Examining Patterns of Food Exchange and Dependency at Moose Fort, 1783-1785

Daniel Ruten


Many historians studying the fur trade have argued or assumed that Indigenous peoples swiftly became dependent on the fur trading posts in North America for their survival. In order to gain insight into native-newcomer relations but also particuarly to address the question of dependency, this paper examines patterns of food exchange between Hudson’s Bay Company men employed at Moose Fort and the James Bay Cree homeguard that lived near the Fort from October 1783 to September 1785. It finds that the flow of foodstuffs from Indigenous peoples to Moose Fort greatly outweighed the flow of food from the Fort to Iindigenous peoples. Furthermore, this paper will argue that the traders of Moose Fort were consistently reliant upon these provisions supplied by Indigenous hunters, trappers and fishers, as periods when most Indigenous providers were absent from the area resulted in conditions of food crises at the Fort. Thus, the relations of food exchange at Moose Fort provided mutual benefits to both parties, but it was ultimately the Fort itself that was much more dependent upon this relationship. Overall, this evidence calls for more nuanced and less one-sided theoretical models of dependency in the history of the fur trade.


fur trade; history; 18th century; North America; native-newcomer relations; Indigenous

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