People in the northern fur trade

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1 People in the northern fur trade The fur trade in Canada began as soon as there was contact between Aboriginal people and Europeans. The organized fur trade began in the area around Hudson Bay and the eastern part of Canada. It gradually moved west and north to what is now known as the NWT. The two main groups in the fur trade were the Hudson s Bay Company and the North West Company. There were many different people involved in the fur trade. Here are some of the more well known ones; James Knight Alexander Mackenzie Peter Pond Matonabee English Chief (Ageenah) Kaawidaa Barbue 1

2 James Knight James Knight was a businessman from England, working for the Hudson s Bay Company. When was he involved in the fur trade? From 1714 to 1718 James Knight was in charge of 2 of the forts for the Hudson s Bay Company; Fort Prince of Wales (near the community called Churchill today) and Fort York. Knight s job was to get as many furs as he could from the Aboriginal people who lived in the region, but there was ongoing fighting between the Cree and Chipewyan Dene. This made it difficult for the Chipewyan people to bring their furs to Knight s fort because they had to pass through Cree land to get there. Knight couldn t find a solution to this problem until a starving young Chipewyan girl, Thanadelthur, arrived one night at the fort. Later that year, Knight sent Thanadelthur on a mission to try to negotiate peace between these groups so that the HBC could get a larger supply of furs. Thanadelthur was a very brave person and she did help to make peace between the Cree and the Chipewyan. After Thanadelthur made peace between the two groups, this helped open up fur trading with the Aboriginal people from the Athabasca region. This included areas of what is now called the Northwest Territories. 2

3 Peter Pond He was an American fur trader who had a rough character. Twice he was charged with murdering other fur traders, though he never went to prison. When was he involved in the fur trade? In the winter of Peter Pond was based in the Athabasca area. He acquired so many high quality furs from Cree and Chipewyan groups in this area that his canoes couldn t hold them all. He was a busy fur trader! The Aboriginal people showed Peter Pond how to use the river systems that flow towards Lake Athabasca, Lesser Slave Lake, and Great Slave Lake. With this information, he made a map in Other fur traders and European explorers heard about his furs, saw his map and soon began coming to the part of this land that we call the Northwest Territories today. Here is the map: It was after Peter Pond made his map that many people began coming to what is now called the NWT, to look for furs. 3

4 Alexander Mackenzie Alexander Mackenzie was born in Scotland. He came to North America when he was 10 years old (in 1774) and was employed as a clerk for the NWC, 5 years later. Chipewyan to Great Slave Lake. He then found a huge river that looked promising. It eventually took them to the Arctic Ocean, not the Pacific. Mackenzie was very disappointed, but his exploration did open up a whole new region to the fur trade. When was he involved with the fur trade? In 1787 he worked at the NWC trading post at Fort Chipewyan, the same place where Peter Pond worked. In 1789 he went exploring looking for a way to the Pacific Ocean. He didn t find it. Guided by Aw-Gee-Nah (sometimes called English Chief), he traveled from Fort Soon after his travels, fur trading began in earnest all along the river which the British soon called Mackenzie s River. Dene people have always called this river, Deh Cho. 4

5 English Chief (AW GEE NAH) English Chief was a Chipewyan Dene from around the Great Slave Lake area. When was he involved with the fur trade? English Chief became the leader of the group of Chipewyan who travelled to Fort Churchill to trade with the HBC. Shortly after, North West Company partners began to arrive in the Athabasca country. Around 1786, they persuaded English Chief to act as middleman and carrier in the area of Athabasca and Great Slave Lake. This made him invaluable to explorers such as Samuel Hearne, and later, Alexander Mackenzie. Both of these people relied on English Chief s ability to speak with the Aboriginal people they met. Until 1823, English Chief acted as a middleman between the northern tribes (Dogrib, Slavey, and Hare) and the fur traders. This brought great wealth to him and his followers. English Chief could speak the Chipewyan, Cree, Slavey, Dogrib and Beaver languages. 5

6 Matonabbee Matonabbee was a Chipewyan trader, diplomat and explorer. He was born to a Slavey woman and a Chipewyan man around 1736 near the Prince of Wales Fort at Churchill (a Hudson's Bay Company trading post). When was he involved with the fur trade and what did he do? Matonabbee worked as a hunter, providing the fort with meat. During his time at Churchill, Matonabbee learned to speak perfect Cree, and some English, in addition to his native Chipewyan. It was for this reason, along with many other qualities, he was chosen to make peace between the Chipewyan and the western Cree of Athabasca. Over the course of several years, Matonabbee succeeded in, "not only bringing about a lasting peace, but also of establishing a trade ( agreement) between the two nations," as HBC trader and explorer Samuel Hearne wrote in his journal. Having proven himself a strong leader and diplomat, Matonabbee became trading chief for his band of Chipewyan as well. In Hearne's words, Matonabbee brought "a greater quantity of furs to their Factory at Churchill River, than any other Indian ever did, or ever will do." Matonabbee and another Aboriginal man, I-dot-li-azee, also assisted the HBC by drawing a map of the route to the Coppermine, "with charcoal on a deer skin." 6

7 Kaawidaa (Bear Lake Chief) Who was he and when was he involved with the fur trade? One of the most well-known Dogrib trading chiefs was Kaawidaa, known by some as Bear Lake Chief. He traded at Old Fort Rae and Fort Norman (around 1880). Trading chiefs were an important part of the northern fur trade. The arrival of fur trading companies such as the North West and the Hudson's Bay meant that trade goods would be directly available to Aboriginal people. Aboriginal groups allowed their best negotiators ( trading chiefs ) to take their furs and trade with the fur companies. These trading chiefs were given special treatment by the fur traders, often receiving many trade goods as a show of respect for the chief's position within the band. Bear Lake Chief was greatly respected by traders and explorers for his vast knowledge of the region. He was also a very good provider for his people. Bear Lake Chief was perhaps the most famous of the Dogrib trading chiefs. Cabin built by Kaawidaa at lac St Croix. NWT Archives 7

8 Barbue Who was he and when was he involved with the fur trade? Barbue, a Gwich'in trading chief, traded at Fort Good Hope during an early period of the northern fur trade (around 1820). This easternmost group of Gwich in first came into contact with Europeans during Alexander Mackenzie's journey to the Beaufort Sea. What did he do and why is this important? The trade between Barbue and the fur post was made up mostly of muskrat and marten. Supplying meat to the Fort was also an important source of income for Barbue and the Gwich'in. In exchange for their furs and meat, they received many kinds of trade goods such as knives and kettles, clothing and blankets, firearms, ammunition, and glass beads. The Gwich'in who traded at Fort Good Hope were especially fond of blue glass beads, which they used to adorn clothing. While firearms and ammunition were also important trade items to these Gwich'in, they sometimes refused to trade their furs at the Fort because the traders had run out of beads! In 1828, Barbue fell victim to illness. Epidemic diseases, brought north with the traders, killed many Gwich'in and traders alike, though the Gwich'in were much more vulnerable because of a lack of immunity. Barbue's health declined over a number of years, starting around He died in July,

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