Canadian Geographic
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Fur trade

1667 - 1685

French coureurs de bois accelerated their penetration of the interior.

In part to escape Susquehannock attacks, as well as to trap furs, some Iroquois established settlements on the north shore of Lake Ontario. There they initiated trade with the Ottawa and Ojibwa of Georgian Bay and began to redirect some furs from the Great Lakes to the English at Albany where, because the French crown taxed beaver heavily, fur prices were higher. English traders built a post on James Bay in 1668; its success led to the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670.

In 1670 the Dakota wars closed the west to the fur trade. Native traders relocated themselves at Sault-Sainte-Marie and Michilimackinac where they competed with French coureurs de bois for furs from the Assiniboine, Cree, and interior groups known to the French as Gens de Terre.

In the east Algonquian fur continued to reach Albany while English competition on James Bay became a threat to the northern fur trade. Fort Frontenac was built on Lake Ontario in 1673 to undercut English influence and to serve as a base from which French trade could be expanded southwest.

In 1679 La Salle began to explore and build forts from the southern Great Lakes to the mouth of the Mississippi. Although permitted to trade only in bison skins, he quickly expanded his activities to include all fur. To compete with him the Montréal merchants stepped up their illegal trade. By 1680 several hundred coureurs de bois were in the interior. They forged close relations with the Great Lakes natives, concluded a peace with the Dakota, and under Perrot and Dulhut expanded the trade out of Green Bay and Lake Superior. Unable to control this growing trade, the French crown legalized it [Delete - through a system of permits (congés)] in 1681. The result was a flood of traders to the upper Great Lakes, a halt of native trading journeys to Montréal, and the beginning of an oversupply of beaver.


This animated map shows the routes taken by French explorers during different periods from 1603 to 1751. Buttons below the map can be used to select one of 4 time periods, or view all at once. The user can explore portions of the map by clicking to zoom in and out, and dragging to pan around it.


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Quiz :

In what year did English traders build a post at James Bay?