Fur traders - Fur trading in early North America
It cannot be denied that the mysteries of the past are near infinite. We look at our history through a window that has been shaded by the colors of personal bias and possible prejudice. It is often extremely difficult to understand the truth behind what we are taught. This is especially true when we read about the early American history and the relationship the early European settlers had with the Native Americans.
What we can know for certain about the earliest European settlers in America is that their expansion was largely motivated by one single factor: the fur trade. By the 1600's, the European beaver was nearly extinct due to overzealous entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the latest trend. Beaver fur was viewed as the best fur to wear both for looks and for comfort and was prized by anyone who could afford it. It did not take long for European traders to discover another source for their prized fur.
The Native Americans had been trading fur amongst themselves for countless generations. As a self-sufficient group of people, they wanted for very little. When the Europeans came looking for fur the Native Americans were more than happy to trade with them, as was their custom. While the Native American fur traders traded many furs, such as deer and buffalo hides, the most valuable fur for the Europeans was that of the North American beaver.
For many years Native American fur traders worked side by side with European settlers in a relationship that benefited both sides. In exchange for furs, the Native Americans received many advanced tools that the Europeans brought with them. This enabled to Native Americans to advance quickly to a new level of society that they were unaccustomed to. Unfortunately this brought with it terrible consequences for the Native Americans.
The European settlers had brought with them many diseases that the Native Americans had never encountered and their populations began to diminish from the foreign illnesses. The decrease in population prompted a steady influx of increasingly militant European settlers. The relationship between the Native American fur traders and the European settlers began to deteriorate. What started off as a strong bond of friendship eventually became outward hostility and the Native Americans were now all but excluded from the North American fur trade.
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