Political & Economic Organizations - Additional Reading
C. The Hudson's Bay Company
In 1659, two French brothers-in-law, Medard Chouart Des Grosseilliers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson, made a trading expedition past Lake Superior into what is now Michigan. They came back with 60 canoes full of furs and an idea. Why not use the sea route through Hudson Bay to trade directly into the interior? The French government didn’t think this was a great idea, so Des Grosseilliers took the idea to London. On May 2, 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was born.
The British Crown granted the HBC exclusive rights to trade in the territory where the rivers flowed into the Hudson Bay. Before then, the First Nations living in this region – Cree and Nakoda - had been on the outer edge of the fur trade. Now they were in the centre, with the French on one side and the HBC on the other.
British traders did not travel into First Nations territory, instead staying at their posts and waiting for the First Nations to bring furs to them. As a result, the Cree and Nakoda became new middlemen. They became experts at playing the British and the French against each other, transporting furs to whomever they believed would give them the best price.