________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 27. . . .March 14, 2014


The Fur Trader. (Early Canadians).

Pamela McDowell.
Calgary, AB: Weigl Educational Publishers (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2014.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77071-895-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77071-894-4 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Fur trade-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.
Fur traders-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.
Frontier and pioneer life-Canada-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Ian Stewart.

*** /4



The fur traderís life was full of adventure and hard work. Each spring, he set off into the wilderness with a canoe packed full of goods to trade. He travelled with other fur traders in a group called a fur brigade. The leader of the brigade was usually a strong paddler and knew the rivers well. He could tell when the river current was dangerous and knew when to pull the canoes to shore.

Fur traders travelled to remote places to meet with Aboriginal peoples and to trade for furs. Once they had traded all their goods, they returned to the trading post with the furs. A fur trader could earn twice as much as skilled workers in Montreal.


The Fur Trader is a beginning nonfiction text that is suitable for studentsí first foray into early Canadian history. It gives readers the reasons for the early origins of the fur trade, and they learn that furs were bought from local Aboriginals. They also learn that trading furs was a hard life, full of danger and adventure. It could also be more financially rewarding than a day-job in a store. The fur traderís day started early, ended after 15 hours of grueling paddling, and, at night, all they had to look forward too was a simple meal before collapsing into an exhausted sleep under their canoe.

      Students learn about the goods that were traded to the Aboriginals: metal pots, utensils, Hudson Bay point blankets, guns and ammunition. As well, they will learn how the traders navigated their way across Canada using compasses and sextants. Students become aware that Aboriginal women were essential to the fur trade. They were guides, knew about healing medicines and how to prepare the animal pelts. The women all so made pemmican, the main sustenance of fur traders.

      The Fur Trade contains a table of contents, a basic index and a glossary. It could have benefitted from the inclusion of a simple timeline to track the changes and development of the fur trade across Canada. As well, some of the illustrations and photograph from different historical eras have been placed side-by-side, and this placement might lead to confusions.


Ian Stewart teaches at Cecil Rhodes School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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