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Fur Trade

Its strategic location between the Mississippi and the Saint Lawrence Rivers made “LaBaye” a logical place for a trader to settle. By the 1720’s bands of voyageur canoes set out each spring from Quebec, the capital of New France, bound for the Northwest with a cargo of French trade goods. Iron pots, axe heads, knives, needles, mirrors, and other metal goods were popular with the woodland tribes who had only used wooden and bone implements. Flintlock muskets, gunpowder, and shot helped to hunt animals for food, while Indians snared the fur bearing animals whose pelts made fine felt hats back in France. A trader at LaBaye could exchange last year’s cargo of metal, guns, cloth fabric, and blankets for a boatload of fine furs which he would take to the “rendezvous” at Mackinac. There in early summer traders from the great Lakes would meet the Montreal brigades who would take their furs back to Quebec in exchange for another winter’s worth of trade goods. The French fur traders were reliant on the native groups for food, a trade route, hunting grounds, pelts, and companionship. Out of this companionship grew the Meétis culture, a mingling of French fur traders and the Indian culture.