New France: 1600-1763, Trade and Exploration
Father Jacques Marquette, Louis Joliet, coureurs, mixed people, sieur
In 1664 Colbert organized a new company, the Company of the West Indies, to hold the fur trade monopoly. As a settled rural population developed in the St. Lawrence River valley, the fur trade moved westward and northward. After 1670 there was a new competitor in the fur trade. In that year, King Charles II of England granted a trade monopoly in the area of Hudson Bay to a London group, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). However, the fur trade merchants of Montreal were able to compete successfully. They combined the fur trade with exploration and missionary work. Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette began exploring the Mississippi River, and Rene-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, reached the Gulf of Mexico in 1682.
Illicit traders called coureurs de bois(woods rangers) and licensed ones called voyageurs pushed northwest toward the prairies. Some remained there, adopting indigenous ways of life and marrying indigenous women. Around 1700, King Louis XIV authorized development of a chain of forts linking the St. Lawrence to Louisiana, a colony newly founded at the mouth of the Mississippi. Some fur traders and their mixed-blood families formed communities of farmers and traders around these forts and posts. Their descendents became the Metis (French for “mixed people”).
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