A changing way of life

The Indigenous way of life had continued to change. First of all, Indigenous people had been hit by several diseases, including a smallpox epidemic from 1818 to 1821. Many also had problems with alcohol consumption. The domiciled Indigenous peoples increasingly adopted Canadian customs. For example, more and more of them had stopped living in longhouses and had built Canadian homes instead. This changed the family structure because it was no longer possible for several families to live together in the same house; Canadian homes were much too small. Despite these changes, Indigenous people had retained certain aspects of their lifestyle. Some of them still went hunting for several weeks each year.

New economic activities
The fur trade, which was the most important economic activity for Indigenous people, was now in decline. Furs no longer sold as well and intensive hunting had greatly declined animal stocks. It became increasingly difficult for Indigenous people to make a living from the fur trade and many of them were now destitute and dependent on the Europeans for their survival. Those who lived from hunting and fishing now had to make do with smaller hunting lands because the government had allocated more and more of their land to colonization and logging.

Indigenous people adapted to this new situation. Many of them became forest or agricultural workers. Others became employees of businesses like the Hudson’s Bay Company. Some communities starting making handicrafts that women could sell at the market.

Author: Alexandre Lanoix; text updated by the Service national du RÉCIT en univers social

See also – Traces of the past: