Have you ever wondered what a beaver was worth in Fur Trade barter?
January 29, 2023
In the late eighteenth century, the Michi Saagiig lived in what is now southern Ontario, many communities had a fur trader living nearby, often adopted and married into the community. The Crown aspired to license and regulate trade, but most traders were so far beyond the reach of government officials that, in practice they had little idea what was going on.
At that time, a beaver could be traded for a steel beaver trap that might soon bring in another victim. It could also be traded for a bed gown, a steel kettle, 300 pieces of wampum (a shell bead) or a ruffled shirt, which was of course highly fashionable in certain circles at the time. It might also be swapped for a gallon of a certain potent beverage, that was of course illegal to sell.
Two beavers could be parlayed into a pound of vermillion (a brilliant red pigment used as a body or artistic paint) or a stroud blanket (think a Hudson’s Bay Blanket). The trapper could also choose from a variety of silver items for personal wear: a pair of wrist bands, a pair of crosses, a small hair plate, or a men’s gorget (a steel plate worn around the neck).
A raccoon could be traded for a good knife.