC employees would also arrive on these supply ships.
They were normally contracted for three to five years, and travelled to North
America from places such as England, Scotland, and Wales.

In 1690, the HBC was given a monopoly by the British government; they were
the only trading company allowed into Ruperts Land, a large portion of North
America set aside for the HBC. This area was named after Prince Rupert of
England, King Charles IIs cousin and the first governor of the HBC. It was
comprised of the entire Hudson Bay drainage system, which in modern terms
included northern Quebec and Ontario north of the Laurentian watershed,
all of Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, southern Alberta, and parts of the
Northwest Territories and Nunavut. French traders still attempted to trade in this
area though, especially around the Hudson and James Bays. The monopoly
meant that the HBC had very little impetus to build trading posts inland. Rather,
Aboriginal traders would travel overland to deliver furs to the forts. For the
first hundred years of its life, the HBC only set up forts around the Hudson and
James Bays. The forts sat on inland river routes, and Aboriginal traders would
travel these routes to bring furs to the trading posts.

The HBC had official ties and alliances with the Ouendat First Nations. Their
relationship with the Haudenosaunee, however, was strained. This was due
to the constant troubles, and sometimes wars, between the French, allies of
the Haudenosaunee, and the English. Additionally, HBC men were, at least
initially, less likely to adopt Aboriginal customs and adapt to Aboriginal
groups ways of life. This can be seen in the early official HBC policy of
banning marriage between Company men and Aboriginal women.

Key HBC trading posts were:


Moose Factory (est. 1673), located on the Moose River, just south of James
Bay
Fort Albany (est. 1679), located on the mouth of the Albany River on James
Bay
York Factory (est. 1684), located on the shore of the Hudsons Bay at the

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Hudsons Bay Company (continued)

mouth of the Hayes River. This was the main depot for bringing goods in
and shipping furs out, as it was connected to most of the northwest.
Prince of Wales Fort (est. 1717), located in Churchill, Manitoba. This
fort was intended for use not only in the fur trade, but also in the whaling
industry. It was destroyed by the French in 1782.

In 1821, the HBC and the Northwest Company merged. Shifting colonial
borders, war, newly lacking trading opportunities, the growing impact of early
immigrant settlers, and the proximity of HBC and North West Company forts
placed both companies under a great deal of strain. Finding that their fierce
competition was more detrimental to both companies than helpful to either, the
two companies merged under the Hudsons Bay Company moniker.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The North West Company

The North American fur trade spanned almost 200 years, from the mid-
seventeenth until the mid-nineteenth century. The fur trade was the main
economic activity in the Canadian west until the 1890s.

The North West Company was a fur trade company established in 1783 by
a group of voyageurs and Scottish and English merchants. The voyageurs
were comprised of French-Canadian, Metis, and Aboriginal traders. These
men were responsible not only for trading, but also for construction, artisan
craftsmanship, hunting, and fishing. They were renowned for their hard work,
often travelling by canoe daily from three in the morning until nine at night.
The Bourgeois, made up of Scottish and English merchant-traders, managed
the company.

The hub of the North West Company was at Grand Portage, at the head of
Lake Superior. This hub later moved to Kaministiquia, renamed Fort William.

The North West Company had stronger ties to First Nations than the Hudsons
Bay Company did. Voyageurs from the company went into the interior to trade,
and had good trading relationships with many First Nations in the interior.
Additionally, many Aboriginal traders and trappers lived at North West
Company trading posts, further strengthening these relationships.

The French fur traders and Ouendat First Nations became, for a time,
particularly close trading partners. Gift-giving, kinship, and support in warfare
were all central to French-Ouendat relations. Gift-giving was eventually
factored into overhead costs for French traders. Additionally, French traders
would often marry Ouendat women in order to join and benefit from their
kinship networks.

Many voyageurs eventually became freemen, breaking from the company in


order to trade independently and live off the land. These freemen often joined
Aboriginal families or newly-emerging Metis communities.

During the most active period of trade in Montreal, the labour force of
voyageurs grew from 500 men in the 1780s, to over 2,000 men by 1821.
In 1821, the HBC and the Northwest Company merged. Shifting colonial
borders, war, newly lacking trading opportunities, the growing impact of early
immigrant settlers, and the proximity of HBC and North West Company forts
placed both companies under a great deal of strain. Finding that their fierce
competition was more detrimental to both companies than helpful to either, the
two companies merged under the Hudsons Bay Company moniker.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, a confederacy of six nations,


is made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and
Tuscarora nations. These nations united to form a confederacy between 1000-
1500 C.E., with the Tuscarora nation joining in 1722. The nations lived in
parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Quebec, and Ontario.

Among the Haudenosaunee, groups lived in villages, with each clan in the
village residing together in a longhouse. Within a longhouse, each family
would have their own separate living space made up of beds and a fire pit
for cooking and warmth. Smaller villages may have a few hundred residents,
while larger towns had many thousands of people. These villages were usually
inhabited for 10-20 years, until the land was stripped, and then they would
be rebuilt elsewhere. Villages were built near rivers and streams for the fresh
water supply, which was used to fulfill various needs, including drinking water,
cooking water, and water for tanning hides. This proximity also helped groups
gain access to fur trading forts. Travelling and trading were also often done on
foot, over land. One famous overland route was the Iroquois Trail, which ran
between Albany and Buffalo, just over 450 kilometres. This trail was used by
Haudenosaunee First Nations to send messages, visit other villages, and trade.

The Haudenosaunee became allies of the British in 1664. To strengthen


their trading bond, British and Haudenosaunee traders participated in a
covenant chain. The covenant chain is a term to describe the trade relationship
between the Haudenosaunee and the British traders. The British called for
Haudenosaunee traders to obtain furs from neighbouring groups. In return, the
British supplied many trading goods, including vast quantities of guns.

Farming, hunting, and fishing were the main methods of survival among
Haudenosaunee nations. Pre-contact, many items, including dishes, barrels,
various tools, weapons, and canoes were made out of wood. Tree bark was
also used to make many items. Clothing was made of furs, leather, woven
plant fibres, and corn husks.

As the fur trade continued, from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century,
major transitions occurred for many Haudenosaunee nations living amid two
vastly different culturestheir own traditional culture and European culture.
Few Haudenosaunee remembered how to make items out of stone and
wood, as these materials had been replaced by iron and other materials.
Most women no longer tanned hides, as this material had been replaced by
wool and cotton. The bow and arrow had been replaced by the musket as
a hunting tool. These modern materials and methods made the lives of many
Haudenosaunee easier in that substantially less labour was required.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Haudenosaunee (continued)

However, easy access to guns and alcohol, as well as the near-extinction of


fur-bearing animals, including the bison, which had previously been used
as sources of food and other materials, caused major problems. The issues
created by these transitions were compounded by the exposure of many
Haudenosaunee to European diseases against which they had no natural
defense. By 1740, nearly half of the Haudenosaunee First Nations population
had been wiped out due to disease, warfare, and other factors. Between 1660
and 1740, the population dropped from about 25,000 to about 14,000.

The Haudenosaunee participated in wars against French traders and their


allies, the Ouendat First Nations. Trading between the Haudenosaunee and the
Ouendat did occur, but these feuds meant that trade between these groups was
unreliable.

By 1670, however, the Ouendat traded often with the Haudenosaunee,


receiving English goods in return for their furs. Trade with the French had
become interrupted and unreliable, especially as warfare between the French
and the Haudenosaunee continued. In 1701, an official armistice between the
French and Ouendat and the Haudenosaunee was reached.

Today, around 50,000 Haudenosaunee live on reserves in eastern Canada.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Ouendat

The Ouendat (Huron) First Nations are comprised of four nations, the
Bear, Cord, Rock, and Deer. They speak closely related, but different,
Iroquoian languages. They are not part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Traditionally, the Ouendat nations lived in the Great Lakes region of North
America. Their territory was bordered by water on three sides: Lake Ontario to
the east, Lake Eerie to the south, and Lake Huron to the west. They lived north
of the traditional Haudenosaunee territory.

Like the Haudenosaunee, the Ouendat lived in villages made up of longhouses,


with one clan living in each longhouse. Some Ouendat towns had up to 200
longhouses, with 4,000 residents living in them. Once the village surrounds
were depleted by hunting, fishing, farming, and gathering, a new village
would be erected elsewhere.

The Ouendat were early trading partners of the French after the groups first
contact in 1609. From 1612-49 they were a central group in the fur trade,
hunting for fur-bearing anaimls as well as playing a vital role as middlemen
between the French and other First Nations groups. First Nations for which
they acted as middlemen included the Kichesiprini (Algonquin), the Petrun, and
the Neutral. This role was enabled by their river and portage network, which
spanned hundreds of miles. Trading also occurred on foot over a vast network
of trails.

Gift-giving, kinship, and aid in warfare, which had previously played a


large part in trading between the Ouendat and other First Nations, were
also of central importance to French-Ouendat trade relations. Gift-giving was
eventually factored into overhead costs for French traders. Additionally, French
traders would often marry Ouendat women to join and benefit from their
kinship networks.

With their growing dependence on European tools and materials, many


Ouendat lost much of their traditional craftsmanship knowledge, including
how to fashion tools and how to tan hides. Due to the enormous scale of their
involvement in the fur trade, the Ouendat no longer had time to grow their own
food or to participate in trade with other groups as they had previously done.

In 1649, as a result of wars between the French and English, and their
respective allies, the Ouendat and Haudenosaunee, the Ouendat were nearly
decimated. This was contributed to by the fact that their population had
previously been significantly decreased by smallpox epidemics, against which
they had no natural defense. In the early 1600s, the Ouendat numbered 30-
45,000 people. By 1650, their population had dropped to 10,000.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

The Ouendat (continued)

By 1670, the Ouendat traded often with the Haudenosaunee, receiving


English goods in return for their furs. Trade with the French had become
interrupted and unreliable, especially as warfare between the French and the
Haudenosaunee continued. In 1701, an official armistice between the French
and Ouendat and the Haudenosaunee was reached.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Information Sheet

First Nations in the Fur Trade

Both pre- and post-contact with the European fur traders, trade was an
important custom in Aboriginal society. It was part of special ceremonies,
feasting, and gift-giving. Trade was used to renew social bonds, bring groups
together and solidify social ties. Additionally, Aboriginals who obtained goods
through trade were expected to share with their communities. Therefore, the
most successful European traders were those who participated in these pre-
existing trade customs. Europeans who married into Aboriginal groups were
especially successful, as they became part of strong kinship networks, which
meant that members of these networks would be more likely to trade with
them. Most traders also learned the special importance of gift-giving prior to
trade. The North West Company is evidenced to have done so, as it officially
incorporated gift-giving into the companys overhead costs.

During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, many Aboriginals filled specialised
niches in the fur trade, including roles as provisioners, trappers, and traders.
As provisioners, individuals not only provided food to European traders, but
also provided transportation, guidance along trade routes, and translation.
Trappers provided the valuable furs that the traders had come to North
America in search of. Aboriginal traders acted as middlemen between fur
trading posts and Aboriginal groups who resided too far inland to travel to
the forts. At great distances from trading posts, Aboriginal trade specialists
determined the distribution of European goods among other Aboriginal groups
and the supply of furs to take back to the trading posts.

In the late 18th century, it was determined that less than ten percent of
Aboriginal people coming to York Factory and Fort Churchill to trade had
acquired their furs through trapping. Rather, most had acquired their furs
through trade with other Aboriginal groups, and were acting as middlemen.
The region inhabited by these middlemen was within an area over which they
could safely make one trip per year to a trading post. Beyond this middlemen-
inhabited area, few Aboriginals ever made the trip to a trading post, trading
instead with the middlemen. This was especially significant for groups living in
the central and western subarctic regions, because the Hudsons Bay Company
did not move inland to this area for more than a century after setting up their
initial forts.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Name: _______________________________

FUR TRADE GROUPS - PRE-TRADE QUESTIONNAIRE


1. When was your company established?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

2. Where did your companys employees come from?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

3. Where did your companys bosses come from?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

4. Where were your companys main trading posts?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

5. Why do you think your companys main trading posts were built in these areas?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

6. What were your companys relationships like with Aboriginal groups? Were relationships different with
different Aboriginal groups? Why?

_________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

7. What were your companys relationships like with other fur trading companies? Why?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Name: _______________________________

ABORIGINAL GROUPS - PRE-TRADE QUESTIONNAIRE


1. Where in Canada did your nation traditionally live?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

2. Did your nation traditionally live in camps and move around, or live in permanent villages?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

3. What are some of the roles that members of your nation played in the fur trade?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

4. Why did members of your nation fill these roles?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

5. What were your nations relationships with fur trading groups? Did you have a stronger relationship with one
group than with another? If so, why do you think this is?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

6. What was your nations relationship like with other First Nations? Were you allied with any First Nations?
Were any First Nations your enemies? Why?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

7. List some ways that your nation was affected by participation in the fur trade.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game


Fur Trade Prices in 1720 Fur Trade Prices in 1720
1 gun 14 beaver pelts 1 gun 14 beaver pelts

5 pounds (2.2 kg) gunpowder 1 beaver pelt 5 pounds (2.2 kg) gunpowder 1 beaver pelt

1 hatchet 1 beaver pelt 1 hatchet 1 beaver pelt

1 yard (1 m) cloth 3 beaver pelts 1 yard (1 m) cloth 3 beaver pelts

1 pound (0.5 kg) tobacco 2 beaver pelts 1 pound (0.5 kg) tobacco 2 beaver pelts

4 knives 1 beaver pelt 4 knives 1 beaver pelt

1 kettle 1 1/2 beaver pelts 1 kettle 1 1/2 beaver pelts

1 large roll of string 1 1/4 beaver pelts 1 large roll of string 1 1/4 beaver pelts

2.25 kg of sugar 1 beaver pelt 2.25 kg of sugar 1 beaver pelt

2 scissors 1 beaver pelt 2 scissors 1 beaver pelt

20 fish hooks 1 beaver pelt 20 fish hooks 1 beaver pelt

1 pair of shoes 1 beaver pelt* 1 pair of shoes 1 beaver pelt*

*Prices obtained from: Early Canada by Emily Odynak, Weigl Education Publishers, 1998. *Prices obtained from: Early Canada by Emily Odynak, Weigl Education Publishers, 1998.

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010
Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 5 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 13 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 2 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 2 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 2 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 2 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 5 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 3 copies and cut out.


Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 2 copies and cut out.


Trading Cards Inventory

Item Number of Cards

Made Beaver 26

1/2 Made Beaver 5

1/4 Made Beaver 5

1 gun 1

5 lbs gunpowder 2

1 hatchet 4

1 yard cloth 2

1 lb tobacco 2

4 knives 2

1 kettle 2

1 roll string 4

2.25kg sugar 5

2 scissors 5

20 fish hooks 6

1 pair shoes 2

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Trading Cards

Teachers note: Make 1 copy and cut out.


Horace T. Martin. Modifications of the beaver hat. HBCA, PAM 1987/363-C-308/2 (N58-98).Taken
From Castorologia, published in London, 1892. Hudsons Bay Company Archives. Provincial Archives of
Manitoba. Accessed online: http://www1.canadiana.org/hbc/_popups/PAMp58-98_e.htm

Copyright University of Alberta Museums 2010 Lesson 6 - Fur Trade Game