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Friday, October 25, 2013


Trading with the Indians
In Canada the French had the trading of furs business pretty well wrapped up; but at the tributary waters of the Mississippi Jean saw an opportunity for trade with the Indians.

The last time when he went north he was alone and had some skirmishes with the local tribes but he wasn’t giving up.

An old trapper named Lucas who had trapped north of the border came into the trading post with a few furs and tried to bargain with Jean for some food and other necessities.  
Jean was going back and forth on the value of the furs while gaining a lot of information about how to trade with the Indians along the U.S. Canadian border.  

There were several tribes Lucas had contact with and so far they hadn’t killed him.  All this intrigued Jean for he had decided to establish a trading post there if at all possible.  He would stay well below the Canadian border for he didn’t want any trouble with the British.

He had convinced one of his brothers named Monet to come and run the trading post at St. Louis while he and the old trapper went north.  They took several mules laden with trading goods and settled near the head waters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca.

The first thing to do was to build a shelter to protect them from the weather and from any unfriendly natives.  Lucas began to engage some of the local Indians in conversations and explained why they were there.  Then he showed them a few of the goods they had for trade.  
The Indians expressed a great interest in doing business but they needed to come up with something to trade with.

During the next couple of months they proceeded to erect some permanent buildings.  
They enlisted a few if the Indians to help them with the heavy work.  

The Indians were interested in the mules and Jean made a deal for two of them for their help with the construction of the small fort/ trading post.

By this time the Indians were bringing in some trading goods and the word got around to trappers in the area.  
Before the winter set in Jean loaded up the remaining mules and headed to the trading post in St. Louis.  This only gave him enough time to unload his goods and buy a few more mules for he needed a lot of trade goods.

It seemed wise to take a couple of extra hands to go with him and when he got back to the northern post after unloading they turned around and headed home.  With them they took what furs Lucas had traded for and made their way home.

As soon as Jean was settled in he had a lot of things to do.  There was still some building to do.  A smoke house was needed to store their meat, and another building where some of the trappers could stay after everything had frozen and trapping season was over.

They paid their way with some of the furs they had.  Then they filled the smoke house with meat and lastly they cut enough wood to keep them warm enough to survive the winter.  From time to time Jean would have to settle disputes between his lodgers for they would get cabin fever waiting out the long cold winter.

Just as the winter set in and the snow drifts began to pile up an old Indian showed up with a half dozen beaver furs and he wanted to give them to Jean in exchange for a place to stay for the winter.

About the time Jean was going to say to him; “I have no room for you go somewhere else.”  About that time, the old Indian’s grand daughter came around the corner of the main post and Jean couldn’t see her very well but he could tell she was a female.  She talked to the grandfather in the Cree language.  He told her they had no place for them to stay.

She spoke to Jean and said we must stay here for the old man was sick and couldn’t make the winter without shelter.  She said they would work for their keep.  
Jean asked her what she could do and she replied, “Anything. I have worked in a post like this before.  I cook and clean and am able to keep men at bay so I will not cause any trouble on that account.”

Jean didn’t feel he could turn the old man out so he said there is a back room that will be used for storage in the spring. You can stay in there now until we can do better.  
The woman said that would be great.  

To be Continued


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