Exploring the role of Black Fur Traders

In these activities students will demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the role of Black fur traders.

Created by Dianna-Rose Ruddock

Posted January 31, 2018

Getting Started

Read the article “Black Voyageurs” in the Black history in Canada issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids or in the How Furs Built Canada issue of Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids. Based on the needs of your students, determine if you would like to read the article as a read-aloud, a shared reading, have students work in small groups or allow students to read independently.

After reading the article, be sure to provide students with the opportunity to discuss what they learned. Share with students that although the role that Blacks had within the fur trade is often untold, Black people, in particular Black men were a part of the fur trade that took place in what we now identify as Canada and the United States during the 1700s and 1800s.

Feel free to select an activity that will best meet the needs of students in your class. Alternatively, you could allow students to select their own activity based on their interest and how they wish to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the “Black Voyageurs” article.


Activity One: Taking on the role of a reporter/investigator or Black fur trader 

Working in groups of three to four, students will have the opportunity to take on the role of a reporter or employee within the Hudson’s Bay or Northwest Company. Roles can de doubled up within a group based on teacher discretion.

Materials Needed: iPad, one green plastic or cloth table cloth which can be purchased from the dollar store

Technology Option

Students can record their interview on an application called TouchCast.

In order to use Touch Cast, you will need to download TouchCast to your iPad. Once downloaded, students can record their interview on the application and select the newsroom background to make it look like they are recording their interview from an actual newsroom.

Interview Script – Rough Copy

Activity Two: Portraying the Life of a Black Fur Trader

Using the information from the article, students will work together to create a dramatization to portray what life would have been like for a Black fur trader. Students will have the opportunity to take on the role of various individuals that would have been working with the Hudson’s Bay Company or the North West Company.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you think a day in the life of a Black fur trader might look like?
    • Think about the skills that a fur trader would use as well as the experiences that they might have had while working with the Hudson’s Bay Company or North West Company
  • What experiences might a Black fur trader face or encounter?
  • What would life outside of work look like? What was their home life like?
    • Think about their family or friends
    • Think about what they did for fun
    • Think about what they ate
    • Think about what they wore

Working in groups of two to three, students will have the opportunity to think deeper and to imagine what life was like for Black fur traders while working at the Hudson’s Bay Company or North West Company. Students are encouraged to think about the challenges, obstacles and successes that Black fur traders may have experienced.

Activity Three: Presenting Canadian History on Social Media

Use this activity to introduce students to Canadian history on social media. Students will focus on writing and selecting visuals for a popular audience.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hired you to work with his media team so that they can release a tweet to acknowledge, inform and educate others about the significant but untold role of Blacks within the fur trade. Using your knowledge and understanding of the role of Blacks in the fur trade think about how this part of history should be remembered.

Your job will be to create a tweet that will encourage others to learn more and become more informed about the role that Blacks played in the history of Canada’s fur trade. Justin Trudeau’s media team will be trusting you. They are looking for a tweet that is professional, accurate, interesting and will be memorable for years to come.  

Things to consider as you create your post: You have 240 characters to share your reflection. Spaces, punctuation and hashtags are all included in the number of characters. For instance, the word tweet is five characters long. Due to the limited number of characters that you have available, you have to remember to summarize the main idea in a concise way.

Discussion Questions:

  • How should this part of history be remembered?
  • Why is it important to understand the role that Blacks had in the fur trade?
  • What information will you decide to include?
  • Audience: who will be reading your post?
  • The tweet: will you add hashtags? What type of hashtag will you add to your post?

Explore Justin Trudeau’s Twitter page.

Discussions Questions:

  • What do you notice about his tweets?
  • What kind of language conventions, short forms and abbreviations does he use when posting?

Give students the opportunity to create a rough draft of their tweet. Have peers in the classroom edit their work and then have students create their final tweet. The final work could be posted on a classroom bulletin board as a Twitter page.

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