The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the origin of the Lachine toponym?
Under the French Regime, René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle obtained a seigneury called "Côte Saint-Sulpice" from the Sulpicians. In 1669, he sold most of his estate to finance a voyage of discovery to the Great Lakes in the hope of finding a route to China. As he was very ambitious, the local people mockingly started calling his old estate "La Chine" (China), and the toponym finally evolved into "Lachine". Its inhabitants were therefore called "Lachinois" and " Lachinoises" in French.
What is the difference between the coureurs des bois and the voyageurs?
The coureurs des bois were active during the French Regime. They were small businessmen trapping fur animals and trading. The voyageurs, for their part, were hired hands. They were a bit like modern-day truckers. They were responsible for the transport of furs and of trading goods between the St. Lawrence Valley and the Northwest. At that time, their salary for six months was about three times higher than that of a man working on a farm for one year.
What is wampum?
Wampum is the name given to white or purple shell beads and the arrowhead sashes made with these beads by the Amerindians from the East Coast. Wampum was used as a trading currency, for ornamentation or for concluding treaties. It also evoked solemn agreements, history and religious matters.
Is the fur trade still very important today in Canada?
The Canadian fur industry contributes 800 million dollars a year to the Canadian economy. Quebec plays host to 125 of the 150 Canadian manufacturers. Most are located in the Montréal area. In addition, there are trappers, dyers, dressers, designers and retailers. In all, 80 000 Canadians work in the fur industry. Furthermore, Canada exports up to 60% of its furs with total sales of $83.5 million in 1994.
You can visit the fur district in Montréal, in the quadrangle formed by Bleury, Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Alexandre Streets, and De Maisonneuve Boulevard, not far from Place-des-Arts.
Are Aboriginal People still active in the fur trade?
About half the trappers in Canada are Aboriginal People: Indians, Inuit and Métis. They come from every province. The income earned from trapping is particularly important considering the limited economic opportunities in many rural and isolated regions in Canada. Furthermore, hunters and their families consume almost all of the meat. The income earned from the furs is used to buy traps, guns, ammunition, snowmobiles, in short everything required for living in a subsistence economy today.
Are fur-bearing animals endangered species?
Apparently there are more beaver today than in Jacques Cartier's day...
About 20 different fur-bearing animal species are captured in Canada but none are threatened with extinction. Indeed no species appears on the list of species threatened with extinction or of endangered species, compiled by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) or by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
More than 85% of fur-bearing animals trapped in Canada belong to one of 5 species, each of which is very plentiful: the beaver, the muskrat, the squirrel, the marten and the raccoon.
Moreover, trapping is controlled and regulated particularly by the determination of the hunting season and by the imposition of quotas. In the province of Quebec in particular, only 2% of the furs sold come from captures using foot hold traps, a device denounced by all pressure groups. Current research aims at improving capturing techniques, and Canada prides itself in being in the forefront in this area on an international level.