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Lecture

THE NORTHWEST BEFORE CONFEDERATION.doc


Department
History
Course Code
HIS 2201E
Professor
Prof

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THE NORTHWEST BEFORE CONFEDERATION: THE FUR-TRADE
CONNECTION (1670s-1860s)
INTRODUCTION: The Northwest – roughly the part of present-day Canada that
includes the three Prairie Provinces and northwestern Ontario – was claimed as
Rupert’s Land by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) following its establishment in
1670. This lecture offers an overview of some two centuries of contact between the
First Nations of this region and French and English traders. The fur trade was
responsible for Europeans’ growing knowledge of this vast region and for a long
period of white/aboriginal interaction, including extensive intermarriage and some
reciprocal cultural change. But it was only in 1812 that a permanent white settlement
was established and only in the 1840s that the settlement experienced significant
impact from the outside world. The major turning point for the entire region would
come only after Confederation. A theme from our lecture on early white-aboriginal
contacts in eastern Canada is also relevant for this region, especially before the
1800s: First Nations were skilled in dealing with the newcomers and sometimes had
the upper hand.
FIRST NATIONS IN THE NORTHWEST AT THE TIME OF CONTACT: mainly hunter-
gatherers but with distinctive ways of life
EUROPEAN CONTACT FROM TWO DIRECTIONS FROM THE LATE 1600S: French
explorers and fur traders from New France; English-speaking traders at HBC trading
posts
INTERMARRIAGE PRODUCES TWO NEW GROUPS: the Metis (French-Aboriginal); the
“Country-Born
THE HBC, 1670: background; contacts and expansion; conflict with Montreal-based
traders before and after the era of New France
The NORTH WEST COMPANY, 1780S-1821: the HBC’s Montreal-based rival
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE RED RIVER or SELKIRK SETTLEMENT [present-day
Winnipeg], 1812: new reasons for HBC-NWC rivalry
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