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The Fur Trade
In the late 1500s, men's hats made from beaver fur became very fashionable in Europe. French fishermen who fished for cod around what is now Newfoundland and Nova Scotia began trading with the Native people for beaver pelts. European beavers had been trapped almost to extinction, but there were plenty of beaver furs to be found in New France.
As the fur trade developed and people realized that there was money to be made, more and more fur traders came to New France. In 1627, the French king gave fur-trading rights to one company. It was called the Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Company of One Hundred Associates). In exchange, the company promised to bring settlers to New France. The company also promised that it would help the French Catholic priests convert the Aboriginal people to Christianity.
Many of the fur traders in New France had no intention of settling. Some of the colonists found it too hard to settle and clear the land and plant crops. They left the colony and headed west to trade for furs. They were called "coureurs des bois". These "runners of the woods" came to know the Native people, especially the Wendat (Huron) and the Algonquin. They learned Aboriginal ways of hunting, trapping and canoeing, as well as how to use plants as medicine. Often the French coureurs de bois married Aboriginal women and had families. The children of these matches became known as Métis.