The French Fur Trade
Beginning in the mid sixteenth century, French explorers were able to establish a powerful and lasting presence in what is now the Northern United States and Canada. The explorers placed much emphasis on searching and colonizing the area surrounding the St. Lawrence River “which gave access to the Great Lakes and the heart of the continent”(Microsoft p?). They began exploring the area around 1540 and had early interactions with many of the Natives, which made communication easier for both peoples when the French returned nearly fifty years later. The French brought a new European desire for fur with them to America when they returned and began to trade with the Indians for furs in order to supply the European demands. The Natives and the French were required to interact with each other in order to make these trades possible, and, over time, the two groups developed a lasting alliance. However, the French began to face strong competition in the fur trading industry, which caused many problems between different European nations and different native tribes. Therefore, the trading of fur allowed early seven- teenth century French explorers to establish peaceful relations with the Natives, however, com- petitive trading also incited much quarreling between competing colonies and Indian tribes.
Since the early seventeenth century, French explorers had been able to keep peaceful relations with the Native Americans as a result of fur trading. Samuel de Champlain was a French explorer who established one of the first trading posts along the St. Lawrence River. He helped to establish an industry of fur trading that would continue for the next one hundred fifty years. By strategically placing many other trading posts in the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes regions, the French were able to draw many Natives who were interested in European goods and, at the same time, collect the furs that they desired. This mutual interest in each
other’s goods allowed both peoples to experience each other’s culture and understand each other’s society. Once the French understood the Natives, they began to trust them and adopted many parts of their culture. Some explorers used the “Indian canoe…to explore the entire Great Lakes chain and most of the rivers that fed into them”(Birchfeild p560). Even some of the French explorers “married into indigenous families…and [blended] French and indigenous elements in the way they lived”(Microsoft p?). These developing relationships were helpful in keeping peace between the French and the Natives and were especially helpful in developing political alliances between the French and certain Native tribes. The French, especially Champlain, were particularly helpful in protecting many tribes indigenous to the Great Lakes region. Champlain “joined four hundred...