The Role of Native and Métis Women in the Western Fur Trade

2409 Words Sep 15th, 2011 10 Pages
Final Research Paper
The Role of Native and Métis Women In the Western Fur Trade

Over time, the power that Native women held with in their tribe has unfortunately digressed. During the age of exploration Native women have played key roles in the western fur trade. Native women assisted the fur traders by being liaison between the Europeans and Natives. This role was fundamental in strengthening trade increasing the economic stability of the post. They acted as guides for the European traders who often found themselves in dangerous and unfamiliar territory. Finally, they provided an intimate relationship for the European traders, and played a pragmatic role as a domesticated wife. However in order to fully understand the magnitude of the
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Before the Europeans came to Canada, Natives had their own culture, traditions and norms. These differences were obvious to the Europeans who sailed to Canada, their interactions with the Native peoples proved these vast differences. One major difference noted was that the Iroquois organized their societies on different lines than did the patrilineal western Europeans. Iroquois women “by virtue of her functions as wife and mother, exercised an influence but little short of despotic, not only in the wigwam but also around the council fire.” “She indeed possessed and exercised all civil and political power and authority. The country, the land, the fields with their harvests and fruits belonged to her … her plans and wishes modeled the policy and inspired the decisions of council.” The Europeans were astounded by this way of life. The women have great power here. A man may promise you something, and if he does not keep his promise, he thinks he is sufficiently excused when he tells you that his wife did not wish to do it. I told him then that he was not the master, and that in France women do not rule their husbands .
As well accounts from traders who explored the Northwest coast have written about the strong roles women played in trade transactions with these unfamiliar men. On one account an Englishman who was visiting and having an experience in trading at Nootka Sounds. [A senior trader under the East India Company], named James Strange jotted