The political, economic, and social history of present-day Canada was, for the first three huhdred years after European contact, a product of the fisheries and the fur trade. Posts along the ocean shores and along the principal rivers and lakes saw European traders exchange such manufactured goods as blankets, beads, guns, tobacco, and axes for quantities of beaver, marten, and muskrat pelts supplied by Natives. Beaver was so abundant that it was treated as currency in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Canada. This far-flung and complex trading system involved a variety of Native and European groups, including the Iroquois nations of southern Ontario and northern New York, the Ojibwa of the Prairies and the Ontario Woodlands, the Mi'kmaq of Atlantic Canada, the Western Cree, the Dutch on the Hudson River, the French, Scottish, and Canadien traders who came from the St. Lawrence Valley, and the British traders who came from Hudson Bay but who had their financial base in Britain. The history of the fur trade is not only a story of commerce, but that of the new society created by the intermingling of fur traders and Natives. The experience of the "historic Metis," a term defined on page 4, is central to the current identity of the Canadian Metis peoples. It is therefore worthwhile to provide a general historical background of these buffalohunting mixed-bloods of the Canadian plains who have become the Canadian Metis of today. This background will help you understand the assigned readings for the course.