1) “He knew where Montreal was – his old globe has shown him that – but his father’s treasured gift of a map of North America made him wonder what the rest of the country was like. The map showed the land west of the Great Lakes devoid of features except the Rockies, a few lakes, and some rivers, and gave a sense of the enormous distances.” (33)
I find this quote interesting because currently Canada is a popular country, and British Columbia alone contains 13.4% of Canada’s total population. Back in Douglas’ time, Canada didn’t even exist yet, and I find it amazing how much our country has evolved in that time. Back then the British ruled the area that is now known as Canada, and it was primarily unoccupied except for the fur trade companies, as we see with the land being “devoid of features”. This relates back to what we learned about Canadian Confederation last year, and how eventually more and more British will settle down into colonies, and eventually lead to the formation of Canada in 1867.
In this time, Canada was an incredibly empty country, and so the only people residing there were those involved in the fur trade. Because of this being in the northern part of North America typically meant you were involved in the fur trade business, and your primary method of transportation was by boat. We still export furs as a business and make profits off of them, however the method by which we do this is vastly different, and we carry the business out in a much more modernized way. There are no more gruelling journeys from fort to fort, and news can be delivered instantly to one another.
2) “To Douglas at first glance, the voyageurs appeared to be ruffians – swaggering and unruly. They yelled boisterous greetings to one another as they gestured with short pipes filled with tobacco. Each carried a painted paddle over his shoulder and sported a multi-coloured ceinture fléchée (sach) to hold up his canvas trousers. On their heads bobbed red or blue woolly caps. In fact, they were Canadiens from the farms along the St. Lawrence River, supplemented by a few Natives who made a living transporting the company’s furs and supplies back and forth to Fort William, a one-way distance of nearly a thousand kilometres.” (35)
I picked this passage because this is James Douglas’ first experience in the fur trade. He just arrived with others from the Northwest company, and is experiencing a completely new change in his life. In this passage, we are also shown how physically exhausting the amount of labour workers performed was, and the enormous distances that fur traders had to become accustomed to paddling such as “nearly a thousand kilometres” just one-way. They didn’t have the luxury of fast transportation to their destinations, and they had to roughen up to persevere through the long journey, as we see when Douglas says the “voyageurs appeared to be ruffians.”
This quote packs in lots of information about Canadian values at the time as well. Determination and perseverance are big ones, because life was the opposite of easy in those days. The French ‘Canadien voyageurs’ of the time had to face the severe temperatures of the seasons and the contagious diseases that spread in the winter. Because of the hardships of life as a fur trader, Canadians were dubbed to be tough people, with their tobacco pipes and wool hats to keep them warm. Nowadays it’s safe to say things are quite different. A common stereotype of being Canadian is ‘politeness’, and based on the description of the “swaggering and unruly” men that are described in this passage, the values have changed over time.
3) “‘The first settlers Selkirk recruited nearly starved that first hard winter,’ another interjected. ‘They would have had it not been for the local Métis.’” (42)
I picked this quote because I find it interesting how the local Métis people saved the lives of the original settlers who founded the fur trade business, and they are one of the reasons that the business was even able to sustain itself and not collapse. Moreover, this passage shows us how the First Nations people have owned this land long before we arrived, and it is another example of how much help they’ve provided us with. Selkirk’s men wouldn’t have survived long enough to create the settlement without the Métis. However, Selkirk took the Métis’ land to expand his settlement; he wasn’t even grateful to their help despite them saving the life of him and his men.
Canadian identity has always included Aboriginalism; the First Nations lived here long before we arrived. Through this passage, the Canadian value from the Aboriginal perspective is to help others when they need it, which they do by providing Selkirk’s men with food and provisions to last them through the bone-chilling winters that ravage the developing settlement. From Selkirk’s side, a Canadian value is to do whatever it takes to develop your settlement, even if it means going against those who helped you in the past. Nowadays helping others is definitely one of our values, and we still continue to help those who are in need in our day-to-day lives.
4) “Douglas’ brigade had unknowingly overtaken Simpson’s party, so [sic] were ahead of their rivals. Simpson, equally unsure of the Nor’westers’ location, armed his men to the teeth for the portage, expecting trouble at any moment.” (49)
The reason I picked this quote is because it shows the tensions between the two fur trade companies, and how much HBC and NWC despise one another. In this passage Governor Simpson “[arms] his men to the teeth,” because he knows the rival company is nearby, and they can’t get along peacefully. Both sides expected trouble because there were numerous violent encounters in the past, where in some cases even death was involved. The fur traders had to be very cautious when navigating through the land, because ambushes were common, and so most people travelled in large brigades with a group of people.
In this time, these two fur trading corporations constantly clashed and the workers on either company were fully pledged to that company and automatically disliked the opposition. Loyalty to their company was a very important value to the residents of the time, along with caution, because when you’re in foreign territory with danger around every corner you learn to become careful. However, over time we have developed and become an overall safer country, so we aren’t as cautious now. We aren’t in as much immediate danger, and life has become easier as well.
5) “In England, after months of politicking and negotiation, the rivals [HBC and NWC] finally came to terms and announced in late March 1821 that the two companies would amalgamate on June 1.” (52)
I picked this quote because, despite the fact that I know HBC and NWC would merge in the future, it was a little difficult to actually believe it happening after knowing how much the companies despised one another and fought so much over the past. This quote illustrates the dire situation, and actually how much financial trouble the companies were going through. The demand for furs had decreased, and since the profit of the rival companies was centred around furs, this put them into jeopardy. In turn, they were forced to merge into one greater company if they wanted to last and to sustain themselves; they amalgamated after a lot of negotiation in England, where the companies originally started from.
Because two opposing rivals were forced to work together for the greater good, cooperation is a major Canadian value of the time. Either side didn’t want to join into one large corporation, however, they didn’t have a choice so they amalgamated for the preservation of both sides. In the present day, Canadians are also known for being cooperative individuals, which fits into our stereotype of being ‘polite’. We tend to get along with other people, so this value still does exist in today’s day and age.
Theme: No matter where you start off, you have the potential to climb up and become successful later in life if you work with enough determination.
James Douglas saw his mom for the last time when he was nine years old, and his father left him with a foster family because Douglas was technically an ‘illegitimate child’, having been born before his father married his mother in Guyana. His father visited often and taught Douglas a lot to help him out in school, but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to take his child into his own home because he had remarried and didn’t know how his new family would react to James. Despite all of his struggles in his youth being a mix-blood, James pursued onwards and worked hard all the way to become the ‘Father of British Columbia’. As high-ranked officers noticed James’ hardworking attitude and determination, coupled with his intelligence, it wasn’t long before he began climbing up in ranks to where he is now.