The slave trade was popular on the North American continent long before the White man and fur trader became involved. The abduction of women for concubines, is no doubt the oldest form of human bondage. The Indians themselves had always been traders of slaves. The majority of slaves were abducted in war and taken back to the victor's lands to become workers or used as barter with neighboring tribes, as furs or wampum were.
History tells us of long ago slave trade involving the Inca and Aztec, as well as involvement in the same with the North American tribes. The Iroquois were known middlemen in the slave traffic between the eastern and western Indians, at times bringing back as many as three or four hundred slaves from the Ohio. The Pawnee were known to have frequently sold Apache women and children to the French on the Missouri and Platte rivers. Perhaps this is why the French called all Indian slaves "Panis". The fur trade reached far and wide. The Illinois had slaves from the East Coast and Florida, and the Great Lakes tribes owned Eskimo slaves. When it came to slave trade by Indians, the Pacific Coast Tribes were surpassed by none. Contrary to most other tribes, the tribes of the North West did not condone sexual relations with slaves.
When the Spaniards arrived in the new world, it did not take long before they were abducting native women. First for the purpose of having mistresses, later, to work the mines and plantations. Often expeditions of discovery were nothing more than the quest for more slaves. After the arrival of the Europeans, Indian trade began almost immediately. It was not long until there existed a full-fledged trade in Indian slaves. Columbus, a slave trader himself, sent four ships to Spain in 1492, whose cargo were mainly slaves.
In 1538, Pope Paul III, forbade all Indian enslavement. Years later, with the recommendation of Fray Bartolome de las Casas, Charles V inacted "Leyes Nueves" (New Laws) recognizing the Indians as human beings, entitled to the protection of the Crown, with the same rights and duties as all others. So at least on paper and in the opinion of the government, slavery was illegal; however, as with anything of profit, the illegal trade continued.
The news of and profits to be made from the slave trade in North America was no doubt a well known fact to Europe. With the arrival of the trappers and traders, they easily continued this long standing business. The Indians themselves had been accustomed to the trade of slaves and an accepted way of life to them.
The French in America, were the first of the traders to partake in slave trade. The coureurs de bois were scattered all over Canada and much of what is now the United States. They were on good terms with the natives and were widely distributed allowing them access to the slave market which already existed. Some slaves procured by the coureurs de bois were sold to interior posts to be used however they might be needed. The slave pool was continuously added to by French troops who took captives while fighting on the Indian Frontier.
In 1745, the Royal Council sanctioned Indian slavery. Previously, by a Royal Edict in 1709, Canada had also sanctioned slavery among natives. Even the French missionaries owned slaves, usually obtained as gifts for "saving other heathen souls". The French, much different than the Spaniards, were mild in their treatment of slaves. As there were many white woman in the French colonies, cohabitation did not play a big role in the acquiring of slaves in New France. There was less sexual involvement with the English colonists and their Indian slaves. The capture and open purchase and trade for Indian women was not seen in the English as much as it had been with the Spaniards.
The mention of slave trade in journals of explorers, trappers and traders is not common, however it does exist. Contrary to the official company position that "no system of concubinage would be tolerated" at Hudson's Bay Company posts, evidence proves otherwise. In early operations of the HBC, the business of trading Indian women was important enough to draw the attention of tribes from the distant western plains. Blackfoot sold slaves they had taken in raids to the Cree and Assiniboine who in turn sold them on the HBC. Arriving at York, they were traded along with beaver pelts and buffalo robes to the factors. The women who were not purchased at trade were often reportedly destroyed.
While the Hudson's Bay people tried to keep the stories of the slave trade quiet, the NorthWest Company did not, and left little doubt that their slave trade was active. Archibald Norman McLeod routinely mentioned in his diaries about his purchasing of slave women. The Nor'Westers and Canadians on the Bay were very much disliked by the Indians because of their thievery of Indian women. As the Nor'Wester trade pushed further west toward the Rockies, they, as the Spaniards before them had, soon found a new source of women for the slave trade. There existed an active slave trade between the Cree, Assiniboine, Crow, Mandan, Blackfoot, Apache and Navajo and the Nor'Westers were prepared to purchase them.
In reference to the Blackfoot and the Fur Trade there is mention of some of the Indian men having many wives who were offered to the whites. It could be that these "wives" were actually slaves, not wives at all and only seen in that light by Europeans who were not aware of the extent of slave trade.
In 1820 in the southwest, the American Mountain Man soon discovered that the commodities most wanted by the Spanish traders were horses and girls. Taos, where the trade was most popular, drew Indian trappers and free traders from all over the Southwest to trade furs, hides and slaves. According to some Indian Tribe culture, a warrior could not marry a female captive. When a warrior takes a woman prisoner, she is considered his sister, and he can never marry her. if she marries, her husband is brother-in-law to her captor.
The Missions of California and other locations in the Southwest held an abundance of Indian girls. Slave hunters often plundered the missions taking advantage of an easy source of trade-women. In the years between 1700 and 1750 there were believed to be as many as eight-hundred Apache women and children being held as slaves in New Mexico. However since they had been baptized a Catholics, the term esclavas (slaves) was avoided except in ecclesiastical records.
During the late 1700s and early 1800s, the buffalo became an important factor in the fur trade, in particular the pemmican trade. Women were needed much more in the buffalo processing industry. The trade of Indian Woman in the slave market slowed down.
The Taos and Santa Fe slave markets evolved into such a lucrative business of stealing and selling of Indians (in particular women) that it continued late into the 1800s. It is no wonder that hostilities between whites and Indians and certain Indian tribes against other Indian tribes continue to exist today. Even now, crimes committed against ones sister or even more horrendous, against ones mother, are not often left unrevenged.
Black slaves were brought to Canada as early as 1608. By 1759 there were more than 1,000 black slaves in New France. After the fall of New France to Britain in 1783 many Loyalists immigrating from the United States brought their slaves with them. However, most of the blacks who settled in Nova Scotia after the American Revolution were free. In August 1834 slavery was abolished for all the British Empire including the North American colonies. At the outbreak of the Civil War, sentiment in British North America, while not necessarily pro-North, was definitely anti-slavery.
|Go back to the Fur Trade|
|Back to Alberta
|Back to Ontario
||Back to Quebec
Created © and Maintained by: Angelhair
All pages© and backgrounds© are original designs by: Angelhair
||| Awards I won ||| Aboriginal People ||| Canada Page (Main) ||| Provinces |||
||| Cool Links ||| Giraffes ||| My Interests ||| Quotes I like ||| Stuff ||| Vancouver ||| Web Rings ||| Home |||
||| Sign Guest Book ||| View Guest Book |||