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French and British Rivalry, The Fur Trade
Verendrye, sieur, Missouri rivers, Varennes, French colonists
Fur trade forts dotted the continent, and Montrealís merchants continued to control the lionís share of the fur trade, which grew and spread westward. The French approached the fur trade differently than the HBC. The French went into the back country to collect furs, but the HBC generally preferred to establish posts at shipping ports and let the indigenous trappers bring their furs to the posts. Although the HBC made a generous profit, its trade was often intercepted upstream by Montrealers who met the trappers on their home ground and bought the best of their furs.
The French fur trade operations were extended far to the west by military officer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Verendrye, and his sons. They explored almost to the Rocky Mountains in the 1730s and 1740s and established a string of fur trading forts. The fur traders who followed them established routes along the Saskatchewan and Missouri rivers. The French forged alliances, based on the trade, with the indigenous peoples of the west, and this meant that French soldiers, traders, and missionaries could move with relative ease across the continent. But since the indigenous nations trapped and traded the pelts and European hatters processed them, the fur trade never provided work for more than a few hundred French colonists.
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