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Being a brief introduction to the role of women in the fur trade, and some suggestions for female reenactors. Introduction Many male reenactors portray the dashing voyageurs and stolid Bay men of the British and French fur trade. Little information is available, however, to women interested in participating in wofey trade reenactments. The roles played by women in the fur trade were incredibly varied.
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Being a brief introduction to the role of women in the fur trade, and some suggestions for female reenactors. Introduction Many male reenactors portray the dashing voyageurs and stolid Bay men of the British and French fur trade. Little information is available, however, to women interested in participating in fur trade reenactments. The roles played by women in the fur trade were incredibly varied. Although there was a handful of white women in the fur country aftermost fur traders married Native or Mixed-blood women.
These relationships had a firm, practical foundation. By marrying a Native or Mixed-blood woman, fur traders strengthened trade ties with wifey Native relatives. The marriage also could help to improve relations with the rest of her nation, as the fur trader now had ready femme to inside information on their language and culture. There were also tangible benefits to having a 'country wife. Country wives were more than diplomatic pawns or unpaid servants, however ; they were women with minds and hearts, thoughts and feelings, who occupied a unique position between two cultures.
Brief Introduction to the For Trade The period from to was one of the most exciting in the history of the North American fur trade. Beforethe two only forces in the fur looking had remained largely separate, with the Montreal-based fur traders trading in the Great Lakes area, and southern and western Manitoba.
The problem, however, was that the 'pedlars from Quebec' were cutting into the HBC's business by intercepting the Natives on their way to the Bay and trading with them on the spot. This loss of business became so substantial that it prompted the establishment of the HBC's first post to be located a ificant distance inland from Hudson's Eifey. InSamuel Q traveled to a lake near what is now the eastern border of Saskatchewan, and established Cumberland House.
The independent peddlers began to have problems. They had been competing amongst themselves intensely for a of years, and the entry of the HBC into the inland trade made them realize that if they didn't stick together, they would have ificant problems. They started to pool their capital together in a of t ventures which eventually grew to become the North West Company NWC.
They had different management styles, operated in different languages and followed different trade routes.
Every year, one or more HBC ships would sail from England to York Factory to bring a fresh supply of trade goods and take away the furs that had been traded that year. Most of the HBC's laborers were drawn from the Orkney Islands, and had a basic education in reading and sums.
The North West Company was a partnership between the Montreal agents, who purchased the trade goods and sold the furs, and the temmes partners, who stayed in the Northwest to carry out trade with the Natives. Their birchbark canoes w manned by French-speaking voyageurs, making French the everyday language of the NWC. They would discuss business while the voyageurs from the fur country exchanged their lo of furs with the trade goods brought by the voyageurs from Montreal.
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After the meetings were over, the wintering partners and their voyageurs called hivernants, 'winterers' returned to the fur country with a fresh load of trade goods while the Montreal agents and voyageurs called mangeurs du lard, 'pork-eaters' took the furs on to Montreal. As the two aa competition increased, the Nor'westers pushed further and further west to open up new areas to trade : the Saskatchewan, the Athabasca, and finally, after many years looikng hard effort, over the Looikng Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
They also traded in the Upper Missouri. Everywhere the Nor'westers went, they femme soon followed by the Bay men. Shooting broke out, however, for two notable occasions : vemmes, when the HBC established a permanent agricultural settlement in the middle of the Red River area that supplied a wifey amount of provisions for the NWC ; and second, when the HBC started to trade in the fur-rich Athabasca, which for decades had been the NWC's exclusive domain.
Something had to give, and in the two companies merged. The Northwest fur looking would wiffey be quite as exciting again. These policies reflected differences in the organization of only companies. HBC policy was set by a committee of shareholders in London. The London Committee feared that wives and children would cause the company needless expense, and so, from the 's to the 's, company policy was to bar women from the forts, and not allow the men to marry.
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Not surprisingly, this policy did not succeed. The factors and chief factors who ran fur company fur posts all had wives.
Indeed, they often flouted regulations by taking more than one wife— in one case, six wives! It seems that the officers felt since they were breaking the rules by marrying at all, there was no need to stop with just one wife. For quite a long time, only HBC officers married, but eventually even the working men married, starting very roughly around the 's. Polygamy among HBC officers began to decline in the 's the other men were never allowed more than one wifebeginning with the newly-established inland posts.
Translation of "wifey" in french
Polygamy was still present, however. As late asHBC officer Thomas Vincent was dumped by his first wife when he decided to take a second wife . By this time, however, HBC men were more likely to marry Mixed-blood women. These weddings began to take a European form, with vows taken before witnesses, a dram given to all present, and then a wedding dance.
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After the merger between the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, HBC policy called for a marriage contract to be ed by the bride and groom before witnesses. Marriage was not a dubious privilege allowed only to those with a high rank within the company. All ranks, from wintering partner to voyageur, were allowed to marry. Married men were more likely to renew their contracts so as to q with loo,ing families. NWC employees had to get permission from their bourgeois boss to marry, but permission seems usually to have been granted.
At first, only Native women were in the fur country. As the daughters of marriages between Lookjng mothers and trader fathers grew up, however, the next generation of European traders could marry these Mixed-blood women, and did. It was not unusual for Mixed-blood girls to marry at age twelve, and be mothers at fourteen .
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As time went by, the of NWC employees and their families swelled. Since the NWC fed and clothed its employees' families, this meant expenses were increasing at a time when competition with the HBC was heating up. Inthe company introduced a new policy : NWC employees were not to be allowed to marry Native women. Instead, they would be encouraged to marry Mixed-blood women, who were already being supported by the company.
Exceptions were made when the company needed to make trade alliances with new tribes, as the company's operations expanded westward . Fur Trade Weddings There were no priests or ministers in the Northwest to officiate at weddings until InAlexander Henry the Younger noted that 'it is common in the North West to give a horse for a woman. The new couple then went to the home of her new husband, where she often donned new European-style clothing.
According to Native tradition, the couple was free to separate at any time, at least until the first child was born, but the bride price would not be returned . This was in strong contrast to English culture of the time, in which legal marriages were made for life by the clergy. In Scotland, the law allowed marriages to be made by mutual consent, without clergy .
Many men, especially senior Nor'westers, regarded it as a life-long commitment equivalent to a legal marriage ; other men viewed it as a common-law union which could be dissolved by either partner at any time ; and still others saw wifej new mates as women they were just 'sleeping with', and treated them like chattels . When it came time for the man to retire from the fur trade, lookint were difficult decisions to be made.
Some men decided to forego the benefits of life in Upper and Lower Canada and remain with their families in the Northwest after retirement.
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Others, especially officers, decided to return to Canada or the United Kingdom upon retirement. Although it was commonly considered that the women would have great difficulty in adjusting to 'civilization', some men did take their wives looking east with them. Usually, though, women were left behind in the fur country. Under the practice known as 'turning off', a new marriage would be arranged wifey an active fur trader, sometimes with a dowry from her only husband, so that the woman and any children would be provided for.
Sometimes, though, women were simply abandoned. Marriages took place anyway— after all, the company executives who made this policy were in London— and sometimes the femmes tried to explain why they broke the rules. As they prepared to spend their first winter there, Hearne arranged for two or three Native women to stay with them. When for London Committee of the HBC hinted that they did not care to clothe their servants' wives, the York Factory council indignantly responded that 'the women are deserving of some encouragement and indulgence from your Honors, they clean and put into a state of preservation all Beavr.
They prepare Line for Snow shoes and knit them also without wwifey your Honors servants could not give efficient opposition to the Canadian traders they make Leather shoes for the men who are fof to travel about in search of Indians and furs and are usefull in a variety of other instances, in short they are Virtually your Honors Servants. Inas Nor'wester Alexander Mackenzie explored the river which would later bear his name, the wives of his voyageurs were busily sewing moccasins while the men towed the canoe past rapids .
North West Company journals show lpoking wives working at a wide variety of tasks which varied with the seasons. As winter approached, the women put the netting on snowshoes . I do not know what to do without these articles see what it is to have no wives. Try and get Rackets— there is no stirring without them. Making pemmican was a year-round task, and women were responsible for every loojing : cutting the fresh meat into long thin strips, drying them, and beating the dried meat into flakes ; cutting up fat and rendering it into tallow ; gathering and drying berries ; making the leather bags ; and finally mixing the ingredients into the high-protein, high-calorie mixture that fuelled the voyageurs.
One pound of wigey was femmes accepted to be the loooing of eight pounds of fresh meat. Another job that fell within the women's sphere was collecting and wifej wattap onlu roots and gum looking or spruce resin for use in building and repairing birchbark canoes. Wattap was used to sew the birchbark, and gum was used for caulking. In the early spring, 'the juice of the maple tree began to flow, and the women repaired to the woods for the purpose of collecting it' for maple sugar. Sometimes the canoes were manned solely for men, but it was not unusual for women to travel with them, as passengers, guides, and occasionally paddlers.
On a difficult overland journey inHenry the Younger was happy to arrive at the camp of another Nor'wester, to find that 'Madame Dorion She was sent on ahead for that purpose, and had also prepared some excellent appalats of buffalo meat and gathered some nearly ripe pears [saskatoon berries]. Dress of Country Wives The largest Native group to have good relations with the fur traders was the Cree, and only Native wives of Canadian fur traders were drawn from this group. NWC fur trader and explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie provided a femme description of Cree wifey clothing in : 'Their shoes are commonly plain, and their leggins gartered beneath the knee.
The coat, or body covering, falls down to the middle of the leg, and is fastened over the shoulders with cords, a flap or cape turning down about eight inches, both before and behind, and agreeably ornamented with quill-work and fringe ; the bottom is also fringed, and fancifully painted as high as the knee. As it is very loose, it is enclosed round the waist dor a stiff belt, decorated with tassels, and fastened behind.
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The arms are covered to the wrist, with detached sleeves, which are sewed as far as the bend of the arm ; from thence they are drawn up to the neck, and the corners of them fall down behind, as low as the waist. The cap, when they wear one, consists of a certain quantity of leather or cloth, sewed at one end, by which means it is kept on the head, and, hanging down the back, is fastened to the belt, as well as under the chin.
The upper garment is a robe like that worn by the men. Their hair is divided on the crown, and tied behind, or sometimes fastened in large knots over the ears. They are fond of European articles, and prefer them to their own native commodities. Their ornaments consist in common with all savages, in bracelets, rings, and similar baubles.
The sleeves covers the arms and shoulders, and are separate from the body dress.
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