February 24, 2012 – There’s a well-known French song by a Québec icon, singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault, that translates like this: My country is not a country, it’s winter! Well if that’s the case, then this country is also a fur trade that, for centuries, not only allowed New France settlers to protect themselves against freezing winter temperatures, but also to prosper economically. Let us tell you the tale of fur, right where it all happened: The Fur Trade at the Lachine National Historic Site.
From the early days of New France in the 16th century, the fur trade was incredibly important to the colony’s economy. At the time, fur was all the rage in Europe: it was used to decorate clothing and worn as beaver felt hats. As such, Quebec became the centre of the fur trade in the 19th century with Lachine occupying a strategic position along the fur trade route as a departure and arrival point for trading expeditions.
A vestige of this great history remains today in the form of a stone warehouse that testifies to the apogee of the fur industry in the Montréal region in the 18th and 19th centuries. Built in 1803 by Alexander Gordon, ex-clerk and stockholder of the North West Company, this warehouse stored trading goods and furs. In 1833, it became the poperty of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Today, this unique stone warehouse houses an exhibition that enables visitors to relive the Montréal fur epic. The historic site is open from May to October.
Among the many activities available at The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site, one in particular is sure to please: Explorers by nature, guided tour and cruise in a rabaska canoe! Hop into a rabaska ( a large birch bark canoe used by Amerindians) and learn about the expeditions to Western Canada led by René-Robert Cavelier de LaSalle, the Sieur de la Vérendrye, Alexander Mackenzie and David Thompson.