Canada Independent Investigation – The Fate of the Fur Trade

Note: One of the pictures on this post looks super stretched out but I can’t figure out how to fix it. It looks fine in the previews, sorry!

Inquiry question: To what extent would the fur trade been different had Ochasteguin and his people (Huron-Wendat) not won the fight against Haudenosaunee Confederacy?

 

A. Outline the focus of your inquiry and provide background knowledge. Why is this an important and significant questions to ask about the past? Provide evidence from primary and secondary sources.

The fur trade took a big role in helping shape Canada’s history, culture, and early settlements. The first European settlement in Canada was built by Samuel de Champlain and his men, which soon was to become a fur-trading centre. However, sending fur to France would have been nearly impossible without access to the St. Lawrence river. By becoming allies with the Huron-Wendat peoples and assisting them with defeating the Iroquois, Samuel de Champlain won access to the river and the ability to exclusively export beaver fur to Europe. But by choosing to side with the Huron-Wendat, New France also faced a bitter rivalry with the Iroquois, “While sleeping, I dreamed that I saw our enemies, the Iroquois, drowning in the lake near a mountain” (163, Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604-1618). If the Iroquois won the battle, they would have not granted him and New France access to the St. Lawrence. Had they not gained access to the St. Lawrence, a lower amount of fur, if any at all would have reached Europe, resulting in less beaver fur in circulation and higher-costing beaver hats.

(Image source - Wikimedia commons)

(Image source – Wikimedia commons)

 

This is an important question to ask because since the fur-trade was such a major role in shaping Canada’s current values, what the result would be if New France didn’t have the ability to export furs down the St. Lawrence. At first glance beaver hats seem like an insignificant if not at all significant part of Canadian history. However hats were such a trend in England, that 3.3 million hats were made (about one person per hat). The popularity and demand grew so steeply, that within the first six decades of the century, the trend spread to new areas and beaver fur accounted for two-third of all export trades received in Portugal. The influx of profits to the French allowed them to send over more men to New France and allow permanent residents to immigrate, creating a lasting society and eventually the first Canadians.

Ethical Judgement: Is what happened right and fair by the values and standards of the time? How about from our current values and standards? Explain.

It’s hard to say whether or not what happened was right and fair by the values and standards of the time. Battling to the death for something wasn’t an uncommon practice, but it’s hard to determine whether or not having a literal ‘secret weapon’ was fair or not. There is no clear source for the terms agreed upon during the battle against the Iroquois, but since they have never dealt (or even heard of) firearms in the past, it was definitely something they weren’t expecting.

In our current society, people tend to be more civil and use the law to sort out their disagreements. Since there was no concrete written law, and crimes and their punishments could be argued more freely. There wasn’t the technology back then to prove if someone was guilty or not, so people could get away with huge crimes that people have no chance of getting away with today. That being said, it’s unfair to compare our values to theirs. But again, determining whether or not pulling out a gun in bow fight is fair is a grey-area. Hypothetically, if two groups of people were to fight to the death in this day and age, I would think that rules would be set in place deeming what would make a fair fight.

(Image source: Wikimedia commons)

Cause and Consequence: Why did your researched questions happen the way they did and what were the consequences?

The one piece of technology that helped Samuel de Champlain win the battle against the Iroquois and ultimately decide the course of Canada’s history was firearms, more specifically his arquebus. None of the First Nations had ever seen, not to mention fought against, anything of that sort. Even though the First Nation’s arrows were much more accurate, they only prepared themselves with armour made of cotton and wood, which were plenty defense against arrows but no match for the arquebus.

Image result for arquebus samuel de champlain

(Image source – canadianhistoryworkshop.wordpress.org)

By using his firearm, Samuel de Champlain was able to shoot two of men with one musket ball, one of them being the chief. The Iroquois were so shocked by the speed and seemingly effortless execution, that they soon fled the battle.

B. What conclusions can you make about your questions based on the research your conducted?

Based on my research, I can conclude that the growth of the New France settlement would have occured much slower and possibly never reached the size to allow the first Canadians to be born. The amount of income that beaver furs provided for the French was what lead to an immigration to New France, increase in settlements, and growth of the society. Without the first steps of defeating the Iroquois in battle and gaining access to the St. Lawrence, the fur trade would have never been as successful as it was, affecting Canada heavily in the future.

Primary Source: https://archive.org/stream/voyagessam00chamrich/voyagessam00chamrich_djvu.txt

Secondary source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWdOQE459vg&t=265s

Secordary source: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economic-history-of-the-fur-trade-1670-to-1870/

Secondary Source: http://plato.acadiau.ca/courses/idst/matthews/Images%20on%20p/FurTrader/ExplorerRoutes.html
Secondary Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/iroquois-wars/

4 thoughts on “Canada Independent Investigation – The Fate of the Fur Trade

  1. Sam!
    I really like the use of pictures in your DoL, they are relevant to the text and are super helpful for visual learners (like me).
    Also, I think you did a great job of being as unbiased as possible when writing this. Sometimes it’s difficult to not include your personal opinions in your writing, but you judged past events fairly by closely looking at different perspectives.

    A connection to my own inquiry is that we both went in-depth about how it’s difficult to judge what’s right and fair by the values and standards of the time, because of differing perspectives, racism/sexism/etc, and rules/laws that we are unaware of.

  2. Hi Sam! I really enjoyed reading your blog post! Firstly, it was very informative and you really dove deep into the answers to each of your questions. I think I gained a deeper understanding of the Fur Trade. I also appreciate your use of photos in this blog post as it really helped me compare the differences between the hats and gave a good visual component.

    A connection to my inquiry on the Filles du Roi would be that we both talked about the growth of New France, although for different reasons.

  3. This is a really nice DoL, for a variety of reasons. One thing I liked a lot was your ability to easily analyze the situation, specifically in your ethical judgement. All factors of today’s society were taken into account in such a way that anyone is able to understand. Aside from your reasoning, your organization and detail were also on point. The different sections were clearly laid out and easy to read, and most importantly you remembered to P.E.E. You supported your ideas well and made sure it wasn’t boring. I really enjoy how you brought a new ending to the Fur Trade situation, providing a new perspective for me to think about. I researched the factors that sparked the conflict, and it was nice learning about the individual aspects of one of the situations I researched!

  4. This is a very interesting inquiry question! I really enjoyed that you considered many different elements of the modern and historic idea of ‘fairness’ when determining whether or not The Wendat Confederacy’s use of a ‘secret weapon’ was ethical. I also liked that you explained the importance of the seemingly insignificant beaver pelt hats that were being traded. It allowed me to gain a better grasp on the significance of New France’s ability to send these goods to France through the St. Lawrence River. Your inquiry question relates to mine because the Huron-Wendat people’s victory over the Iroquois significantly impacted their relationship with the French as well as their relationship with neighbouring Indigenous communities. This had a large impact on their role as a prevalent society in Canada.

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