Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Hudson’s Bay Company

Happy Canada Day!

Today, July canadian-flag-1174657_12801, 2016, is the 149th anniversary of Confederation, the union of Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to form the nation of Canada. It soon expanded to the west – Manitoba was added in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905. In 1949 Newfoundland became the 10th province. There are also three territories – Yukon, Northwest Territory and Nunavut.

Iconic Symbols of Canada

hudsons-bay-folded

tim-hortons-takeout-cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hudson’s Bay Company is Canada’s oldest business, founded as a fur trading company in 1670. Nowadays, it is Canada’s largest department store chain. The Hudson Bay point blanket, pictured above left, is an all wool blanket that has been manufactured in England for the company almost from the beginning and is an icon both of the company and of Canada.

Tim Horton’s is not nearly as old, only dating to 1964, but it is far and away the favourite coffee shop and fast food eatery of Canadians. There is a Tim Horton’s restaurant for every 10, 000 Canadians, they have over 20% of the fast food market and 75% of restaurant baked goods sales and coffee sales. Most of us frequently hold in our hands a cup like the one pictured above to drink a Tim Horton’s “Always Fresh” coffee.

How to tell if someone is Canadian

  • Ask her what comes after kindergarten. If she says Grade One, she is Canadian, if she says First Grade, she is American.
  • Ask her what is the last letter of the alphabet. A Canadian will say zed, an American zee.
  • Ask her what to call a multi level parking facility. A Canadian will call it a parkade. I’m not sure if Americans have a specific word for it.

Fur traders and Indians

The fur trade, in which millions of Canadian beaver gave their lives to provide felt top hats for European gentlemen, was the major impetus for the exploration and settlement of Canada.  The fur traders employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company were of French and Scottish origin.  They fanned out across the country, establishing trading posts to buy furs from the Indians in exchange for tools, weapons and other items.  One by-product of the fur trade was the maps and descriptions of the country which were sent back to headquarters and provided information for future settlement.

The fur traders were based out of Montreal, but  spent years at a time in the Canadian west where white women were loathe to go.  As a result, most of them took Indian wives.  There was a major difference in the approach of the French and the Scots.  When a French man took an Indian wife he considered himself to be married for life.  He would either settle down in the west permanently, or take his Indian wife and their children back to Montreal with him.  A  Scottish man generally had a Scottish wife in Montreal and an Indian country wife.  When he retired, he abandoned his family in the west and returned to his Scottish wife and family in Montreal.

The descendents of the French-Indian marriages became known as Métis and were themselves a potent force in the exploration and settlement of the Canadian West and established the first farming communities.

Some descendents of Scottish-Indian liaisons blended into Métis society, but most of them adopted the  Indian identity of their mothers.  Thus there are numerous Indian people today with names like McKay, McLaren, McDonald, etc.

A few years ago, folks in a small Scottish town discovered that there was an Indian band in Saskatchewan with the same last names as themselves.  After a little investigation, it was established that they were in fact related.  The Scottish fur traders who had given their names to these Indian families had come from this village in Scotland.  Thus began a round of visits where some of the Scots came to visit their long-lost Canadian cousins and the Canadians visited their Scottish cousins and were welcomed with much fanfare.

One thing that was never mentioned in news stories about this reunion is that there would be another group of cousins in Eastern Canada who most likely do not wish to be made aware of their Indian cousins in Saskatchewan.

The Indian people of Canada are known today as the First Nations.   There is a saying among them that goes like this: “The first white men who came respected our elders and our women; the second white men who came had no respect for either our elders or our women.”  Need I explain that the first white men were the French and the second white men were the Scots?

Yet when I was growing up, the general attitude was that all people of French background were good for nothing half-breeds and the Scots were all fine, upstanding Christian people.  Of such perceptions are prejudices born.

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