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the Fur Trade and Hudson's Bay Company
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Pierre Esprit Radisson
(c. 1636-1710):
Captured by the Iroquois

 

Radisson was born in France but moved to Trois Rivieres in 1651. The Iroquois captured him when he was 15. He lived with them for two years and learned how to live in the wilderness. When he returned home, he became partners in the fur trade with his sister's husband, Médard Chouart des Groseilliers.

In 1659 Radisson and Des Groseilliers set off on a secret trip in search of new sources of fur. They headed north of Lake Superior, which was land that had not yet been explored by the white man. There they met Wendat and Odawa people who were ready to trade with them.

When they returned home they had over 100 canoes loaded with furs. Radisson and Des Groseilliers had not obtained a fur-trading license so they were fined and the fur was taken away from them. They were angry and decided to work for the English instead.

Radisson and Des Groseilliers
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Radisson and Des Groseilliers

In 1665 Radisson and Des Groseilliers went to London, England to visit King Charles II. Radisson and Des Groseilliers arrived at the meeting dressed up as First Nation fur traders. They told exaggerated stories of life in the wilderness and the fur trade. While the King did not believe everything they told him, he was interested. Prince Rupert convinced him to support an expedition.

The expedition went well enough that the King agreed to grant Hudson's Bay Company a charter. Radisson and Des Groseilliers continue with the company until 1674, when they switched back to the French side.

Radisson spent the next seven years outwitting the English and taking their furs. The French authorities had not learned their lesson, however: in 1683, they again confiscated Radisson and Des Groseilliers ' ships and 25% of their furs. This was too much for Radisson. He returned to the English, and worked for Hudson's Bay Company until his death.

Ask yourself...
What do you think Radisson's most important accomplishment was?

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