Just like today, people of the fur trade era had a wide variety of tastes, fashions, and cultural beliefs which were expressed through personal adornment. Adornment such as rings, brooches, pendants, armbands, or intricate beadwork could help express the wearer's status, religious beliefs, or just be a colorful expression of individuality.
During the eighteenth century, Great Lakes peoples increasingly chose their adornment from European trade goods, such as multihued glass beads, plain or glass inset trade rings, bright red vermillion, ostrich feathers, and of course, beautiful Montreal silverwork. This wasn't a matter of Native peoples adopting European fashions: fur trade goods were carefully tailored to Native tastes, and Native people also adapted non-decorative European items -- such as metal salvaged from firearms and brass trade kettles -- into attractive items of adornment.
European voyageurs themselves adopted many Native customs including fashionable beadwork, trade silver, and brass tinklers.
This gallery features common items for the trade with Native Peoples and some of the more exquisite pieces that were recovered during archeological investigations conducted at Grand Portage National Monument.