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The Effects of the Fur Trade, 16801700

Introduction: Between 1650 and 1850, life in Wisconsin centered around hunting beavers. Indians traded their pelts to FrenchCanadians for trade goods such as metal knives, guns, bullets, and brandy. Soldiers were quartered here to keep the peace, and missionaries were sent to convert the Indians. Indians who had lived for centuries in stable communities scattered through the forest in pursuit of furs while their dependents clustered around French forts where they encountered European germs, alcohol, and sexual exploitation. When a winterʹs worth of beaver skins were traded in the spring, Indian hunters often found they only paid the previous yearʹs debts and had to borrow again to obtain ammunition and other basic necessities to last through the next winter.

Background Reading: ʺThe French Fur Tradeʺ h t t p : / / w w w . w i s c o n s i n h i s t o r y . o r g / t u r n i n g p o i n t s / t p 0 0 7 / ? a c t i o n = m o r e _ e s s a and ʺColonialism Transforms Indian Lifeʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp008/?action=more_essay y

Document to Analyze: Carheil, Etienne de. ʺLetter ... to Monsieur Louis Hector de Callières, governor [on conditions in the Upper Lakes in 1702].ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=16

Who, What, Where, When, Why: Father Etienne de Carheil (16331726) came to Canada in 1666. He moved in 1686 to the western Great Lakes and helped bring peace to the region. French officials, soldiers, and fur traders all reaped handsome profits at the expense of the Indians, and Carheil was a leading voice in the 1690s for reform. He was ineffective, however, and left the west in 1702 to spend the rest of his life in Quebec. In this long letter, he tries to persuade officials to curb the excesses of soldiers and traders by giving graphic accounts of their abuses. He is writing from Mackinaw, at the head of Lake Michigan, but describing conditions across the region; we can safely assume these abuses were happening at Green Bay, LaPointe, and elsewhere in Wisconsin.

Related Documents: Lahontan, Louis, baron de. New Voyages to NorthAmerica.(excerpt) http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=15 and Henry, Alexander. ʺExcerpt on his 17651766 stay in Wisconsin.ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=21

Vocabulary: Unfamiliar words are defined at www.wisconsinhistory.org/dictionary


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