Essential QuestionHow did the fur trade lead to the development of Canada?
Learning Standards Content
Students are expected to know the following:
- the fur trade in pre-Confederation Canada and British Columbia
Students are expected to be able to do the following:
- construct narratives that capture the attitudes, values, and worldviews commonly held by people at different times or places (perspective)
I can summarize key ideas about how fur trading started and developed in Canada.
I can analyze how the fur trade created relationships between Indigenous peoples and Europeans.
I can consider what life would have been like for various participants in the fur trade.
First People's Principles of LearningLearning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
- Project or handout copies of the images “Animals of Canada”.
- Ask “Which animal is the symbol of Canada?” Have students provide reasons for their predictions.
- Explain that while all these animals are found in Canada, the beaver is Canada’s official symbol because of its importance to the fur trade. Point out that there were about six million beavers in Canada before the start of the fur trade. During the fur trade, 100,000 beaver pelts were being shipped to Europe each year. As a result, the beaver was in danger of becoming extinct.
- Show the short video Beaver Pelt Trade (3:47).
- Ask: Why was beaver fur so popular and valuable?
Part 1: Trade Goods & Cultural Exchange
- Have students turn to a partner and tell about a time they traded something. Ask why they wanted to trade and if they made a fair trade.
- Provide students with the handout “Reasons for Trade”. Have students work with a partner to complete the reading and make notes in the chart.
- Explain that Europeans wanted furs. They had the power of money and guns. First Nations were the hunters and trappers. They had the power of controlling the fur supplies. They also had knowledge of the land. Fur traders depended on First Nations for their business and survival. First Nations and Europeans were equal partners in the fur trade.
- Have students write a journal from the perspective of an indigenous person hunting beaver for the fur trade. How has contact with Europeans changed your life? What do you enjoy about your life? What challenges do you face?
Part 2: The French Fur Trade
- Explain that the French were the first European settlers in what would become Canada. They called this land New France.
- Provide students with the handout “The French Fur Trade”. Have students work with a partner to complete the reading and answer the questions.
- Show the National Film Board video The Voyageurs (19:52).
- Have students write a journal from the perspective of a voyageur. What do you enjoy about your life? What challenges do you face? How has contact with Indigenous people changed your life?
Part 3: The British Fur Trade
- Provide students with the handout “The British Fur Trade”. Have students work with a with a partner to complete the reading and the Venn Diagram compaing the Hudson’s Bay Company with the North West Company.
- Show the short National Film Board video Trading Post (0:59). *Note that this film was made in 1978 and refers to Indigenous peoples as Indians.
- Have students write a journal from the perspective of an HBC employee at a fur trading fort. What do you enjoy about your life? What challenges do you face? Is your trade with the Indigenous peoples fair?
Brown, Jennifer, S.J. “Beaver Pelts.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 19 Aug. 2015,
Canadian Geographic. “Fur Trade.” Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada. [n.d.],
Foster, John E, et al. “Fur Trade in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1 Nov. 2019,
“Fur Trade Educational Package.” Canada’s History. [n.d.],
Fur Trade Questions. [n.d.]
Wargin, Kathy-Jo. “The Voyageur’s Paddle.” Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2007.
Canadian Encyclopedia: Fur Trade in Canada