The fur trade

Around 1645, Indigenous peoples were at the heart of the colony’s main economic activity, the fur trade. Indigenous peoples hunted animals like beaver and otter and cleaned the skins. They also wore the fur they made for a while. This increased its value because the fur became more resistant and silky over time. Without these important steps, it would have been very difficult for the French to make any profits from the fur trade. As time passed, the colonists learned how to hunt beaver, and so they did less and less business with Indigenous peoples. 

Indigenous peoples were an important to the development of New France, but their ways of life were being threatened. Firstly, many Indigenous people were dying from diseases that had been brought over by the Europeans. What’s more, the fur trade was changing their traditional way of life because the men had to leave their families for several days at a time to go hunting. Lastly, some Indigenous peoples were converted from traditional Indigenous spiritual beliefs to the Catholic religion of the French. 

For example, prior to the arrival of Europeans, the (Huron) Wendat Nation lived on the territory of Huronia near present day Lake Huron in Ontario. Contact between French settlers and missionaries made the (Huron) Wendat Nation vulnerable to new diseases from Europe. The diseases caused a sharp drop in population. This drop, combined with fighting with the Iroquois, led to the (Huron)Wendat leaving their villages and moving eastwards to the Québec region, beside their French allies at the time. This led to many (Huron)Wendat converting to the Catholic religion.

Author: Alexandre Lanoix. Adaptations by LEARN.

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