Political & Economic Organizations - Additional Reading

Economic Organization

The Buffalo Trade

By the mid to late-eighteenth century, the North West Company and the HBC had extended their trade far into the interior. The new posts were far from the eastern ports to Europe and the companies faced a huge challenge shipping supplies and trading goods in, and transporting furs out. Crews often spent months paddling canoes and needed a portable, concentrated food source to sustain them.

PemmicanIn 1779, Nor’Wester trader Peter Pond brought back pemmican from a trip he made to the Athabasca River.  Pemmican is made by drying buffalo meat, grinding it in to a powder and mixing it with melted fat. Sometimes berries are added for flavor and extra nutritional value.  Pemmican had been a staple food among First Nations for centuries.

Pemmican kept indefinitely and provided huge amounts of food energy for little weight.  In short, it was the perfect food for traveling fur traders. The demand from the competing companies for pemmican, newly popular buffalo robes, and dried buffalo tongues gave birth to a new economic opportunity for both First Nations and Métis people. 

During their fall hunt, First nations used buffalo jumps or buffalo pounds to kill large numbers of buffalo at once.  They quickly dried most of their meat in order to preserve it for the winter. They pounded in into pemmican and the sewed it into buffalo hide sacks. The traditional part of their way of life was easily and profitably expanded to supply fur traders.