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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.

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Wintering Partner

A wintering partner (also "winterer") was an inland trader and shareholder, most notably in the North West Company. The wintering partner system evolved in New France, where fur merchants divided their profits with associates conducting the trade.

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Daniel Greysolon Dulhut

Daniel Greysolon Dulhut, coureur de bois, fur trader, explorer (b at St-Germain-Laval, France c 1639; d at Montréal 25 Feb 1710). Dulhut helped extend the French trading empire around the Upper Great Lakes.

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Isobel Gunn

Isobel Gunn (sometimes spelled Isabel, a.k.a. Isabella Gunn, John Fubbister and Mary Fubbister), labourer (born 10 August 1780 in Tankerness, Scotland; died 7 November 1861 in Stromness, Scotland). Gunn disguised herself as a man in order to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 19th century. She travelled to Rupert’s Land (now Canada) to work in the fur trade and is believed to have been one of the first European woman in Western Canada.

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Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham, fur trader (b probably near Edinburgh, Scot c 1733; d at Prestonpans, Scot 8 Sept 1815). Graham worked for the Hudson's Bay Company at Churchill, York Factory and Ft Severn (1749-75).

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Ounanguissé

Ounanguissé (“Shimmering Light of the Sun,” also spelled Onangizes, Onanguisset and Onanguicé) was wkama (leader) of the Potawatomi ca. 1660s–1701. He was an important figure in the alliance between the French and Indigenous people of the Great Lakes region during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He is most well known for a speech he gave regarding this alliance during a meeting he had with the governor general of New France, Louis de Buade de Frontenac in 1697. He also made an important contribution to the establishment of the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701.

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James McGill

James McGill, fur trader, merchant, politician, philanthropist (born 6 October 1744 in Glasgow, Scotland; died 19 December 1813 in Montreal, Lower Canada). James McGill was one of Montreal’s most prominent citizens in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He grew a successful career as a fur trader into a business empire. McGill also held various positions in public office, including three terms in Lower Canada’s legislature. His will contained the endowment for McGill University. James McGill’s achievements cannot be separated from the fact that he enslaved Black and Indigenous people and profited from this practice.

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Médard Chouart des Groseilliers

Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers, explorer, fur trader (bap at Charly-sur-Marne, France 31 July 1618; d at New France 1696?). A man of courage who valued personal freedom and initiative, Des Groseilliers opened Lakes Michigan and Superior to the fur trade and Jesuit missionaries.

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Grande Société

Grande Société, contemporary name for war profiteers charged with providing food for Canada and the French troops stationed there during the SEVEN YEARS' WAR.

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Peter Fidler

Peter Fidler, fur trader, mapmaker, explorer (b at Bolsover, Eng 16 Aug 1769; d at Fort Dauphin [Man] 17 Dec 1822).

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Alexander Henry

Alexander Henry, fur trader (born in August 1739 in New Jersey, USA; died 4 April 1824 in Montreal, QC). He was one of the first English traders, known as the "pedlars from Quebec," to do business in the North-West following 1763.

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John Bell

John Bell, fur trader, explorer (b on the Isle of Mull, Scot 1799; d at Saugeen, Ont 24 June 1868). John Bell joined the North West Company as a clerk in 1818.

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Samuel Black

Samuel Black, fur trader, explorer (b at Pitsligo, Scot 3 May 1780; d at Kamloops, New Caledonia [BC] 8 Feb 1841). He joined the XY Co, which was absorbed by the NORTH WEST CO in 1804.

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Sir Alexander Mackenzie (Explorer)

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, fur trader, explorer (born around 1764 near Stornoway, Scotland; died 12 March 1820 near Dunkeld, Scotland). Mackenzie was one of Canada’s greatest explorers. In two epic journeys for the North West Company in 1789 and 1793, he crossed the dense northern wilderness to reach the Arctic and Pacific Oceans. The first European to cross North America north of Mexico, he inspired later adventurers and traders, such as the famous Lewis and Clark expedition sponsored by the American military (1804–6). The Mackenzie River, named in his honour, symbolizes Mackenzie’s important place as a pioneer and fur trader in Canadian history.

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Peter Bostonais Pangman

Peter (or Pierre) Bostonais Pangman, Métis leader, bison hunter (born 20 October 1791 in the North Saskatchewan River Valley area, present-day AB; died 4 March 1850 in St. François Xavier, present-day MB). Peter Bostonais Pangman was a skilled hunter who helped provide much-needed bison meat to the Red River Colony. He was actively involved in the Pemmican Wars and events surrounding the Battle of Seven Oaks. As part of the Pembina fur trade, Pangman was a key figure who rallied and inspired the Red River Valley Métis to see and express themselves with an identity separate from surrounding Indigenous peoples. The name Bostonais is variously spelled Bastonnais and Bostonnais.

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Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal

Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, fur trader, railroad financier, diplomat (born 6 August 1820 in Forres, Scotland; died 21 January 1914 in London, England). Smith was a leading businessman, politician, diplomat and philanthropist of the 19th and early 20th century. He was governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, president of the Bank of Montreal and high commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom. Smith also played an important role in the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and the Royal Victoria College for women at McGill University.

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Michel Cadotte

Michel Cadotte, pioneer fur trader, interpreter, mediator (born 22 July 1764 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; died 8 July 1837 in La Pointe, Wisconsin). Cadotte established a large, successful fur trade along the south shore of Lake Superior, which covered present-day northern Wisconsin and extended into parts of northern Minnesota. Half French Canadian and half Ojibwe, he endeared himself to the Indigenous people of the area by marrying Ikwesewe, the daughter of an Ojibwe chief, and by his compassionate understanding of Indigenous ways. These factors allowed Cadotte to gain a monopoly on the fur trade with the Indigenous peoples of the area.

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Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Duke of Cumberland, military commander, privateer, administrator, artist, scientist, first governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and founding member of the Royal African Company (born 17 December 1619 in Prague, Bohemia [now Czech Republic]; died 29 November 1682 in London, England [now United Kingdom]). A nephew of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland, Rupert was a cavalry general and privateer during the English Civil Wars (1642–51). He was the first close relative of an English monarch to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Following the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, Rupert introduced Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Grosseilliers to his cousin King Charles II and persuaded the king to grant a royal charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rupert’s Land and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, are named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine.