Hudson’s Bay Company trade beads were seen as symbols of friendship and given to native people as gifts, to forge alliances or treaties, and to permit passage. To some chiefs, especially on the West Coast, beads were seen as important status symbols. To show off their wealth, chiefs would sometimes discard the beads by throwing them into the water. The chevron bead is perhaps the most prized. These beads were multicoloured, multi-layered glass, mainly red, white, and blue in colour, and ground on both ends to form a melon shape.
In The Beaver…
90 years ago
Claiming the coast
After the 1821 unification of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company of Montreal, George Simpson was put in charge of the company’s northern department, which included trading posts west of the Rocky Mountains. As no fort existed on the West Coast near the mouth of the Fraser River, he resolved to build one to eliminate competition from itinerant Boston trading vessels. The November 1921 issue narrated how Simpson sent James McMillan and his soldiers to establish Fort Langley in 1827.
60 years ago
Giving up the fort
The Hudson’s Bay Company “presented historic Lower Fort Garry to the people of Canada,” reported the March 1951 issue. The National Historic Site was the only complete stone fur trade fort on the continent. The article mentions that because the fort was in continuous use for 120 years — in 1951 it housed a country club — its past was easy to evoke.
30 years ago
Great Hall grandeur
The summer 1981 issue described the opening of the reconstructed Great Hall of Old Fort William at Thunder Bay, Ontario. The hall was originally built in 1803 as a lavish showcase of the North West Company. Writer Bryan Eddington explained how a rigid social structure marked the sumptuous feasts and revels held in the hall.