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ECON 336 Online discussion 3.pdf

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University of British Columbia
ECON 336
Catherine Douglas

In what ways do the readings by Ray, Carlos and Lewis, and Fisher reveal economic "agency" on the part of aboriginal people during the colonial period? Provide examples. Were your prior beliefs confirmed or contradicted? In what ways? Prior to the readings, I believed the aboriginal people definitely had a capable influence as an economic “agency”, but the extent of which was unclear. Although slightly undereducated in the details it is common practice for one to imagine the European settlers completely ransacking the aboriginal people in historic Canada. Seemingly proven that the popular premise was otherwise false; Ray, Carlos and Lewis, and Fisher have provided enough evidence to allow me to confirm that the aboriginal people were indeed at a price setting vantage point and were in fact an ironclad-minded group. In Ray’s article he discusses that the indians endured hardship that diminished their desire to travel to trade with the York Factory. Several compromises or mere forfeiture were/was made by the York Factory to give the Indians the upper hand in the fur trade in the seventeen and eighteenth century, especially the Assiniboine and Cree Middlemen. This upper hand was most definitely put into play aggressively while these two tribes excluded the other native groups out of the settler’s trading circle to encourage a monopoly. On top, it seemed the aboriginals were not easily susceptible to the fluctuating trade rate requests of the York Factory. The fact that ‘Indians force the traders to bargain within their own terms of reference’ is paramount in how the cards were really played in the 17th and 18th century. Looking at Carlos and Lewis’ article it can be incisively seen that there is congruency in a sense that the aboriginal people held a vastly influential economic agent position but we can also deduct that through the laws of economics unfolding through time, the European traders did in fact also have the ability to sway trade on their own accord. The supports claim that rival European groups sent the prices of beaver up resulting in the increased benefit of Indian trade of furs thus further resulting in the depletion of said fur abundance. Seeing that the increase in demand of furs also led to the price of furs growing, the Indian reacted in a way that was relatively favorable to the European traders. Without shooting off on a tangent Fisher’s article was much more compliant of the ideas provided by Ray. It is obvious that the aboriginals, with their ability to be tough-minded manipulators of competition. “They forced prices upwards, particularly at places often visited by traders”. The potential power the Indians had was tremendous due to the sheer amount of demand the furs conjured among the traders. The monopoly that Ray noted in his article is also discussed by Fisher. The aboriginal people employed tactics like dragging on negotiations for extended periods of time to pressure the Europeans to twist to their bidding. After the insight provided by these three articles, it is fairly agreeable that the aboriginal people knew more about trade than what they are and were taken granted for. The aboriginal people exhibited a impressive take on trade and manifested a strong knowledge of trading. Through Ray, Carlos and Lewis, and Fisher's articles, it is obvious that the aboriginal people had much more economic agency than what we think they had. Even though the aboriginals did not have sophisticated market-oriented enterprise like the Hudson's Bay Company, but they had their own barter economy that they used to gain monopoly power over trade with the Europeans. Ray states that "it was the combination of distance, hardships experienced in the past, and the abandonment of canoes many inland bands that played into the hands of the Assiniboine and Cree middlemen. By playing them up, and using intimidation as necessary, they were able to hold a virtual monopoly on the trade at York Factory during most of the eighteenth century". This shows that the Cree and Assiniboine prevented other tribes from trading with the Europeans to ensure their monopoly power. This not only benefited the two tribes, but also gave them the ultimate power in this trading relationship. The Europeans had to accommodate the Indians' needs like coming up with the made beaver (MB) to keep a record of their barter trade. Carlos and Lewis' argument focused more on the price of furs supplied to the Europeans. They argued that it was the competition between European rivals that lead to the increased price of furs. Due to the increase of price, the Indians benefited more from fur trade so they overharvested which led to the depletion of beaver stocks. Carlos and Fisher focused on exercising monopoly power over open resources which became more limited as the Indians increased the supply or furs due to high prices. This view is different from Ray's argument because Ray focused on as price increased for fur, supply would decrease, which is what economic theory would usually say. But nevertheless, all three authors mention the fact that the aboriginals did hold agency in the fur trade. Fisher's article focused on the Aboriginal peoples' dominance over the fur trade and the raise of price for profit overtime. He states that "the Indians became very tough-mined manipulators of competition. They forced prices upwards, particularly at places often visited by traders". Fisher states the power and capabilities the Indians had was phenomenal due to the demand of furs. The Europeans relied on the Indians for furs which gave them the monopoly power to increase prices and therefore increase benefits. The agency the Aboriginals had grew as they became more familiar with European demand for better quality furs. They would not only increase price, but also hold off from agreement so they can acquire better terms. These three articles offered a completely different side of the aboriginals then what I have learned and heard. Before I would not connect agency to Aboriginals because they were always taken advantage of; the Canadian government took away their land and resources leaving them no choice. According the 3 articles, Aboriginals were in fact the price setters and really knew how to maximize their profits. Overall, they made me rethink about the situation Aboriginals are in today and why it might have developed this way. To the British and the French, Canada represented a new land with a seemingly endless abundance of natural resources, as well as other goods that had never been available to the European market. However, the new territory came with existing inhabitants, the Native American population, and exploiting these staple products and goods meant creating some type of trading relationship between both parties. This trading system is described by Ray, Carlos and Lewis, and Fisher within their respective articles. However, as is often the case in academia, each author takes a unique stance - especially in terms of the economic agency of the aboriginal people, and just who exactly yielded the most trade influence and power. For Ray's "Traders and Middlemen", the power was definitely in the hands of the aboriginal people, specifically the Cree and Assiniboine tribes. Upon erection of the York Factory, Fort Albany and Fort Prince of Wales trading posts by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), fur trade between the Indian people and European settlers became a pillar of t
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