The lure of the western frontier has played a major part in nation-building in North America. During the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Alaska was explored, surveyed and mapped by Spanish, English, American and Russian seafarers. Details of the Artic coastline were added to early maps as explorers searched for a Northwest Passage from Europe to China. Two things motivated these early explorers. One was the quest for a direct route from Europe to the riches of the Orient. The other, once the extent of the Americas was known, was the search for gold, silver, furs and other wealth in the New World itself. European exploration of Canada's West began in the late 1600s. (Bothwell, 2006). Over the next century and a half, fur traders, geographers, missionaries and scientific explorers would travel across the Prairies, through the Rocky Mountains, and along the Pacific coast, identifying resources, recording their impressions of the land and its people, and making maps.
[...] In 1841 before the settlement of the western boundary, Governor George Simpson of the HBC had sent James Douglas (1803 who had been made chief factor the year before, from Fort Vancouver to establish a post on Vancouver Island as a fall-back position if the Oregon territory were lost. Douglas founded Fort Victoria in May 1843 as a fur- trading post, and returned to it in 1849 in his role as chief factor of the company, becoming governor in 1851. [...]
[...] It was recommended that the Company cease to have any connection with Vancouver Island, and also encouraged the annexation to Canada of the districts on the Red River and the Saskatchewan River. At the same time it maintained that for much of the West the continuation of the trading monopoly of the Company was desirable. (Brebner, 1970). In this essay, we have looked further into the opening of Canada's West, and we examined more closely, within the time period of 1760 1860, the changing power structures and changing social values. [...]
[...] Gradually Quebec's control of the trade was increased, until the western Indian Territory was returned to it administratively by the Quebec Act. But the typical fur trader had never been a man who took very seriously the rules of the civilized world, and colonial Americans like Peter Pond seemed relatively unaffected by the American Revolution, continuing to ship their furs through Montreal regardless of the political changes that had occurred. (Brebner, 1970). What did matter was that the western movement of the Montreal-based fur traders had built up momentum. [...]
[...] Even after the Europeans had introduced new elements into the consumer patterns of the Indians such as guns, alcohol and tobacco consumer demands tended to be (in the language of the modern economist) inelastic or fixed. While furs and pelts were the currency with which such goods were purchased, the Indians would not pursue them unremittingly, since their wants remained simple. In the West, and throughout much of Canada the Indian economy encouraged brief concentrated periods of activity, culminating in orgy, and much lying about. European observers, naturally, tended to interpret such behaviour as shiftless and indolent rather than economically sensible. [...]
[...] This paints a good picture of the clashing of cultures in the West as the Europeans began to settle there. (Bothwell, 2006). Similarly, the nature of the Indian economy did not produce political institutions on a European scale. Semi-sedentary people had no need for organizations larger than the band, which was itself based on the coming together of a few family units. Larger organizations could not travel together in the unremitting quest for food. Even where horticulture was developed, with its resultant large semi-permanent villages, political structure was not complex by European standards, although some specialization of functions occurred. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee