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Thistle, Paul C.

Winnipeg. University of Manitoba Press. c1986. 136pp, cloth, $17.50, ISBN 0-88755-105-X. (Manitoba Studies in Native History #2). CIP

Reviewed by J.D. Ingram

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

As others have done in recent historiography, Paul Thistle refutes the idea of Indian dependence on the Europeans as a consequence of the fur trade. He concentrates on the Western Woods Cree of the Lower Saskatchewan River region of Cumberland House and The Pas. This is the second book in the University of Manitoba Press series entitled Manitoba Studies in Native History, The author is currently the curator of the Sam Waller Little Northern Museum in The Pas, Manitoba. This book is doubtless based on his masters thesis at the University of Manitoba in 1983.

The research is extensive and as recent as 1984. Over the course of four chapters there are nearly four hundred footnotes. The author is inclined towards "ethno-historians," and uses such phrases as "symbiotic," "incorporative integration," "indigenous superordination," and the "Zen road to affluence," to explain his thesis.

Throughout, the author is persuasive in his arguments that these native people were by and large never dependent on the Europeans up to 1840. There is some repetition, and I am not always convinced by the arguments used. Thistle does say that, "In 1837, a recurring shortage of trade goods at the Moose Lake outpost resulted in the departure of some Cree for Swan River, Norway House, and Red River, where goods were thought to be more consistently available." Is this "withdrawing from the trade system when it suited their own interests," or is it precisely the reverse?

There is much information in this relatively small book, and it deserves a place amongst recent works that have shed new light on, and provided new interpretations of, Indian and European trade relationships in the fur trade. This book is not aimed at secondary students, but will be appreciated by those who have a serious interest in the fur trade history of this country.

J.D. Ingram, Gordon Bell H.S., Winnipeg, Man.
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