Pre-colonial Fur Trading in Canada
As more Europeans began sailing to Canada during spring and summer to fish, they realized that Canada was rich in several fur-bearing animals which were available from the Canadian natives most of whom were hunters and gatherers and were willing to trade the fur with the Europeans.
Europeans also needed the fur as much to make hats and clothing. This made them establish fur trading relationships with the natives by trading in metal and cloths for fur and meat.
The French, who inhabited a big portion of the Canadian lands, had several alliance with the natives, established built trading posts along the St. Lawrence River.
The English did not lag behind either since they had numbers and great resources and went on to trade with the natives in Newfoundland and on the Atlantic coast south of the French settlements. The most notable impact of the English fur trade with the natives is evidenced by the formation of Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 and also they built several trading posts around Hudson Bay.
Competition for Fur Trade:
Competition between the French and English for trade increased as their needs kept rising while the fur provided by the natives dwindled as fur-bearing animals reduced in numbers. This would later see the French travel further west in search for more fur.
As the fur trade nourished, traders from France established companies to collect the furs in Canada. In 1600, one French company built a trading post at ‘Tadoussac‘ to enable continuous trading all year round but the post did not last long enough because the French did not know how to survive the cold Canadian winters.
Building Trading Posts:
In 1603, they tried again to build another trading post this time on the east coast where it was a little warmer and there were fewer traders competing for furs. A group of around 60 French settlers went to the new post at Port-Royal, on the Bay of Fundy. Port-Royal was the first French settlement in Acadia.
In 1608, they tried another spot for building their trading post, and this time at Quebec. Not long after this were they able to build several trading post along the St. Lawrence River.
St. Lawrence Valley:
The St. Lawrence Valley provided a good site for the fur traders because it was close to a rich supply of furs. There were also several rivers in the valley which went inland and thus the French could easily ship the furs traded with the natives back to France.
Down south of the Great Lakes where the Iroquois lived on Hudson Bay, the English too were establishing fur trading partners with these natives.
The business boomed with the English but as less fur could be found in the Iroquois and Huron lands.
This led to start of wars as the Iroquois fought with the French-Huron trading partnership for control over the sources of furs. They sent war raids armed with English artillery to the St. Lawrence valley to chase the French away. They also wanted compel the Hurons to unblock the trade routes. By 1650, majority of the Huron had been killed in the war and the rest fled. However the French continued with the war and by 1690 they are able to defeat the Iroquois thus ending the wars.