What were the motives of early Canadian settlers like the First Nations and the French? How did their interactions evolve?

Quick answer:

The French came to Canada seeking wealth and geopolitical power. Over time, they sought to enrich themselves through trade, particularly the fur trade. First Nations peoples, especially Algonquian-speaking peoples, sought to benefit from their presence through controlling this trade and through favorable alliances with the French.

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Of course, First Nations people had been in Canada for millennia by the time Europeans arrived. The first French settlers in Canada did not come there to take part in the fur trade, but they always sought to trade with area Indigenous peoples, who also had an interest in securing the goods they had to offer. Though French-Canadian trappers (the coureurs du bois) became an archetype of frontier life, it was only in response to European fashion trends that pelts, especially beaver pelts, emerged as an important commodity. Moreover, for more than a century, Native peoples were a dominant force in the trade. Just as the motives for Europeans were to profit from the trade, Native peoples sought to gain power, prestige, and wealth from the Europeans. The French made alliances and trade agreements with Algonquian peoples, especially the Huron, in order to get around dealing with the powerful Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, who sought to monopolize the trade, often through wars. This resulted in a bloody series of wars that further cemented French relationships with the Huron and other peoples who lived along the Great Lakes as well as others (like the Cree) who lived further west. Since the question is about motives, both First Nations peoples and the French sought to profit from the fur trade. Each attempted to conduct the trade according to their own customs and in ways that made sense according to their political and strategic situations. Historian Richard White has argued that these motives led the French and Algonquian peoples to create a cultural "middle ground" that allowed them to coexist.

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