Tag Archives: Cree – History

Dependence and Control: Indian-European Trade Relations in the Post-Kelsey Era

This chapter from the 1993 book Three Hundred Prairie Years: Henry Kelsey’s “Inland Country of Good Report” came about as a result of the Henry Kelsey Tri-Centennial Conference held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on 22 – 23 November 1991 to mark the 300th anniversary of the beginning of recorded history in the region with the 1690 arrival of Henry Kelsey under the guidance of Asssinae Poets (Assiniboine).

This chapter summarises the findings of the author Paul C. Thistle’s 1986 book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Studies in Native History II.  This overview refutes the common interpretation that First Nations in the Western Subarctic rapidly became “dependent” on a European-dominated fur trade economy soon after first contact.

The full text of this “Dependence & Control: Indian-European Trade Relations in the Post-Kelsey Era” chapter along with introductory material is available by clicking thistle-dependence-control-in-epp-1993-comments .

NOTES: Paul C. Thistle’s original slide presentation at the conference resulting in the publication of this book Three Hundred Prairie Years: Henry Kelsey’s “Inland Country of Good Report” titled “Images of the Native-Kelsey Relationship” (that was essentially a critique of the visual history of the Henry Kelsey First Nations guided tour of the region) was not deemed appropriate for a chapter in this book. Instead, the book’s editor commissioned the author to write this chapter.

A version of Paul C. Thistle’s conference slide presentation was however published later as a 1994 illustrated article titled “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event” in Native Studies Review 9 (1):33-50. It also is available on this web site by clicking the link.

The feature image above is the logo of the 1990 Kelsey Tricentennial Conference in The Pas (known in one version of the Cree as “Opasquiak“), Manitoba, Canada created by First Nation artist Dean B. Head.  The intent of this design was to provide an alternate visual history portraying the crucial role of Kelsey’s First Nation guides that typically have been ignored in the traditional and contemporary artistic portrayals of the story.  See the analysis of these images in Paul C. Thistle’s “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event” .

The full printed version of the national, provincial, & academic award-winning publication book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840 is freely available under a Creative Commons License on this web site.

The book Three Hundred Prairie Years includes the main sections of the text, commentary, & Endnotes on the journal of Henry Kelsey’s travels in Part VII “Henry Kelsey’s Journals and Correspondence” pp. 196-235.

For additional background on the Henry Kelsey journal, the Manitoba Historical Society also has posted on-line a paper read before the Manitoba Historical Society “The Journal of Henry Kelsey, 1691-1692 : The First White Man to Reach the Saskatchewan River . . .” by Charles Napier Bell, 1928, Manitoba Historical Society Transactions Series 2, No. 4.


Rare HBC Gift Item to First Nations Leaders

A rare gold plated pendant given to First Nations trade leaders is featured on the Canadian Museum of History web site article Symbol of Change.

The piece is significant because “most trade jewelry given to Aboriginal people was made of silver, not gold plate. Second, it is a rare example of gold work from well-known Montréal silversmith Charles Arnoldi (1779–1817).”

Beyond this, it represents the need for the HBC to solidify close ties with  First Nations trade leaders to combat competition:

The pendant would have been perceived by many as a sign of equality between traders and Aboriginal people in the Western regions. “Aboriginal people tended not to trade unless they had some kind of bond with the traders,” says Timothy P. Foran, Curator of British North America at the Museum. “For the most part, they engaged in trade on their own terms and European newcomers had to respect Aboriginal customs. . . “

Although apparently incorrectly described by the CMH as “engraved” rather than embossed, the pendant presents additional material evidence supporting the interpretation of Paul C. Thistle’s Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840.

An inquiry about this artifact obtained full curatorial descriptive information.  Courtesy of the Canadian Museum of History, see the PDF of this detailed record at CMH Pendant Data FM Paul Thistle.

HBC gold plated pendant gifted to First Nation trade leader. Canadian Museum of History mch2_09_2015.png

Oval gold-plated lead pendant, 10 cm x 7.5 cm, struck 1800–1815, & gifted to First Nation trade leaders. Canadian Museum of History mch2_09_2015.png

Thistle (1986) Indian-European Trade Relations On-Line Release

Paul C. Thistle, former Curator of The Sam Waller Museum in The Pas; former docent, cataloguer, and term Assistant Curator of Ethnology at the Former Manitoba Museum of Man & Nature now has made his history of early Cree relations with fur trading companies in The Pas, Manitoba and Cumberland House, Saskatchewan region freely available online under a Creative Commons license.

This national, provincial, and academic award-winning book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840 has been out of print.


See this news release as presented in the Association of Manitoba Museums Spring 2015 Newsletter by clicking on the following link

Thistle 1986 Release in AAM Spring 2015 .


Saskatchewan River Rendezvous Centers (Meyer & Thistle 1995)


In both historic and precontact times the aboriginal peoples of the Saskatchewan River valley formed several regional bands. As witnessed by European traders and missionaries, the members of each band usually assembled once a year in the spring and sometimes also in the autumn. Known to the Europeans as the “rendezvous,” the gatherings involved days or weeks of intense social interaction, focused mainly on a series of religious ceremonies. On the basis of archaeological and historical evidence, six such aggregating centers have been identified in the Saskatchewan River valley. The fur traders recognized the centers’ importance; as a result, the majority of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trading posts were built at these centers or, on occasion, between them, at the borders of regional bands. In the late i8oos reserves were established at several of the centers, and they continue to be prominent habitation sites even today.

Read the entire article by clicking Meyer_Thistle Saskatchewan River Rendezvous Centers 1995

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.