‘A Most Valuable Commerce’: Fur Trade and River Power Near the Mississippi Headwaters

Author(s): Amelie Allard

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "From Iliniwek to Ste Genevieve: Early Commerce along the Mississippi" session, at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

While the North American Fur Trade has been commonly examined through economic lenses, scholarship from the 1980s onward has strived to demonstrate that this phenomenon was more than mere trade and merchant capitalism: it also embodied a complex web of social relationships and practices that went beyond daily transactions. In this paper, I unpack the ways in which exchanges informed relations between Euro-Canadian fur traders and local Indigenous groups. Drawing from my research on the late eighteenth-century fur trade in Central Minnesota as well as underwater collections recovered from Minnesota’s and Ontario’s rivers, I further illustrate how these relations are part of a larger assemblages of humans and non-human agents, in particular the rivers. Indeed, rivers are often cast as the background noise against which human action plays out, but I demonstrate that rivers were deeply entangled and co-constitutive of the fur trade and the social relations that it encompassed.

Cite this Record

‘A Most Valuable Commerce’: Fur Trade and River Power Near the Mississippi Headwaters. Amelie Allard. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, St. Charles, MO. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449017)


assemblage Capitalism Fur Trade River

Geographic Keywords

Temporal Keywords
Late 18th-Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -141.003; min lat: 41.684 ; max long: -52.617; max lat: 83.113 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 238