Exploration: The Fur Trade and the Husdon Bay Company

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Exploration: The Fur Trade and the Husdon Bay Company


  • Go to the following web site: http://www1.canadiana.org/hbc/hist/hist1_e.html

  • Answer the questions below.


The Beginning of the Fur Trade

  1. Why was felt valuable?

  • Felt is a cloth made by pressing, heating or treating animal hair with chemicals. It is valuable because it is waterproof, moldable, and doesn't wear out easily. The best kinds, like beaver, are very soft and smooth.

  1. Why were European Beavers dying out?

  • European beavers were dying out because of over-hunting, and new fashions, like hats, used lots of beaver felt.

Europeans Discover North America:

  1. Explain why some believe that the fur trade could have begun 100 years BEFORE Columbus reached America?

  • Many believe that fishermen and other travelers reached the coast of North America long before Columbus, looking for fish. They may have also traded furs. If so, they kept it a secret so nobody else could profit from their discovery. The fur trade between Europeans and Aboriginals may even have begun before the year 1400 - 100 years before Columbus reached America!

  1. What did Jacques Cartier trade for furs?

  • Knives

Fashionable Furs:

  1. What became fashionable in the 1600s?

  • Hats made from beaver felt became very fashionable.

  1. What three explorers mapped the land and waterways that would eventually become important to the fur trade and settlement of Canada?

  • Martin Frobisher, John Davis, and Henry Hudson

The Fur Trade Expands (and then slows down again)

  1. Who was one of the first to realize the potential of trade in North America?

  • Samuel de Champlain

  1. Who were the first to develop the fur trade? France or England

  • France

  1. Explain how the competition in the fur trade helped spark fighting between First Nations tribes.

  • The Iroquois would ambush the Huron traders who were bringing furs to Quebec. As a result, the fur trade almost came to a stop.

  1. The French chose to fight on the side of the Huron in a battle in 1609. Chaplain shot two Iroquois chiefs, and another Frenchman shot a third. This started a war with the Iroquois - a war that lasted 90 years.

Two Brave Adventurers:

  1. Name the two French coureurs de bois that helped bring life back to the fur trade

  • Médard Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre Radisson.

  1. They met people from the Sioux nation who told them about the great supply of beaver in the north near Hudson Bay. When they returned to the colony, they had almost 100 canoes overflowing with furs. They did not, however, receive the warm welcome they expected.

  2. Why were the furs were taken away, Des Groseilliers was put in jail and both were given fines for breaking the law? What did they decide to do?

  • They had not gotten a license to trade fur before they began their adventure.

  • Work for the English instead o the French

The Hudson's Bay Company is Formed

  1. The king of England's cousin, Prince Rupert, knew that there was money to be made in the fur trade

  2. Define Charter.

  • A document, usually given by a king or queen, that gives a certain group possessions or privileges. Hudson's Bay Company Charter was granted on May 2 1670, by English King Charles II. It gave Hudson's Bay Company all trading rights in the territory that had rivers flowing into Hudson Bay.

  1. Define Monopoly.

  • Whenever one person or company is the only one buying or selling a certain kind of product in a certain place.

  1. What did the land that drained into the Hudson Bay become known as?

  • Rupert’s Land

  1. What is the motto of the HBC company mean?

  • The HBC motto is "pro pelle cutem," which may have a clever double meaning.

  • One interpetation is that it means they wanted the skin, cutem, for the sake of the fleece, pro pelle.

  • The other is that it means "for the pelts which we collect, we risk our skins."

  • They believed they were taking a risk with their money by going into the business.

  • For the traders in Canada, the risk could even more real: weather, accidents, animals, or hostile traders could kill them!

  1. Britain had a very expensive war with France at the end of the 17th century. The French were very successful, and by 1697 had captured all of Hudson's Bay Company forts except for one: Fort Albany

Conflict and Change

  1. State the 2 reasons why the fur trade slowed down in the 1750s.

  • Seven Years War between France and England. Britain won this war and took control of New France and the fur trade in 1763.

  • A number of merchants formed the North West Company in 1783. The competition between the two companies was fierce.

Transfer of Power

  1. What happened in 1821 that made the HBC the most powerful organization in North America?

  • The North West Company had to admit defeat, and joined with HBC.

  • The company controlled most of the land in modern day Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean

  • They also made and enforced many of the laws

  1. What was the Deed to Surrender?

  • The agreement that Hudson's Bay Company signed to transfer nearly all its land to the British Crown which, in turn, transferred it to the newly formed Dominion of Canada in 1870.

Modern Challenges and Reorganization

  1. What happened in 1867?

  • The Dominion of Canada was formed and a new country was born.

  1. In 1870 the Queen granted what land to Canada for future settlement?

  • Rupert’s Land

  1. The Deed of Surrender in 1869 marked the beginning of HBC as a modern company. The fur trade was no longer its only line of business. What were the other newjobs it had to do?

  • One was to sell its land to the farmers, settlers and developers.

  • The other was to provide the supplies that were needed to build the new settlements.

  1. The HBC was to change its trading posts into a chain of retail stores. In 1881 it opened its first modern store in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


  1. Henry Hudson: Tried to find the Northwest Passage in 1610. His ship was caught by the ice and he had to spend the winter in Canada. In the spring of 1611 the men mutinied and put Hudson, his son and some other men on a small boat and left them behind. A famous Canadian Bay is named after him.

  2. Samuel de Champlain: In 1603 he made the first of many trips to North America. He sailed the St. Lawrence River and mapped most of it. He recognized that the area had potential to be a good place to establish a colony. He returned and started the first settlement at Quebec in 1608. In 1609 he battled the Iroquois and started a war that lasted 90 years.

  3. Étienne Brûlé: Champlain sent him to live among the Huron people in 1610. He learned their language and their customs. This helped the colonist learn to understand their Huron neighbours. He was an excellent scout, or pathfinder. He lived with the Huron people for over 20 years. In 1629, Champlain believed that he became a traitor. The Huron people killed him a few years later.

  4. Jean Nicollet: Became a coureur de bois. He went to live among the Huron, Algonquin and Nippising people in order to learn their languages and customs. In 1634 he went into the wilderness in search of fur. He traveled until he reached an enormous lake that had not yet been discovered by Europeans. It was Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes. He was often sent to make peace between groups of Europeans and First Nations peoples or between various First Nations groups.

  5. des Groseilliers & Pierre Esprit Radisson: Set off on a secret trip in search of new sources of fur. When they returned home they had over 100 canoes loaded with furs. They had not obtained a fur-trading license so they were fined and the fur was taken away from them. They were angry and decided to work for the English instead. In 1665 they went to London, England to visit King Charles II. While the King did not believe everything they told him, he was interested. Prince Rupert convinced him to support an expedition. The expedition went well enough that the King agreed to grant Hudson's Bay Company a charter

  6. Henry Kelsey: By the fall of 1690, he reached the prairies. He had gone further than any other white man. He spent 30 years with Hudson's Bay Company. He was their chief trader and later became governor of all the trading posts, but never received recognition for the success of his explorations.

  7. Samuel Hearne: He was put in charge an expedition to Coppermine River in 1769. During the journey his guides deserted him. He was left alone - lost and hungry. Matonabbee, a leader of the Chipewyans, saved him. After this, Matonabbee served as his guide and friend for many years. In 1771 he set off to Coppermine river again with Matonabbee. They were searching for copper and other minerals. Along the way, they met other Chipewyans. The Chipewyans ambushed some sleeping Inuit and massacred them at what would later be called Bloody Falls. In 1774 he opened Cumberland House. This was Hudson's Bay Company's first inland trading post, which meant it was not directly on the shores of Hudson Bay.

  8. Prince Rupert: He convinced the King to give his company the land the company needed, and to sign a charter that gave the company a monopoly on fur trade in the area of Hudson Bay. He became the first governor of Hudson's Bay Company.


Hudson's Bay Company Products:

  1. While furs were going to Europe, what European products were coming to North America?

  • These goods included many things: gunpowder, bullets, kettles and pots, beads, weapons, tobacco, fishing hooks, needles, scissors, and much more

  1. What were Point Blankets?

  • Point blankets were first introduced in 1780. They are made out of wool and are very good at fighting the bitter cold. The First Nations people liked them because they were good camouflage in winter. Sometimes the blankets were turned into coats.

Life in the Wilderness: Work, Food and Insects

  1. Define the word voyageurs.

  • A person, European or Aborigianal, who transported furs to and from fur posts. The word is sometimes used for coureurs de bois.

  1. European men serving far from their homes, in forts or in the Fur Country, often had "country wives" - First Nations women they lived with. Some were almost slaves, but other men fell in love and married their country wives.

Coureurs de Bois: Runners of the Woods:

  1. What did the First Nations people teach the coureurs de bois?

  • They were taught them how to canoe, hunt and snowshoe

  1. Define Pemmican.

  • Dried and powdered meat, usually buffalo, that has been mixed with an equal amount of animal fat. Sometimes berries or other items were added. Pemmican was stored and carried in leather bags and was the perfect food for fur traders to carry on long voyages because it did not spoil. Developed by the Chipewyans.

Filles du Roi (the King's Daughters): Wanted: Wives for the Colonists:

  1. Who were the Filles du Roi and why were they called the King’s Daughters?

  • The colony of New France needed more settlers if it was going to survive.

  • Not only were more settlers needed, but also wives for the settlers were in great demand.

  • Jean Talon, had a plan. He decided to bring girls and young women over from France to marry the settlers.

  • Young women came from farms and convent schools in France.

  • The government of France paid for the cost of their trip, which is why they were called the King's daughters.

  • They were married to settlers as soon as they got off the ship.

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