The fur trade led Native people to barter with the French, that is to say, to exchange their furs for European products. This allowed Native people to obtain goods that did not exist on their territory. Usually they adopted European products made of stronger, more resistant materials than those they made themselves.

From clothing to food

Fur was traded for all sorts of products. More than half of all traded goods were European fabrics. They were especially sought after because they were more practical than leather. Unlike leather, for example, wool keeps you warm even when it’s wet.

Metal objects were also popular. Native people often traded for axes, knives and copper pots. These items made preparing meals easier. The Native diet was also enriched by new food such as biscuits, pancakes, grapes, prunes, sugar, flour and spices.

Native people also adopted the musket as a new hunting tool. Muskets allowed them to reach targets from a greater distance and often killed prey with a single shot. With a bow and arrow, hunters had to shoot at a closer range and then run after wounded animals that tried to get away. Muskets were also used by some tribes to make war on competing tribes in order to maintain a monopoly on the fur trade with the Europeans.


Native people had also discovered alcohol, a new product that many of them loved. Since alcohol was the cheapest product to barter, Native people would often have access to it and abuse it. The Europeans would often offer alcohol as a gift to maintain good relations. Alcohol abuse negatively impacted the lives of Native communities.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

This page is also available in: Français