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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

For those old enough to remember the 1959 Saturday morning tv show, NORTHWEST PASSAGE, the new original series entitled FRONTIER(produced by DISCOVERY CANADA) provides the same realistic and entertaining "peak inside the window" of the pre colonial eastern wilderness, zeroing in on the Fur Trading business in the Hudson/James Bay region of eastern/central Canada sometime during the period of the early 1600's through the dawn ot the 19th century............We follow engaging characters in a rugged environment-----English and American Fur Merchants along with the French Canadian and Native trappers who seek wealth, posessions and status while simsultaneously bringing on mass die-offs of wildlife and First Nations peoples...........What is not conveyed in this show or for that matter most historical accounts of North American Native Peoples is that they were complicit and eager participants in the wanton slaughter of animals for their hides...........And as brought out in the ground breaking KEEPERS OF THE GAME(1978 book), professor Calvin Martin points to pre-contact European spawned diseases(via both people and animals) that severed the age old cosmic relationship that Natives had with animals..........."With the sudden emergence of epizootic destruction, the scarcity of game, and the contagiousness of the animals, the contractual relationship(that the natives had spirtually had with the animals) was severed"..................."These events happened before Indians were aware of the possible connection of the white man"............. "Indians treated the new disasters as the start of a war with animals, a war led by the beavers(and followed by the entire carnivore and hoofed browser suite)"................. "The (then rapid)arrival of western trade goods, the musket and the steel trap, at precisely the same time as a war with the animals was treated as divine intervention, simultaneously giveing the natives additional tools to particpate in the fur trade and seemingly (material)rewards to kill as many animals as possible.................A true "EVE OF DESTRUCTION" occurred when Europeans came in contact with native cultures


Review: ‘Frontier’ on Netflix Offers a Frothy Look at the Fur Trade

“Frontier,” a lively Canadian import that goes up on Netflix on Friday, concerns the fur trade in barely settled areas of North America in the 1700s. As with many of these series, lawlessness prevails; violence is frequent and graphic

Jason Momoa in the new Netflix series “Frontier.”CreditDuncan de Young/Netflix

As the series opens, the Hudson’s Bay Company, the real trading concern created by royal charter in the 1600s to work a large chunk of North America, is seeing its monopoly eroded by interlopers. Lord Benton, played with deliciously ruthless haughtiness by Alun Armstrong, crosses the ocean to try to restore the company’s dominance.

He is especially concerned about Declan Harp (Jason Momoa, who made quite an impression as Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones” and does so again here). Harp is a goliath who, as one of Benton’s aides puts it, is “half-Irish, half-native” and lives a shadowy existence in the woods, pestering the British with guerrilla tactics and hoping to form a trade alliance with the local Crees.

The series, a joint effort by Netflix and Discovery Canada, is refreshingly free of pretension, unlike some in the genre. Yes, there are serious themes to be drawn from it if you’re so inclined — it’s about greed, and empire-building, and exploitation of a land and its native inhabitants
FRONTIER IS A 21ST CENTURY FLAVORED NORTHWEST PASSAGE-as a little kid in 1959, was mesmurized by this Saturday morning tv series: 

Northwest Passage is a 26-episode half-hour adventure television series produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer about Major Robert Rogers during the time of the French and Indian War (1756–1763). The show derived its title and the main characters Rogers, Towne, and Marriner from the 1937 novel of the same name by Kenneth Roberts, and from the 1940 MGM feature film based on the novel. The scope of the novel was much broader than that of the series, and the second half of the book included an historically based attempt by Rogers to find a water route through North America as a "passage" to the Pacific Ocean. This attempt, lending its name to the novel and used by Roberts as a metaphor for the questing human spirit, is referenced in the first episode.


Beginnings: 17th Century

In the 17th century, the fur trade emerged as a major commercial enterprise in North America due to European demand for felt hats made from beaver fur. French traders Médard Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson were the first to propose a trading company to reach the interior of the continent via Hudson Bay and gain easier access to the fur resources of the interior. After failing to obtain French support on their terms, they went to England in 1665 and interested Prince Rupert, cousin of Charles II. Rupert persuaded the king, several merchants and noblemen to back the venture. The first ships, the Eaglet and the Nonsuch, were dispatched on 3 June 1668 and the royal charter was proclaimed on 2 May 1670. The "Governor and Company of Adventurers" were granted wide powers, including exclusive trading rights in the territory traversed by rivers flowing into Hudson Bay. This vast region was named Rupert's Land.

Aboriginal Peoples
After trapping during the fall and winter when beaver pelts were of the highest quality, in the summer months, Aboriginal peoples travelled to these trading posts to barter furs for manufactured goods such as metal tools, guns, textiles and foodstuffs. The now-iconic point blanket was one such item bartered for furs. Often, Aboriginal traders were middlemen, bringing furs from communities farther inland. In order to standardize trade among posts, the HBC introduced the Made Beaver as the currency of the fur trade. All furs and manufactured items were valued according to this standard, which was the equivalent of one prime male beaver skin.

The fur trade had a great impact upon Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. As a result of their involvement in the fur trade, many abandoned their traditional lifestyles and economy, and became reliant on European manufactured goods and foodstuffs for survival. Many also moved beyond their traditional territory in search of fur-bearing animals and to obtain a better position in the trade. This movement of people and competition for European goods led to conflict among Aboriginal peoples. The arrival of Europeans also introduced diseases, such as smallpox, that devastated Aboriginal populations.

Hudson's Bay
 Company Ships
Prince of Wales and Eddystone bartering with the Inuit off the Upper Savage Islands, Hudson Strait, NWT. Watercolour by Robert Hood (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-40364).

Hudson Bay (InuktitutKangiqsualuk ilua,[2] Frenchbaie d'Hudson) (sometimes called Hudson's Bay, usually historically) is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada with a surface area of 1,230,000 square kilometres (470,000 sq mi). It drains a very large area, about 3,861,400 square kilometres (1,490,900 sq mi),[3] that includes parts of OntarioQuebecSaskatchewanAlberta, most of Manitoba, and southeastern Nunavut, and parts of North DakotaSouth DakotaMinnesota, and Montana. Hudson Bay's southern arm is called James Bay.
The Eastern Cree name for Hudson and James Bay is Wînipekw (Southern dialect) or Wînipâkw (Northern dialect), meaning muddy or brackish water. Lake Winnipeg is similarly named by the local Cree, as is the location for the city of Winnipeg.

KEEPERS OF THE GAME: INDIAN-ANIMAL RELATIONSHIPS AND THE FUR TRADE By CALVIN MARTIN Berkeley: The University of California Press. 1982 (softcover). 1978

Keepers of the Game discusses one myth and, in destroying it, does away with a second as well. The first of these myths is that of Indians as the first environmentalists. The second (and quite inconsistent) myth represents Indians as rapacious consumers, feathered Babbitts exchanging two pots for every beaver. The upper portion of the North American continent was, through the rivalry and greed of the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company, almost stripped of fur-bearing wildlife.

 Historians have debated the reasons as to why Indians, who were the only significant trappers in the time and place, so avidly aided in the destruction of the animals. Conventional wisdom resolved the problem by reference to the market place: Indians wanted the fruits of western technology to such a degree that they were either willing or unwittingly able to destroy their environment to obtain the trinkets. Martin believes that this analysis is wrong because it fails to appreciate the culture of the Indians and, in fact, is ethnocentric in that it ascribes to Indians the same motives that would be ascribed to western man

Professor Martin's analysis begins with the decline of aboriginal population, and he concludes that something terrible happened to Indians long before we had previously thought-that many, if not most, Northeastern Indians were ravaged by disease before actual contact with Europeans. 3 He estimates that up to 90 percent of the original population may have perished. Contemporary studi~s indicate that many of the deaths were the result of animal-borne diseases and that fleas and ticks were early immigrants that caused major epizootic destruction of the native wildlife population.

 In addition to decimating wildlife, the diseases spread to the populace. This spreading of death by the animals was viewed by the Indians as in Professor Martin's phrase "a breach of contract." In his reconstruction of Indian cosmology he found that the Indians did not distinguish between the natural and the supernatural world. Within their cosmology, animals and Indians had a contract of mutual obligation and courtesy. Indians owed to the animals they hunted and killed specified formal duties, such as treating the remains in a certain way or refraining from killing certain species. In return, the animals, who knew that they were hunted, followed certain predictable behavior to ease the hunt and provided themselves for the sustenance of Indians if ritual was obeyed.

With the sudden emergence of epizootic destruction, the scarcity of game, and the contagiousness of the animals, the contractual relationship was severed. Professor Martin postulates that these events happened before Indians were aware of the possible connection of the white man. Indians treated the new disasters as the start of a war with animals, a war led by the beavers who had always coveted their land. The arrival of western trade goods, the musket and the steel trap, at precisely the same time as a war with the animals was treated as divine intervention.

The sincerity of the idea of war is poignantly expressed when the Indians tell the beavers that if they will just talk, the war will end, but the beavers remain silent. Contemporaneously with the war with the animals, other events occurred to further separate Indians from their culture. The new disease was uncurable by the shamans and their traditional method. In contrast, the French Jesuits promised redemption and cure, the trading companies imposed a system of hunting land tenure, and the introduction of firearms changed the balance of power between the tribes. The cumulative effect of these pressures was the abandonment of the existing social structure for the new order promised by the traders and the priests. A seemingly pleasant ideal existence was implicitly promised until the game disappeared. Like the Aztec's fatal mistake, the germ of destruction of Indian society was hidden in the society itself.

 The second myth that Professor Martin discusses, as almost an aside, is the rather common belief that Indians were the first environmentalists. This, too, he writes, is a result of ethnocentric behavior. For, just as the explanation for the participation in trapping is dependent upon an understanding of Indians' relationship with animals, so a grasp of their attitudes towards conservation is dependent upon their cosmology. He points out by quotation and example that many environmentalists believe that if western civilization could adopt the land ethic of the Indian, present society would be much more compatible with nature.

But he argues that it is impossible to adopt the ethic because the ethic is inextricably bound up in Indian cosmology. His explanation of how the Indian relationship with animals and the rest of nature is a complex and pervasive system points out the foolishness of an attempt to isolate out the attractive portions of their beliefs. Sadly, even if it were possible, we the heirs of a different cosmology would not listen anyway. Ironically, to make Indians projections of our ideals of perfection is, in essence, to dehumanize them one more time.

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