In 1645, a new social group was created in New France: the coureurs de bois. Although they were still few in numbers, the coureurs de bois later became an essential element in the fur trade. In the 1660s, there were between 500 and 800 coureurs de bois in the Great Lakes region.

In the early days of colonization, it was the Indigenous people who went to see the French at their trading posts in the St. Lawrence Valley. But over time, more and more Frenchmen were going to see the Indigenous people to trade directly with them. These Frenchmen were called the coureurs de bois.

Who were they?

The coureurs de bois were relatively young men, usually between 20 and 30 years of age, and who were not afraid of danger or physical exertion. They usually set off in the spring, travelling in bark canoes filled with goods to the “Upper Country” of the Great Lakes region. They did not return until the fall. The coureurs de bois bartered. In other words, they used goods as a type of currency to exchange for the furs of Indigenous people. Some only made a few trading trips before settling on a plot of land, while others made it their way of life.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

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