Since transportation at the time was limited to walking, snowshoeing and canoeing, it’s hard to imagine that the Indigenous peoples of the different nations were able to travel long distances to trade goods. And yet they did travel far, even in the 1500s.

Materials and resources were different, according to the region inhabited by each different nation. By trading, each nation was able to obtain the goods and resources they could not find or make on their own territory. For example, the Huron could trade the corn they grew in large quantities for dried fish from the Algonquins. In this way, every nation benefitted.

Want another example? When Jacques Cartier took Donnacona to France in 1535, he noticed that the chief had a copper knife. But copper was not found in the Québec City region where the chief lived. In fact, there was only one place where copper was found: near Lake Superior. Look at the distance between Lake Superior and Québec City on a map; you’ll notice that they are very far apart. So how did the St. Lawrence Iroquoians obtain copper objects? Through a network of trades.

Trading usually took place in the summer, when it was easier to travel long distances. These were times of celebration for Indigenous peoples. Nations that belonged to a confederation, like the Huron and the Five Nations, made trading easier.

Did you know?

How do we know that nations traded products?

Archaeologists have found artefacts made of materials from very distant places. These artefacts date back to before the arrival of the Europeans. This means these materials and objects must have been transported over great distances.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

Important concepts and big ideas:

Archaeology – Archéologie
Barter – Troc
Trade – Échange
Trade Network – réseau de échanges
Transportation routes – voies de transport

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