Indian Shop

This was Fort William's fur trade post, the place where the local Native trade was conducted. Like the Dry Good Stores (Shops), it was a retail outlet rather than a warehouse for goods in transit to other departments. Ojibwa and Cree from the area around Fort William came to the Fort's Indian Shop to trade their furs, while the Company sent traders out to the Native hunting grounds in the more remote parts of the region.

At the Rendezvous, the Natives established encampments outside the palisade, after which an elaborate trading ceremony took place in the Great Hall. But the Indian Shop must have been in use on a year-round basis, as many Ojibwa stayed all winter near the Fort, performing various services for the North West Company in return for goods and provisions.

When trading furs, the barter system was used, based on a standard of trade called the plus or plu (pronounced "plew"). Another term was "skin" meaning a prime beaver skin.  (The Hudson's Bay Company term for the same thing was "Made Beaver" or "MB"). Thus, one large blanket might be worth eight skins or plus, the equivalent of eight prime beaver. But in the actual transaction, the eight plus could be made up of a variety of furs and other products or services equal to the value of eight beavers.

Furs were not the only item bartered at the Indian Shop. At Fort William, Natives traded maple sugar made by the women each spring at "the mountain" (Mount McKay). Other items traded were spruce gum, roots and birch bark used to make canoes, and snowshoes, moccasins and mittens made by women. The Natives also received payment in goods and provisions for such services as fishing, planting, and harvesting.

Here is a sample of items sold in the Indian Shop, and their price in beaver pelts:

  • 1 steel beaver trap 
  • 2 fish spears 
  • ice chisel 
  • 4 awls
  • axe head
  • 1 steel file 
  • cup of rum 
  • musket 
  • 1 lb. of gunpowder
  • 1.5 lbs. of musket shot 
  • 3 lbs. tobacco (carrot) 
  • blankets  
  • 12 yards cloth
  • 3 lbs. beads
  • 1 lbs. vermilion   
  • 2 pieces of trade silver
  • 2 fish hooks
  • 10 coils of snarewire
  • 5 knives
  • 2 looking glasses (mirrors)
  • 6 firesteels 
  • 5 rolls of ribbon 
  • 25 needles 
  • 4 beaver pelts
  • 1 beaver pelt 
  • 2 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt 
  • 2 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt 
  • 1 beaver pelt 
  • 10 beaver pelts 
  • 2 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt  
  • 4 beaver pelts 
  • 6 beaver pelts 
  • 3 beaver pelts 
  • 3 beaver pelts 
  • 2 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt  
  • 1 beaver pelt  
  • 1 beaver pelt  
  • 1 beaver pelt  
  • 2 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt 
  • 3 beaver pelts 
  • 1 beaver pelt