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Making Smoke: Building Trade and Trust

John Buxton

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Early Eastern fur trade was beneficial to both Native American and European powers. Many people of the various Algonquin and Iroquois Nations brought their furs to exchange for blankets, cooking pots, knives, axes, guns and powder, cloth, metal trinkets and other trade goods. The Europeans established large trade centers along rivers and the Great Lakes where the Indians could bring vast quantities of deer, beaver, fox and other animal hides to swap and bargain for those beneficial goods held by the Dutch and later, the English and French.

However, there were numerous less formal trades and trade sites where one or more local Indians might agree to parley a favorable exchange with an independent trader. John Buxton has chosen to show this exchange. Several Natives have come by canoe with a few good furs and the French trader has laid out some of his goods. There is a hint, judging from two French artillery men standing in the background, that perhaps this scene may not be very far from a French fort or trading post.

Things appear to have gone well. The Frenchman has accepted an offer to “pass the pipe” among the friendly negotiators. They have, in turn, accepted him as dealing with them fairly and this making of smoke is their way of acknowledgement. Both parties are expressing an interest in many future exchanges.

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