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Joshua Wood and Jordan Calhoun

Humanities 2: Periods 4-5/AP World: Periods 1-3
25 January 2016
Fur Trade and the Destruction of the Native Life
The North American Fur Trade played a large part in amassing European wealth.
Furs were in large demand, increasing the pressure on traders in North America to
produce them for European markets. Native Americans would barter their furs to traders
in exchange for European goods in an attempt to advance their societies. However trade
had the opposite effect; many native tribes were wiped out and lost most of their ancestral
culture. The fur trade in North America did not have the positive effects that were
expected, instead it erased thousands of years of history and ruined many Natives way of
life. This European hegemony allowed for the mistreatment of the Natives, which in turn
led to a lack of respect for the Natives ancient way of life into modern times.
The Native American people had lived peacefully in America for thousands of
years, but as Europeans began traveling into the Natives homeland, these technologically
advanced foreigners began to control every aspect of the Natives lives. One aspect is
highlighted by Wilma A. Dunaway, who provides many examples of how the fur trade
hurt the Native tribes in her article, The Southern Fur Trade and the Incorporation of
Southern Appalachia into the World-Economy. She states that Such trade-induced
acculturation provided the leverage needed by the British to manipulate the Cherokees
into land cessions and war alliances (Dunaway 235). This lead to a relationship similar
to that of a dealer and an addict. The Natives were the addicts, trading their hard earned

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furs for manufactured European goods, and the Europeans were the dealer, giving them
their products, despite the fact that their goods were ruining the lives of Native
Americans. Soon, Natives began to stop going through some of their agricultural and
hunting rituals, instead getting a cheap fix from European exports. Dunaway also noticed
this Native reliance, stating when trade was cut off by the British in the mid-1700's,
some Cherokee towns broke up and combined with other villages because of scarcity of
food, guns, and ammunition, further showing Native dependence on the British goods
they were receiving (Dunaway 234). The Native Americans were so dependent on the
imported luxuries that many major tribes began to rely solely foreign goods, thus losing
their agricultural techniques and cultural lifestyles. Uniqueness is the one thing that
defines us as humans, and this was slowly being erased in Native societies. Due to the
fact that many tribes died off or were integrated into European societies, the Natives
unique way of life was ultimately eradicated of all originality.
There were many factors that contributed to the decline of Native life, with the
most common being the addiction to foreign substances. The substance most popular was
alcohol, and, more specifically, rum. Alcohol had not been introduced into Native society,
and this new commodity was often barted for with Native furs. This rapid growth in
alcohol popularity caused many cases of alcohol addiction, and soon lead alcohol to
become a factor in 75 to 80 percent of all Native American suicides and about 90
percent of all homicides (French 276). However, alcohol was not the only destructive
import from the European traders. The introduction of foreign diseases into the Native
population had devastating results, and one of the most devastating diseases to affect the
Native Americans was tuberculosis. Many historians note the high susceptibility of

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Indians to tuberculosis due to their short period of contact with the disease (Paulson
1184). The introduction of this disease into Native societies gave Europeans an unfair
advantage over the Native Americans. Tuberculosis crippled the Native American
population, which allowed for the foreigners to slaughter and manipulate them for years
to come.
On the other hand, trade did benefit some Native tribes who didnt interact with
the Europeans directly. However, the majority of the Native tribes were indebted to the
traders and were never able to recover. The foreign traders had an encompassing control
over the Native Americans, ruining the lives of many through their hegemony. We urge
humanity to remember the once proud and free Native people, and to remember that it
was the European hegemony that pushed the Native Americans a state of submission.