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Fur trade

Native Trade and Warfare

The building of trading posts at Tadoussac (1600) and Québec (1608) prompted a rapid expansion of trade between natives and Europeans. Ottawa valley Algonquins and Saguenay Montagnais adapted existing trade networks to exchange European goods for furs from further inland. The Huron began to participate in this trade by 1611, the Nipissing after 1615. All these native traders jealously protected their activities against native and French rivals. Frenchmen were tolerated in the interior only as long as they did not trade. When the French took sides in traditional conflicts and participated in raids on the Iroquois in 1609, 1610, and 1615, they earned the Iroquois’ enmity.

The French goods in highest demand were durable and utilitarian: axes, knives, kettles, and cloth. During the 1620s the Ottawa valley bands were squeezed out of the carrying trade and turned to toll collecting. The Nipissing conducted their trade as far north as James Bay, while the Huron supplied the natives around Georgian Bay and in southern Ontario. Firearms and alcohol, forbidden by the French, were traded by the Dutch to the Iroquois. As the demand for furs increased, the traditional raids of the Iroquois became looting expeditions for furs and trade goods.

By the early 1640s epidemics had decimated both the Nipissing and the Huron; the more populous Huron were left in control of the carrying trade between the Great Lakes and the French posts. At the same time Iroquois looting raids became better organized and more frequent. When a brief peace between the natives allied to the French and the Mohawk collapsed in 1646, patterns of warfare altered radically. The eastern Iroquois blocked trade routes, harassed French settlements, and scattered Ottawa valley bands. The western Iroquois began a series of well-organized campaigns to destroy the Huron. From 1640 to 1648 there were only four years of successful trading.

To further explore how Canada was forged in War, click here.


This piece tells the story of the Native trade and warfare from 1600-1648. There is an interactive map and legend that allows users to highlight certain activities in the location they occurred, such as which Native goods were traded where, and where the varying linguistic groups existed.


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Quiz :

Who controlled the lower Great Lakes in 1720?