On Tuesday, March 23, EDHS hosted a virtual Speaker Series presentation by Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Amber Paquette, entitled Indigenous Lenses: Reimagining History.
For an online audience of 80 members and guests, Amber spoke about the Indigenous trade systems, the “arteries of the continent,” that existed for millennia before European contact. Like the great cities and cultural attainments of the Americas, these complex trade routes astonished Europeans, who enthusiastically tapped into them.
Amber showed how the fur trade was essentially an Indigenous run economy, and the best success awaited those European traders who adapted most thoroughly to its realities. A crucially important way to do so was for men to marry into the largely kinship-based trading system.
The result was that Indigenous women played the most critical of roles in the trade. Besides being traders themselves, they were hunters, translators, diplomats, artisans, labourers, wives and mothers. They provided products – moccasins, snowshoes, pemmican, medicines – that powered the trade. The very goods available at a fur trade post such as Edmonton House reflected women’s importance. Fully two thirds were products they valued, including textiles, cookware, needles, beads and more. Indeed, a man’s fortunes as a trader depended on his wife’s ability to provide him the material and cultural tools he needed to succeed.
The presentation brought a refreshing perspective to our understanding of the fur trade, and inspired our audience to find out more. Thanks, Amber!
Our next online Speaker Series presentation will be Tuesday, April 27. Darren Dalgleish, President and CEO of the Fort Edmonton Management Company will provide a sneak preview of the park’s new experiences as it reopens this summer after a two-year enhancement project. Our online Annual General Meeting will follow the presentation.