The North West Company and the Development of Canada

The North West Company played a major role in Canada's development as a nation decades before Confederation.

In their quest for fur during the latter 1700s and early 1800s, the NWC explored a huge portion of the North American continent, linking the St. Lawrence to the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Today, many lakes and rivers in the north-west bear the names of Mackenzie, Pond, Fraser, Thompson, among others, clearly illustrating the ambition, energy and drive of the Nor'Westers.


Fur trade Society at Fort William

Large crowd of re-enactors in the main squareThe Rendezvous reflected the interdependent relationships of the various peoples involved in the fur trade, including the Scots, French Canadians and the aboriginals predominating. These groups paralleled the basic social divisions in the business: the merchant-traders, voyageur-labourers and the hunter-trappers.


Native Life at Fort William

Step into their camp nestled in the woods by the river and you get a sense of what Native life was like centuries ago. The local Anishnabe (Ah-nish-nah-bay) people associated with Fort William are called the Ojibwa. They are also known as the Chippewa in the USA and Saulteaux in the west.


Reading List for Fort William

Are you interested in learning more about the history of Fort William and the North American fur trade? This list is a useful resource for anyone requiring detailed information. Explore selected topics or gain a comprehensive understanding of this fascinating period in North American history with this convenient research tool. Happy reading!

To view a sample of our suggested readings online, please click HERE.


The Great Rendezvous & Fort William 1803 - 1821

The annual Great Rendezvous at Fort William epitomized the success of the North West Company. In their pursuit of fur, the Nor'Westers established an ambitious transportation network spanning the entire country. Located on Lake Superior, Fort William became the key midway transhipment point for voyageurs ("winterers") paddling from the west carrying precious furs and voyageurs ("pork eaters") coming from the east bearing valuable trade goods and supplies. This allowed for an exchange of important materials--all within a single season.