Native Americans and the Europeans

Native Americans had lived in the region of the fur trade for centuries long before the arrival of the Europeans. The Europeans traded with a variety of tribes. The natural riches of the land were important to the native people. When the Europeans came and offered valuable trade goods for the furs of the beaver and other animals, native tribes fought with each other to win control of the land and the trade. The Ojibwe (also called the Annishanabe), fought with the Dakota (Sioux) and forced them to move farther south and west.

The fur trade always depended on close cooperation between Native Americans and Europeans. The Native Americans valued the iron tools, blankets, cloth and colorful beads brought by the Europeans. The Europeans valued the beaver pelts and other animal skins used to make fashionable clothing for those back in England, France, Germany and elsewhere.

As the native population grew smaller through illness and conflict with the European settlers forced them off their homelands, the fur trading system began to collapse. The numbers of beaver and other animals sought for their furs declined, and finally, the fashion in Europe switched to silk hats.