Voyageurs National Park

Special History:
The Environment and the Fur Trade Experience in
Voyageurs National Park, 1730-1870

Introduction (continued)

A Note on Sources

Core collections of published and unpublished primary source material are located at Voyageurs National Park and the NPS Midwest Archeological Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The library at Voyageurs National Park contains an excellent rare book collection with many volumes dating from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The more fragile volumes are held in the museum. At the Midwest Archeological Center, Archeologist Tom Thiessen has compiled more than fifteen feet of vertical files containing articles, chapters, and notes relating to the fur trade experience in the Rainy Lake Region. Particularly noteworthy are Thiessen's transcriptions of various manuscripts from the Manitoba Provincial Archives, the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, and the National Archives of Canada. Without the benefit of this extensive previous research, this study would not have been possible.

Additional research was conducted at the National Archives of Canada, the Provincial Archives of Ontario, the Minnesota Historical Center, and libraries at the University of Washington, the University of Montana, and the University of Nebraska. With one exception, the richest sources for this study were in published form, often in obscure publications, and the biggest research challenge was to locate as many of these items as possible. The single exception was the Hudson's Bay Company post journals for Lac La Pluie (Rainy Lake) fort. The journals provide the most detailed record of fur trader activities in the region to be found anywhere.

Throughout the report, the author has quoted material from Hudson's Bay Company post journals and district reports and has cited the Hudson's Bay Company Archives, series, roll, and folio number where the material may be found. This was done for the convenience of the future researcher. It must be noted that in most cases the author did not use the original material, but relied instead on meticulous transcriptions prepared by Tom Thiessen. Inevitably this handwritten material is subject to various verbatim interpretations. The sheer quantity of transcribed material used in preparing this report precluded the author from checking the verbatim accuracy of the quotations. Any quotation of this material for other purposes should be based on a careful textual comparison with the original material on microfilm in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives.

There are some troublesome weaknesses in the historical record. While the post journal provides much detail on the operations of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Rainy Lake Region, few equivalent post journals survive for the North West Company or the American Fur Company, both of which had forts in the area for many years. The superiority of the Hudson's Bay Company's records is even more pronounced during the critical period around 1816 during the Red River Troubles, thanks to the voluminous correspondence contained in the Lord Selkirk papers. By contrast, the American Fur Company papers are difficult to use and contain very little information on the Rainy Lake Region, while the North West Company papers are mostly lost. Documents are also sparse for the French period. Apart from the published writings of La Vérendrye and Saint-Pierre, information on the French fur traders was drawn from secondary sources. These cite to archival materials in France and at the library of McGill University in Montreal.

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Table of Contents | Introduction | Rainy Lake Region | Fur Trade Experience | Material Culture | Natural Environment | Bibliography
Last Updated: 01-Oct-2001