The West Parry Sound District Museum, commonly known as the Museum on Tower Hill, began as a group of dedicated citizens. Today the Museum continues to preserve and interpret the core cultural themes that carved the West Parry Sound District out of a rugged Canadian landscape and explores contemporary topics relevant to today's communities.
Parry Sound's Fur Trade
Initially, the British Hudson's Bay Company discouraged unions between their hired fur traders and the Native woman they came in contact with, while the rival French Northwest Company had a more relaxed attitude towards these unions, often supporting such marriages. Despite British reluctance, during the height of the fur trade cross-cultural marriages between European fur traders and Native women became routine. The children born from these unions formed a new nation in Canada - the Metis.
These children of "mixed blood," exposed to both Aboriginal and European ways of life, had an exponential impact to the continued success of the European fur trade. Acting as interpreters, traders, guides, and trappers, Metis provided the merging point and underpinning between the two cultures, exemplified in the 'Michif' language spoken by the Metis.
'Michif' was in essence a language that melded both French and Native words and grammar. When European fur traders married Native women, often neither husband nor wife spoke the others language fluently. In being exposed to both languages, the first generation of Metis people in Ontario and Manitoba blended parts of both languages creating their own dialects that combined French nouns and masculine/ feminine rules with verbs of the Native language of the area, such as Cree or Ojibwa. The language spread west with the fur trade, becoming an official bartering language.
To learn more about the fur trade visit the Museum on Tower Hill's new exhibition Parry Sound's Fur Trade.
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