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The Eighteenth-century Fur Trade: A Colonial Endeavor?

Author(s): Amelie Allard

Year: 2016

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Summary

The late eighteenth-century fur trade in the Western Great Lakes region offers a particular multi-ethnic context in which social relations between Indigenous peoples and men of European or mixed descent were created and negotiated on a daily basis. With his seminal book “The Middle Ground,” Richard White (1991) challenged prior views, often of a Marxist bend, of the fur trade as a strictly colonial endeavor that led to the inevitable acculturation of Native peoples. While the Montreal merchants and their fur traders may have harbored feelings of superiority over Native peoples, in practice power relations in the interior were not always in favor of Europeans, quite the opposite. In this paper I explore these notions and the potential applicability of the colonialism framework to the interpretation of fur trading endeavors in the Western Great Lakes. Using examples from Réaume’s Leaf River Post, a late eighteenth-century trading post in Central Minnesota, I argue that practices and discourses rather suggest an ambivalent rhetoric that embodied a tension between colonial ideals of social boundaries based on ethnicity and rank, and a desire to belong to the fur trade community, itself a community on the move.


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The Eighteenth-century Fur Trade: A Colonial Endeavor?. Amelie Allard. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404060)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America