Tag Archives: Henry Kelsey

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.


“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