The Coureurs de bois
By 1745, the fur trade was a highly regulated business. Anyone who wanted to enter the fur trade had to have a permit and any pelts sold outside of New France had to go through the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales (West Indies Company). To legally trade with Indigenous people, traders had to buy a permit that cost 1 000 livres. This was very expensive.
From the earliest days of New France, the coureurs de bois travelled the territory, buying furs from the Indigenous people they met, and then reselling these furs to merchants. By the late 17th century, however, these independent coureurs de bois were being gradually replaced by the employees of companies. After 1716, anyone who traded without a permit, like the coureurs de bois, was considered an outlaw.
It wasn’t easy being a coureur de bois. They had to travel great distances while transporting heavy bundles of fur, portaging (transporting boats or goods by land between different rivers or around obstacles) and enduring extreme weather. Not only that, but profits had been declining for several years. As a result, there were fewer and fewer coureurs de bois in New France.
See also – Traces of the past:
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