Canadian Geographic
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Fur trade

1720 - 1780

Throughout its first century the Hudson’s Bay Company traded only at Bayside, and had only a vague knowledge of the vast territories inland from its river-mouth posts.

In 1720 the hinterlands of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Bayside posts were controlled by Cree bands who lived in a vast territory stretching from James Bay and the upper Ottawa River valley to the headwaters of the Churchill River and to the middle of the North Saskatchewan River. The Cree’s allies, the Siouan-speaking Assiniboine and the Algonquian-speaking Ojibwa, lived along their southern and western boundaries. Their principal rivals, the Athapaskan-speaking Chipewyan, lived north of the Churchill River. The fur trade displaced these native peoples as bands sought to establish themselves as middlemen or to find better trapping grounds. The Ojibwa expanded north and west. By 1740 they rounded the western end of Lake Superior and occupied much of the territory between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay. As the Ojibwa expanded, the Assiniboine moved into the parkland/ grassland areas as far northwest as the North Saskatchewan. Western Cree bands pushed beyond the upper Churchill River to the Athabasca valley. The Chipewyan were drawn in a southwesterly direction towards Fort Churchill (established in 1717). By 1780 Chipewyan bands lived along the lower Churchill River, and many bands had moved from the boreal-tundra boundary zone into the full boreal forest.

For the most part native peoples sought practical goods: arms and ammunition, cloth, metal products (knives, hatchets, kettles, files), and blankets. In exchange, they traded beaver or other skins. ‘Made-beaver,’ a prime quality adult beaver skin or its equivalent in other furs, became the fixed unit of barter. Eventually, brass and copper tokens were introduced to facilitate this trade, but even these were valued in made-beaver equivalents. Tobacco and alcohol were the most important luxury goods. The tobacco trade remained steady, but the trade in brandy increased sharply in the late 1740s and 1750s and again in the 1770s when competition from Montréal traders was strongest.


This interactive piece features the breakdown of various furs and pelts of the Bayside trade, from 1720-1780. The map features an interactive timeline that users can scroll to view the various breakdown of goods, in various regions.


On the next page:

1780 - 1821

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Quiz :

Who gave the Hudson's Bay Company exclusive trading privileges in Rupert's Land in 1670?

Henry V
Charles I
James II