The first European-Aboriginal trades were based on these encounters. Aboriginals desired metal and cloth goods while the Europeans needed meat and furs. Trading between Aboriginal and Europeans would likely have remained relatively small-scale, if it had not been for a new fashion trend in Europe that fuelled the demand for beaver pelts (Office of the Treaty of Commissioner, 2). The high demand for quality pelts to make wide-brimmed hats created an industry based on beaver fur. The fur trade would dominate Aboriginal-European relations for the next 250 years.
The impact of the fur trade on Aboriginal communities would have both positive and negative consequences. This paper seeks to examine the social, cultural, economic, and health related impacts of the fur trade on Aboriginal communities living in the Hudson Bay, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region during the 1600-1800s. Through an examination of the history and development of the fur trade, this paper will demonstrate that while Aboriginal communities gained some benefits from the fur trade, their communities suffered adverse affects that created a dependency on European settlers and contributed to the marginalized state of Aboriginal communities today.
The trading of furs, metal and cloth between European fishermen and coastal Aboriginal communities had been occurring on a small–scale since early in the 16th century. European fishermen found a lucrative market for these furs in Europe where the demand was high. Historically, Europeans had bought their furs from Russia and the northern countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Estonia) through trading centers established in Belgium and Holland. However, in the mid-1600s a fashion trend emerged that would dominate the European market for the next 250 years. King Charles II began wearing felt hats surfaced with beaver fur, fuelling the desire for beaver fur throughout the continent (Calverley, 1). By the time this trend had