The fur trade
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The fur trade

In the years after 1670, hundreds of men from New France set off on a great adventure.
In the late 17th century, hundreds of Frenchmen trekked into the wilderness of North America to seek their fortune in the fur trade. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
In the late 17th century, hundreds of Frenchmen trekked into the wilderness of North America to seek their fortune in the fur trade. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
They left the rigours of the St. Lawrence colony to seek their fortune in the fur trade, in the Pays d'en Haut (the Upper Country or the area around the Great Lakes).

An anonymous observer denounced the irresistible attraction of life in the upper country:

"The coureurs des bois lead a life of perpetual idleness... They live in a state of complete independence; they don't have to account for their actions to anyone; they recognize no superior, no judge, no laws."

They ignored direct orders to stay along the St. Lawrence, orders from Jean-Baptiste Colbert, France's colonial minister, who wanted to increase the population. New France at the time had only 10,000 inhabitants while the English colonies to the south had more than 100,000.

"It would be better to restrict yourselves to an extent of land which the colony could protect by itself, than to claim too vast an amount, part of which one might perhaps be obliged one day to abandon."

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of marine for Louis XIV, had other reasons to be worried.
The coureurs de bois loved their freedom and independence and profits from the fur trade, ignoring orders to stay along the St. Lawrence. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
The coureurs de bois loved their freedom and independence and profits from the fur trade, ignoring orders to stay along the St. Lawrence. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
In the colony of New York, Albany had become an important trading post, competing with Montreal and Quebec.

Tension was rising in North America.

Thomas Dongan, governor of New York, set the Iroquois against the French and their native allies.

"The King my master has forbidden me to supply arms and munitions against the French; but you should not be alarmed by this interdiction: you will lack nothing you need to mete out justice; I would supply you at my own expense."

In the Upper Country, the French attempted to consolidate their all-important alliances with the Indians.
Nicolas Perrot arrived in New France at the age of 16 and became a coureur de bois, then an interpreter, a merchant and finally ambassador to New France's powerful native allies. (As portrayed  by J.H.Gagnon in Canada: A People's History)
Nicolas Perrot arrived in New France at the age of 16 and became a coureur de bois, then an interpreter, a merchant and finally ambassador to New France's powerful native allies. (As portrayed by J.H.Gagnon in Canada: A People's History)
Muskets had upset the equilibrium between nations. Chiefs wished to ally themselves with the best supplier, for their survival depended upon it.

Nicolas Perrot was the most influential French ambassador amongst the nations of the west.

"There is not a single nation that does not say it was founded to make war on the others. When they have wanted to go to war, have I not given them to consider ... that they should rather support one another against the Iroquois, who are the enemies of all?"

His most important task was to convince the Indians of the west that it was in their interest to support the French and not the English.

"When the English wanted to bring them over to their side...
Thomas Dongan, governor of New York, urged the Iroquois to resist the French and their native allies. (As portrayed Alan Fawcett in Canada: A People's History)
Thomas Dongan, governor of New York, urged the Iroquois to resist the French and their native allies. (As portrayed Alan Fawcett in Canada: A People's History)
I made them understand that they were going to ally themselves with traitors who had poisoned some of the nations that had been found in their country. And that after having intoxicated the men, they had sacrificed and carried off their women and their children to send them to distant islands, from which they never returned."

By the time Frontenac was recalled to France, the colony was too weak to defend its allies.
Intendant Jacques Duchesneau as portrayed in Canada: A People's History.
Intendant Jacques Duchesneau as portrayed in Canada: A People's History.
The Iroquois took advantage, sowing terror among the nations of the west.

The Intendant Jacques Duscheneau recognized the danger:

"If we leave the Iroquois alone, they will subjugate the Illinois, and in very little time they will make themselves masters of all the nations of the Ottawa and will redirect trade to the English. From which it follows as an absolute necessity that we must either make them our friends or destroy them."


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