House of Stuart
Information on the Chipewyan Indians.
Prior to their contact with Europeans, the Chipewyan people occupied a territory that spanned from the western shores of Hudson’s Bay, west; covering an area that today comprises: northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, and the southern Northwest Territories. They were a boreal forest people, subsisting on game like barren land caribou, moose, deer, and elk; fishing for whitefish, trout, and pickerel: and trapping fur-bearing animals like wolf and beaver. The climate of Chipewyan territory in the northern fringes of the boreal forest, where the forest meets the barren lands beyond, is generally humid and cool. Long winters and short summers were typical of life in the region. Trade was maintained with other First Peoples in the Hudson Bay area, like the Cree.
Contact with European explorers and traders began sometime after 1682, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established the York Factory trading post. French and English fur traders learned of the Chipewyan through their encounters with Chipewyan women and children who had been captured by the Cree, and with whom the Europeans enjoyed an ongoing trade relationship. The Cree were enemies of the Chipewyan, and the traders attempted to encourage peace between the Cree and Chipewyan in order for trade to be opened up with the Chipewyan. This was successful sometime in the early 1700s, allowing trade with the Chipewyan to commence. Trade at this time was not extensive, as the Chipewyan did not have access to large numbers of furs in their territories, and were not in need of European made trade goods, as the barren lands caribou provided an excellent source of food, clothing, shelter and tools.