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Relations during the Fur Trade

  • What essential conditions would First Nations, Métis, French and British peoples need for peaceful co-existence during the fur trade era?
  • To what extent were these conditions present?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students reflect on the conditions and tensions among First Nations and Métis, French and British peoples during the fur trade of the 1700s by writing a recipe for peaceful co-existence among the four parties. Note: French people living in Canada were referred to as French prior to 1600 and as Canadiens from 1660 to 1917. Before completing this challenge, it would be beneficial for students to have some knowledge of how the four groups interacted during early colonization and the fur trade, as developed specifically in Aboriginal Societies (Critical Challenge), Perspectives on Early Contact (Critical Challenge), Early Colonization (Critical Challenge), The Impact of Imperialism (Critical Challenge). Students should have understanding of:

  • similarities and differences in the economic and social structures of selected, pre-16th century First Nations societies
  • first contact between Aboriginal peoples and the French and English
  • contributions of fur traders and missionaries to the colonization of what was to become New France
  • French and British imperialist policies and their impact on the well-being of European settlers and Aboriginal peoples.

Activity 1
Introduce the lesson by presenting students with the following scenario:

Imagine your school's student council has been asked to join with student councils from surrounding schools to create a super-council that would be responsible for inter-school events, such as dances, fund-raisers and food drives. What factors would make it more likely that planning these joint ventures would be successful?

From this discussion, elicit ideas about the need to ensure joint action is carried out in a fair and cooperative way and that each school preserves its identity, e.g., sense of unique culture, and maintains its sovereignty or control over one's affairs. Offer these as the key ingredients or criteria for peaceful co-existence among groups:

  • fairness (consideration of each school's needs and interests)
  • cooperation (ability to get along and work together)
  • identity (respect for each school's unique culture)
  • sovereignty (control over one's affairs).

Suggest that these ingredients are the key to a successful recipe for, in this case, smoothly run, successful inter-school events.

Activity 2
Have students work in groups to research the extent to which each of these ingredients was in place during the fur trade era. Assign each group a different historical community to research. When groups have finished their research, invite them to assess the extent to which each ingredient met the needs of their assigned group, using the following rating scale:

0 = not at all

1 = a little

2 = quite a bit

3 = completely present.

Encourage students to provide reasons for their ratings. Consider adapting the charts and strategies outlined in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

State of Affairs for the French in North America

Identity (sense of unique culture)


Conditions in the early fur trade, including expansion of the Compagnie de La Nouvelle-France, ensured that French culture, Catholicism, commerce and trade were promoted.

Rating: 0 1 2 3

Cooperation (ability to co-exist and work together)



Rating: 0 1 2 3


(control over one's affairs)


The associates of Cardinal Richelieu, known as the Cents associés, were given exclusive rights to all of the furs traded out of New France and all the trade in the colony. This strongly supports sovereignty, but most citizens worked for the associates so they had less control over their day-to-day affairs.

Rating: 0 1 2 3


(consideration for the needs of each group)



Rating: 0 1 2 3

Assemble a large wall chart to summarize the state of affairs for the four key ingredients, reflecting the perspective of each group, as follows:

Comparing the State of Affairs




First Nations






























Invite students to share their evidence, discuss their ratings and notice the relationships and connections among groups. If necessary, point out that peaceful co-existence did not exist among and, in some cases, within the groups.

Activity 3
Invite students to write a recipe for peaceful co-existence among First Nations, Métis, French or British peoples, based on their group's perspective. Suggest that their proposals explain how deficiencies in the four previously discussed ingredients could be overcome. For example, First Nations groups in the east might require their cultural identity be protected. This might mean recommending that limits be placed on missionary activity in settlements.

Suggest the following criteria for a successful recipe for peaceful co-existence:

  • pleasing or fair to all who taste it
  • plausible, given the condition of the time
  • likely to lead to positive results.

Consider adapting the charts and strategies outlined in Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Ask students to share their completed recipes with the class. You may suggest that students graphically represent the ingredients in their recipe; e.g., missionary activity might be represented with a small cross. Draw attention to the proposals in subsequent lessons as students study changes in First Nations, Métis, Canadien and British relations in the lead-up to Confederation.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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