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The Beginning of the Fur Trade (includes activity)
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LESSON 4: The Beginning of the Fur Trade
(includes activity)

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This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 2 Adventures and Mystics yellow divider

Backgrounder and Activity

This activity focuses on the three chapters of Episode 2 entitled "Champlain's Gamble", "The Price of Friendship" and "A Frenchman in Huronia."

In the 16th century, the European view of North America changed radically. From being perceived as merely an obstacle to finding a navigable route to the Orient, it became a territory where permanent colonies could be established.

These excerpts describe the shift in perception and its consequences. It recounts the beginnings of the fur trade and tells of the adventures of Samuel de Champlain as well as the first alliances and conflicts with the native peoples.


In the early 17th century, European merchants started estimating the profits they could reap in Canada by intensifying the fur trade. Fashion designers were infatuated with beaver, and made highly-valued hats. To stimulate trade, permanent outposts in Canada were needed and in 1608, Samuel de Champlain established the first one at Quebec, close to a Huron settlement. Champlain spent a very difficult winter there, and ten of his men died from scurvy. In 1609, he participated in a Huron war expedition against the Iroquois, for which he became famous for killing two chiefs with his musket, a weapon new to the Natives. The Huron and the French became allies.

Champlain was a visionary. He was fully aware of the potential of the country he was exploring. In 1618, he wrote a memoir intended for King Louis XIII in which he identified all the country's natural resources, and the wealth France could derive from them. Champlain convinced the powerful Cardinal Richelieu to bring investors together to finance the colony. In 1627, Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates, and named Champlain Viceroy of New France.

A year later, in 1628, war erupted between France and England. In 1629, Quebec was captured by the English. Champlain was sent back to France, where it took him three years to convince the king to regain the colony. In 1632, the war ended and France purchased Quebec from England for a million pounds. In 1633, Champlain came back to Quebec and rebuilt the settlement. He died there peacefully at Christmas, 1635.

Activity: A Film Script

Challenge students to write their own short documentaries about an interaction between the French and the native peoples. Students can use a word processor or work with pen and paper.

Have students create characters and a plot, write dialogue that includes as many words as possible from the fur trade vocabulary. Situations might include an aboriginal elder giving advice to a younger person, a French colonist telling a great Huron chief about his voyage to Lake Huron, and so on.

As a class, choose two or three scripts to present. Invite students to use costumes and props, to use native languages and French if they know them, and, if they wish, to film the presentation.

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    Episode 1
    When the World Began...
    Lesson 1 Canada's First Peoples
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 2 Stories of Creation
    Lesson 3 Cartier and Donnacona

    Episode 2
    Adventures and Mystics
    Lesson 4 The Beginning of the Fur Trade
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 5 The Jesuits and the Huron
    Lesson 6 Immigration to New France

    Episode 3
    Claiming the Wilderness
    Lesson 7 Expansion to the Gulf of Mexico
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 8 The Expulsion of the Acadians

    Episode 4
    Battle for a Continent
    Lesson 9 Before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    Lesson 10 The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
    Lesson 11 The Quebec Act
    (includes activity)

    Episode 5
    A Question of Loyalties
    Lesson 12 Conflict in Quebec, 1775
    Lesson 13 United Empire Loyalists
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 14 Sir Isaac Brock and Tecumseh

    Episode 6
    The Pathfinders
    Lesson 15 The Fur Trade in Canada
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 16 The Selkirk Settlers
    Lesson 17 The Gold Rush

    Episode 7
    Rebellion and Reform
    Lesson 18 The Rebellions of 1837
    Lesson 19 Union of the Canadas
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 20 A Land of Hope

    Episode 8
    The Great Enterprise
    Lesson 21 Newcomers to Canada
    Lesson 22 The Making of Confederation
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 23 Confederation in the Maritimes

    Episode 9
    From Sea to Sea
    Lesson 24 The Red River Resistance
    (includes activity)
    Lesson 25 The Pacific Scandal

    Episode 10
    Taking the West
    Lesson 26 The North-West Rebellion
    Lesson 27 The Trial of Louis Riel
    Lesson 28 Macdonald's National Dream

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