Portland State University. Department of History
Gordon B. Dodds
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
1 online resource (139 p.)
Louis de Buade (comte de Frontenac) 1620-1698, Indians of North America -- Canada, Canada -- History -- To 1763 (New France)
This paper concentrates on the political, economic, and military policies of New France (French Canada) towards the Indian tribes inhabiting and bordering New France during the period 1672-1701. It was a period of intensive exploration coupled with the fur trade, principally beaver, both of which activities spurred France to compel its “province” of New France to make alliances with the Indians and to block penetration of the French-claimed area by the English colonists to the south (New York and New England) and to the north (Hudson’s Bay area).
Any research must be concerned with many interacting and conflicting factors: the policies of the French and English monarchs combined with the personalities and interests of the governors and officials in their colonies. The involvement of merchants and coureurs de bois often conflicted with the civil authorities, the various Catholic orders (Often in conflict with each other), and with the English colonies. In the midst of these conflicts were the Indian tribes with their shifting interests and alliances among themselves and the European traders and missionaries intruding into their territories.
The research had several problems that seemed almost insurmountable. The first was the anti-Indian bias exhibited by nearly all writers. Added to this difficulty was the fact of scholars taking sides according to their nationality, American, English, or French. With the exception of The Fur Trade in Canada by Harold Innis, originally published in 1930, there was not a good general account of the French fur trade. There seemed to be misleading information, even inaccuracies, in the location of French forts in modern maps of this period. The sequence of events had to be ferreted out and combined in a cohesive manner from many sources. The first term of Governor Frontenac (1672-82) had conflicting and fragmentary records, while most of his second term was adequately researched; however, there was not a single adequate account of King William’s War during Frontenac’s second term of office.
The missionaries left adequate records (i.e., the Jesuits), but they looked upon the Indians solely for conversion to their form of Roman Catholicism and, at the same time, blackened the Iroquois (New France’s main Indian enemy) and the “illegal” coureurs de bois (French traders to the Indians). The latter opened vast areas of beaver trade territory with “new” Indian customers and, because of high monopoly prices, would trade with New France’s main trade enemy, the town of Albany in “English” New York.
The major consensuses by historians are that Governor La Barre (1682-85) was incompetent and that Louis XIV neglected New France from 1674 to 1689.
Information was obtained from the university libraries of Reed College and Portland State University, at the Multnomah County Library, and at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The last is valuable for primary sources and for scholarly articles concerning this period.
The outcome of this research shows that the French expansion into the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley regions changed the Indians’ lives during this period. The hostile Iroquois were neutralized from warfare against New France in case England and France went to war again, as the Indians’ culture became completely dependent on trade goods in a little over one generation. The horse-riding Sioux armed with guns nearly exterminated the Miamis, while the Fox and Mascoutin tribes defected from the French shortly after this period was concluded. Higher prices in trade goods that increased dependence, the increases in tribal warfare among tribes, and their loss of initiative and manual skills all deprived the Indians of real power.
Biggs, James Duncan, "French-Indian Relations (1672-1701) : An Economic, Political and Military Study" (1973). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2009.