Finally it also represented an important means of conducting the foreign policy from the point-of-view of the French occupation. In this sense, "the North America fur trade of the 17th and 18th centuries had usually been viewed, until recently, as merely another commercial enterprise governed by the premise "buy cheap, sell dear" in order to rip the maximum of profit. Of late the Canadian end of the trade has come to be regarded as having been more a means to a noncommercial end than a pursuit conducted solely for economic gain. As European penetration and dominance of the continent progressed, the trade, which had begun as an adjunct of the Atlantic shore fishery, became a commercial pursuit in its own right. After 1600 (...) it became a means to finance and further the tragic drive to convert the Indian nations to Christianity."
Aside from the Algonquin tribes, the Huron tribes were also a significant element in its conduct. More precisely, it is considered that although the Algonquians were the main proponents of this endeavor, the Huron tribes took control of the trade in the 17th century. The fur trade represented not only a means of commerce but also a reason for deep tensions between the local tribes. Therefore, this commercial endeavor had cultural repercussions or effects which determined the complexity of the relation between the two sides.
Together with the fur trade, another major object that was exchanged or traded was alcohol. Although it may seem in the beginning to be a rather strange affair, trading alcohol became a major issue in the relation between the Indians and the French. However, it remained strictly connected with the fur trade. More precisely, "alcohol was crucial in the fur trade for two reasons. First the Indians craved it more than anything else; even though they knew that it could destroy them, they could not resist it, and they would go to any lengths to obtain all that was available.
Second, from the purely economic aspect of the trade, alcohol was the ideal exchange item, of other goods- cloth, wearing apparel, pots, knives, axes, muskets- the Indians had a limited need (...) but the appetite for eau de vie was virtually insatiable, driving the Indians to produce furs in ever larger quantities." Therefore, it can be said that one of the first influences the Europeans had on the Indian population was the consumption of alcohol and therefore the desire to increase and in the end reduce the production of furs and the resources of animals respectively. In time, under the pressure and influence of the Europeans, the Indians came to slowly destroy their habitat and transform their traditional life in a practical one.
This historical evolution was obvious as fur trade began to be considered, more and more, an important endeavor for the tribes in the region. In this sense, the Algonquin tribes, the Iroquois, as well as the Huron's, were engaged in this affair. However, by the middle of the 17th century, the large amount of fur that was being taken overseas destabilized the European markets and demanded measures that would set a monopoly on the trade. In this sense, "Louis Phklypeaux de Pontchartrain, the minister of marine responsible for the colonies, (tried) to force the Canadian fur traders to withdraw from the west completely." This strategy was based on the idea that on the one hand, the fur trade came to be used as a tool for the confrontation between the European powers on the one hand, and as a means for local dominance of one tribe or another. Even more, the Huron tribes held the monopoly of fur trades as different tribes including the Algonquin were supplying them. Therefore, the French reconsidered their strategy and tried to set direct contacts with these tribes, avoiding the intermediary position of the Huron tribes. This is an important development because it offered the European country the opportunity to engage in direct contact with the Algonquin tribes.
On the other hand however, there was also the issue of the political facts that determined the way in which the European relations were established with the Native Americans. In this sense, the historical background is important because it offers a proper perspective on the way in which European politics was conducted and in which colonies overseas were used in this regard. More precisely, the colonial confrontations between the French, the English, and the Dutch were rarely considered to be an issue of debate on the European continent; the battles that were taking place in the colonies were representative precisely for the tensions existing between the colonial powers.
From this point-of-view, it can be said that the association of France with the Algonquin Indian tribes was the result of the French desire to create the proper support against the British. Therefore, the fur trade became a means of conducting foreign policy. In this sense "for over half a century the fur trade was used by France as an instrument of its foreign policy and, owing to the peculiar skills of the Canadians, with considerable success. By means of it most of the India nations supported the French cause in the colonial wars but they did so as long as it appeared to them to serve their immediate interest" Therefore, it can be argued that in the end, commercial exchanges were useful for securing support in times of war as well as for securing the basic necessities. Nonetheless, it can be pointed out the fact that in the end, the Indian population had been a self sufficient nation and could have survived without the commercial input of the French. Nonetheless, the political role the alliance with the French had in the regional context greatly determined the Indians to enter relations with the Europeans and act submissively and cooperatives at times.
Even more, through the use of missionaries and economic incentives in terms of important exchanges of goods, the French attracted the tribes on its side in the fight against the British. Therefore, there was a certain competition between the colonial powers and the fact that the French had acquired such an important portion of land was essential in their confrontation. Thus, "we may never forget- we should ever be proud to remember- that for the first century of its existence, the metropolis of our state, the City of the Straits, was essentially French in all its characteristics. We should never forget that the pioneers of civilization and Christianity along the shores of the Noble River and mighty lakes that form the boundaries of our state were French Jesuits." In time, this relationship developed and it was the beginning of a new, distinct, and unique culture in America. It must be said nonetheless that "the Hurons were the first nation that cordially opened their hearts to the reception of the Christian faith. They occupied a somewhat anomalous position in relation to the two great divisions into which the Indians bordering on the St. Lawrence and its tributaries were divided- the Algonquians and the Iroquois"
The cultural aspect is essential for the analysis on the way in which the encounter with the French impacted the Indian population from the region to such an extent as to create a distinct culture in the American region. Therefore it is important to consider their contacts from the perspective of a theoretical approach as well.
The presence of the French in the region determined a rather important outcome for the Indians. On the one hand, it meant an encounter with foreigners. On the other, it represented a challenge to their existence.
The first accounts of the contacts between the French ad the Indians have in focus Cartier and Champlain. From the point-of-view of the their experiences, "when Jacque Cartier ascended the St. Lawrence in 1534 he found banks inhabited by tribes of the great Algonquins and at Hocelagu, Montreal he found a very populous Indian town. When Champlain first raised the banner of France on the rock of St. Louis the Algonquians gathered around him to give him welcome. He found them the hereditary enemies of their neighbors the Iroquois, a race with similar habits, but a radically different language, fewer in numbers, and occupying a country far less in extent of territory; but these disadvantages were more than compensated by their compactness, their admirable system of government, by their superior prowess, and by their haughty ambition." This presentation points out thus both the initial aspects of the situation of the tribes as the French arrived in the U.S., as well as the conditions of relation between the tribes.
Taking into account the French relation with the Indians once the contacts had been established, there are several aspects that are to be considered. The French were the proponents of a superior civilization, in which war and peace were considered not…
Sources Used in Document:
Eccles, W.J. "The fur trade and eighteenth- century imperialism." William and Mary Quarterly.
3rd Ser., Vol. 40, No. 3. pp. 341-362.
Jenkins, P. A history of the United States. New York: Palgrave, 1997.
Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections vol. XXXIV.