Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840 (Thistle 1986)

This study examines the development of fur trade relations between the European traders working for the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Western Woods Cree of the lower Saskatchewan River region centred on Cumberland House (modern day Saskatchewan) and The Pas (modern day Manitoba). Beginning with the initial contact in the mid-seventeenth century, the study ends in 1840 when the arrival of missionary Henry Budd brought the exclusive fur trade contact period to a close.

Drawing on the records held in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives and the available ethnographic studies on the Western Woods Cree as well as relevant social science data and theory, author Paul C. Thistle refutes the widespread interpretation by both liberal and Marxist historians that Europeans rapidly dominated the early fur trade.

This Canadian national, provincial, and academic award-winning book has been cited by the Canadian Historical Association as “a careful analysis. . .an exemplary ethnohistorical study which reflects a deep understanding of both the peoples and geography of the region. . .a persuasively argued study that should serve as a model for others.” The 1987 Margaret McWilliams Medal for Scholarly Book by the Manitoba Historical Society, stated this work “demonstrated a mastery of the literature.”

The entire book may be read by clicking Thistle Indian-European Trade Relations 1986 .

Creative Commons Licence
Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Studies in Native History II by Paul C. Thistle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


“Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event”

The image above showing an heroic portrayal of Henry Kelsey by Jay Hyde Barnum, illustrator of Alida Malkus, Little Giant of the North: The Boy Who Won a Fur Empire  (Toronto: The John C. Winston Co., 1952)—sadly typical of the unfortunate illustrations critiqued—is referred to, but not included, in the article below.

Paul C. Thistle, “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event,” Native Studies Review 9,  no. 1 (1994): 33-50.


Henry Kelsey’s tour of the Hudson Bay hinterland under the auspices of Assiniboin mentors in 1690-91 has been celebrated by a number of visual historians.  This article examines the patterns of stereotype and historiography reflected in these illustrations over time.  Artists and their patrons typically have ignored the advances in academic history dealing with the relations between First Nation peoples and Europeans.  Dated and uninformed visual portrayals have continued to seriously downplay the demonstrably crucial role of Native people in the history of this relationship.  Visual historians have also neglected the readily available literature which clearly identifies the unjustifiable preponderance of negative images as a major problem associated with the portrayal of First Nation peoples.  A case is presented showing that even small, isolated, and relatively poor patrons can produce more acceptable and accurate images of Native people based on contemporary academic work in contrast to those which continue to be used by the large, resource-rich institutions examined.

Read the full article by clicking Thistle_on_Kelsey_Images