Indigenous Peoples around 1645
The fur trade
Indigenous people were still an important group in New France around 1645 because they were at the heart of the colony’s main economic activity, the fur trade. It was the Indigenous people who hunted animals like beaver and otter and cleaned the skins. They also wore the fur they made for a while. This increased its value because the fur became more resistant and silky over time. Without these important steps, it would have been very difficult for the French to make any profits from the fur trade. As time passed, the colonists learned how to hunt beaver and so they did less and less business with Indigenous people.
A threatened culture
Although Indigenous people were still an important group in New France, their way of life was being threatened. Firstly, many of them were dying from diseases that had been brought over by the Europeans. What’s more, the fur trade was changing their traditional way of life because the men had to leave their families for several days at a time to go hunting. Lastly, some Indigenous people were abandoning their animist religion to adopt the catholic religion of the French. The Indigenous way of life was indeed changing. Sometimes for the better, like when they benefitted from the tools brought over by the Europeans. Sometimes for the worse, like when they died of diseases brought over from Europe.
See also – Traces of the past:
- The fur trade / New France around 1645
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