Trappers and Traders in the Keewatin: The Fur Trade as an Agent of Acculturation
Powell, David A.
In the years immediately following the whaling enterprise in Hudson's Bay, the organized Fur Trade established and consolidated an extensive trade network. This corporate presence had a number of direct and indirect repercussions for the Inuit of the Keewatin, the inhabitants of that area on the western shore of the Bay. Accompanying the fur traders were other external institutions and agencies which also played important roles in effecting changes in the indigenous culture of the region. This study will attempt to depict and and explain such changes, examining the events as recorded in the available documents of the period 1920 to 1950. Attention will be focused upon the several aspects of change which resulted, including those in the material or ecological, and the social and cultural realms. A key facet of this analysis will hinge on the development of a body of ideas tentatively designed to frame those changes as they transpired at local and regional levels. This theoretical framework will incorporate models drawn from cultural ecology and transaction or exchange theory, whilst also striving to illustrate the less tangible areas of cognitive and value change. Such a broad-based theoretical approach is consistent with an awareness that change, both acculturate and otherwise, is a pervasive phenomenon, permeating many areas of material, cultural and social existence. It is intended that this chosen mode of analysis will throw the historical facts of cultural contact in the Fur Trade years into sharp relief by explaining how the process of change operated, in addition to documenting the unfolding of events. The character of the source material is far from uniform and is in places, fragmentary. Nonetheless, by drawing from a comprehensive spectrum of documentary resources, it should be possible to render a holistic picture of the integrated nature of cultural change in the Keewatin. This will entail some scrutiny of ecological change stimulated by the Trade and sociocultural change engendered by all three institutions, the Hudson's Bay Company along with other fur enterprises, the Missions, and also the R.C.M.P. Furthermore, attention will be directed to the relationships of these agencies regarding one another, and the results of this interplay. Thus, the cultural changes, observably will stem from not on only watershed of Inuit and qallunaat exchanges, the traditional focus of Arctic acculturation, but also from the internal network of the qallunaat or White agencies. Overall, the study seeks to point out and explain the changes wrought by acculturative contact, illuminating the historical events themselves and providing some anthropological insight into the cultural processes which guided such events.