||The Beginning of the Fur Trade
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 2 Adventures and Mystics
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.